Text for Sokari

Sokari Douglas Camp

I am honoured to introduce this collection by Sokari Douglas Camp.

Sokari’s sculptural works – made in metal but moving fabric – are like an analytical textbook that deals with contemporary issues while also offering a passionate call to arms. The pieces that you can see in this brochure, but which must really be met in the flesh, question and comment on topics of importance and controversy, demanding answers from us all. Confronted with these weighty statements, I feel that, as with the best books and most challenging writers, I am being asked to think differently than I do – perhaps this is the whole point of art, and of reading, and of thinking. Sokari’s works do it over and over – there is much to them and they start a conversation. They ask us all to think why injustice prevails, why (all) people matter, why we have this world and not another?

Anger transmuted into a provocation that stands in the way – on the corner of a patch of grass or on a pedestal in a square, both ornamental and demanding – and more and more she comes with the questions: Why is this happening? Where are the people? Who will care? Do you not recognize yourself here?

These works are not simple reactions to the particular controversies they depict. Their meanings are not contained in terms of ‘straight’ representation of oil spills or racist attacks or similar. They elevate a political diagnostic to the monumental, but also exist very much at a human level. Life-size moulded bronze or beaten steel statues that also celebrate the everyday in a context where global forces – colonialism, oil imperialism, migration and genocide – buffet and wear away at our puny corporeal selves.

This work is an affirmative critique, celebrated in bodies and dress and performance. The huge metal pieces have the power to move.

There is a deep timeliness in Sokari’s art, a relevance and urgency that offers a longer and wider reach into significance than much that is indulgent or, dare I suggest this, complicit and wilfully obscurantist in art today. These issues, read here in metal, are more urgent and the responses more durable than most commentary would allow. We know we need these provocations, and we need them because of and despite the fleeting treatment of ‘issues’ by television news and broadsheet press. Sokari’s work is current affairs in concrete, manifold machine music, solid social science – each work drops to the pavement as perpetual presence and everyday enthusiasm. Her works are joyous, angry, complicated simple conversations with the world now. Planetary interpretation. Asking us to change. Alchemy.

John Hutnyk