Date & Time

13 June 24 - 02 March 25

10:00 AM - 18:00 PM

Zeitz MOCAA welcomes Berni Searle to the museum’s Atelier programme as its sixth resident in an eight-month residency. Entitled On Site, the residency will include selections from previous bodies of work by the artist, as well as sketches, objects, and publications, which will be on view while she develops new ideas in-situ. On Site opens on Thursday, 13 June 2024 on level 2 of the museum and will be open until 2 March 2025.

The city of Cape Town is central to Searle’s practice, which is connected to the experiences and narratives of its people, its histories, and poetics, both troubled and transcendent. She draws from her own biography as an inhabitant of the city. The residency is a celebration of this relationship to place. On Site situates the artist within her context as an affirmation, with the studio functioning as a site for reflection, observation, and play. 

Searle will use the spaces of the Atelier for distinct functions, including a dedicated room where visitors can view a substantial collection of her moving image works. The galleries also provide space for conversation and rest, an area with photographic backdrops, and a central area for working on larger-scale installation ideas. Searle’s practice is often project-based, assembling skills and various expertise to realise works in different sites as needed. The Atelier is a moment for the artist to work and think continuously and consistently in a formal studio environment, which connects her to museum visitors from diverse backgrounds. 

The Zeitz MOCAA Atelier is an experimental platform and residency located on the second floor of the museum and occupies a multi-gallery of 400 square meters. In addition to providing an exploratory space for Cape Town-based artists, the Atelier is open to the public, allowing visitors to Zeitz MOCAA access and insight into the artists’ modes of production and processes. Previous residents include Kemang Wa Lehulere, Thania Petersen, Haroon Gunn-Salie, Igshaan Adams, and Unathi Mkonto. 

About Berni Searle

Berni Searle is an artist working across the mediums of photography, video, performance, and installation. Born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1964, Searle’s personal experiences growing up against the backdrop of an apartheid state have deeply influenced her work and artistic expression. While Searle’s works are often explored in dialogue with this socio-political legacy, in relation to current-day realities, her use of metaphor and poetic ambiguity transcends the specificity of context, drawing on universal human emotions associated with displacement, vulnerability, and loss. 

Using her body as ground, the skin as surface, and processes of concealment and revealing, Searle centres the human body, figuratively and at times conceptually, through the absence of the body, to explore questions of the human condition and experience. Her practice, which is largely performative, brings into focus issues of self-representation, the relationship between personal and collective identity, and narratives connected to history, memory, and place. 

Searle received her MFA from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, in 1995, where she previously was the director and continues to lecture as a professor. Her artistic practice spans more than 25 years and has been featured at the Johannesburg Biennale (1997), the Cairo Biennale (1998), and the Venice Biennale (2001, 2005). She received the UNESCO award in conjunction with the International Art Critics Association (AICA) Award at the 7th International Cairo Biennale, Egypt (1998), the DAK’ART 2000 Minister of Culture Prize at the Dak‘Art Biennale, Senegal (2000), the Standard Bank Young Artist for Visual Art, South Africa (2003), and a Rockefeller Bellagio Creative Arts Fellow, Italy (2014).  

Major travelling solo exhibitions include Interlaced, exhibited at De Hallen, Belfry of Bruges, Bruges, Belgium; the Museum voor Moderne Kunst Arnhem (MMKA), Arnhem, Netherlands; and the 49 Nord 6 Est Frac Lorraine, Metz, France (2011); Approach, at the Krannert Museum, Champaign, USA; Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa (2007) and the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum, Tampa, USA (2006). Her earlier Standard Bank Young Artist exhibitions travelled nationally in South Africa (2003). She has had other solo exhibitions at Performa05, Angel Orensanz Foundation, New York, USA; Bild Museet, Umeå, Sweden; Speed Art Museum, Louisville, USA (2005); Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, USA (2003) and Kunsthalle Stadtgalerie, Osnabrück, Germany (2001), amongst many others. 

Her work has been included in significant survey group exhibitions such as Global Feminisms at the Brooklyn Museum, New York, USA (2007); Figures and Fictions at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK (2011); Senses of Time: Video and Film-Based Works of Africa at the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, USA (2013) and the Wellin Museum of Art, Hamilton College, New York, USA (2016–2017); Earth Matters at the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, USA (2013), Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive, the Walther Collection, Ulm, Germany (2013–2015); Cinema Remixed & Reloaded 2.0. Black Women and the Moving Image since 1970, 11th Havana Biennial, Havana, Cuba (2011–2012); Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA (2010–2011); Black Womanhood: Images, Icons, and Ideologies of the African Body shown at the Hood Museum of Art, New Hampshire, USA and Davis Museum, Wellesley College (2008), and the San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, USA (2009). 

In 2018, she was included in Social Work at Frieze London and is published in Phaidon’s Great Women Artists, which features over 400 artists from the 15th century to the present day. Searle’s work was included in Sharjah Biennial 15: Thinking Historically in the Present, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (2023). A comprehensive retrospective of her work, Having but Little Gold, was mounted by the Norval Foundation in Cape Town, South Africa (2023). 

More Exhibitions & Events