Standard Bank Young Artist 2012: Mikhael Subotzky Retinal Shift

  • Posted: Nov 5, 2012

Iziko South African National Gallery, 29 November 2012 until 09 January 2013

The Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art 2012 has been awarded to Mikhael Subotzky. Entitled Retinal Shift, the exhibition will centre on a four-channel film installation which has been produced specifically for the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown. Further photographic, video and installation works will complete the exhibition. The exhibition presenting an entirely new body of work will open at the Iziko South African National Gallery on 29 November 2012.

Retinal Shiftinvestigates the practice and mechanics of looking – in relation to the history of Grahamstown, the history of photographic devices and Subotzky’s own history as an artist. The works in the show draw on archival portraits from the last century, found surveillance footage, and Subotzky’s own photographs from various series’ that are re-contextualized here.

The opening work on the show is a self-portrait that Subotzky made with the assistance of an optometrist. High-resolution images of his left and right retinas are placed side by side. “I was fascinated by this encounter. At the moment that my retinas, my essential organs of seeing, were photographed, I was blinded by the apparatus that made the images,” he said. Retinal Shift extends this motif of looking while not seeing - exploring it through Grahamstown’s history, our contemporary surveillance society, and the artist’s personal attempts to see.

The exhibition began its year-long tour at the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown in June 2012 and will travel to various major centres around South Africa before ending its run in August 2013.


About the Standard Bank Young Artist Awards

The Young Artist Awards were started in 1981 by the National Arts Festival to acknowledge emerging, relatively young South African artists who have displayed an outstanding talent in their artistic endeavours. These prestigious awards are presented annually to deserving artists in different disciplines, affording them national exposure and acclaim. Standard Bank took over the sponsorship of the awards in 1984 and presented Young Artist Awards in all the major arts disciplines over their 27-year sponsorship, as well as posthumous and special recognition awards. The winners feature on the main programme of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown and receive financial support for their Festival participation, as well as a cash prize.


Iziko Museums of South Africa (Iziko) operates 11 national museums, the Planetarium, the Social History Centre and 3 collection specific libraries in Cape Town.  The museums that make up Iziko have their own history and character, presenting extensive art, social and natural history collections which reflect our diverse African heritage.  Iziko is a public entity and non-profit organisation which brings together these museums under a single governance and leadership structure.  The organisation allows *free access to all individuals on commemorative days, as well as unlimited free access to individuals aged 18 and under (excluding the Castle of Good Hope and Planetarium).

COMMEMORATIVE DAYS – FREE ENTRANCE (excluding Iziko Planetarium and Castle of Good Hope)

  • Human Rights Day: 21 March
  • Freedom Day: 27 April
  • International Museum Day: 25 May
  • Africa Day: 25 May
  • Youth Day: 16 June
  • National Women’s Day: 9 August
  • Heritage Week: 24 September
  • National Aids Awareness Day: 1 December
  • Emancipation Day: 1 December
  • Day of Reconciliation: 16 December



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