Public Lecture by Tamar Garb

Each year since 2015, the RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and Research School Art History (OSK) have jointly supported a Visiting Fellow in Modern and Contemporary Art. Previous visiting fellows were Mignon Nixon (2021), Briony Fer (2019), Sarat Maharaj (2018), Martha Rosler (2017), Claire Bishop (2016), and W.J.T. Mitchell (2015).

The 2022 visiting fellow is Professor Tamar Garb (University College London). On Sunday the 29th of May she gave a Public Lecture, titled Making Art in the Light and Shadow of Historical Trauma: South African Imaginaries of Self and Other, followed by a Q&A.

Making Art in the Light and Shadow of Historical Trauma: South African Imaginaries of Self and Other

By examining a selection of recent photographs and video works by South African artists Santu Mofokeng, Berni Searle and Zanele Muholi, Tamar Garb will explore the capacity of art to register historical violence and to question the subjectivity of the artist whose self is emplotted in the scene. Bearing witness to traumatic pasts through the staging/performing of fraught or fragmented selves in situ, these artists question their own implicatedness in history. All born, raised and racialised in apartheid-era South Africa, and aware of new forms of racism and xenophobia that have blighted the country’s recent past, these artists question the capacity of art to register ongoing and recurring forms of violence as well as the potential (redemptive) sympathy between ‘self’ and ‘stranger’ that the artifice of the photograph can unleash. Lens based art provides the site here for thinking beyond victim and perpetrator, insider and outsider, subject and object, through forms of identification and fusion at the level of the image itself. The lecture will be followed by a Q&A.

Tamar Garb

The 2021-2022 visiting fellow is the art historian Tamar Garb. Professor Garb’s research has focused on questions of gender and sexuality,  the woman artist and the body in nineteenth and early twentieth century French art. Key publications include Sisters of the Brush: Women’s Artistic Culture in Late Nineteenth Century Paris (Yale University Press, 1994) and The Painted Face, Portraits of Women in France 1814 -1914 (Yale University Press, 2007). Her more recent work addresses post apartheid culture and art as well as the history of photographic practices in South Africa.  She has notably curated a number of exhibitions in this field, including, in 2008 Land Marks/Home Lands; Contemporary Art from South Africa at Haunch of Venison Gallery in London, in 2011 Figures and Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London and in 2014/15 Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive, Walther Collection, New York, Neu Ulm and Berlin. Her article ‘Painting/Politics/Photography: Marlene Dumas, Mme Lumumba and the Image of the African Woman’ appeared in the journal Art History, in 2020. Professor Garb is Durning Lawrence Professor of History of Art at University College London and a Fellow of the British Academy.


  • Date: Sunday 29 May 2022
  • Title: Making Art in the Light and Shadow of Historical Trauma: South African Imaginaries of Self and Other
  • Speaker: Prof. Tamar Garb
  • Language: English
  • Location: Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam Auditorium
  • Time: 15.00 - 17.00

Image: Santu Mofokeng, Self-Portrait, KZ 1, Auschwitz, 1997/98.