The power of Zanele Muholi’s portraits is in the gaze of the South African lesbians and transgender men commanding the viewer’s attention from the frame. Installed in a grid, the wall of images gives a triumphant voice to people who face social stigma and vehement, homophobic backlash. Isibonelo also includes intimate images of weddings and funerals and Being Scene, a blurred, prosaic video of lesbian couples making love that does not pack the demonstrative, thought provoking punch of the photographs. That said, Muholi’s commitment to her craft and her community, anticipate this “Call me Caitlyn” transgender time with moving authenticity.
Rising out of the detritus of a dystopian water world, Submerged Motherlands parallels current environmental concerns with its monumental scale and unavoidable immersion. Offering hope through the power and resilience of nature, a gigantic Ceiba tree created from reclaimed fabric damaged during Hurricane Sandy, soars to the dome. Compelling figures in Swoon’s signature “street art” style are woven into the installation, bookended by two ingenious vessels speaking of man’s tenacity in the face of unfathomable challenges. Completed by transparent layers of dripping aquatic paint embroidered with flitting cutwork shadows Swoon transforms the rotunda into a surprising, if disturbing, theatrical installation.