In Lien Botha’s work the photograph – as text, object or trace – intersects and interweaves a collection of recurring concerns which her practice - spanning more than thirty years - has continuously investigated and ruminated upon: memory, meaning, experience, object and place.These concerns do not operate autonomously, but are rather always presented as interdependent and mutually generative.The photograph, then, conceptualised beyond the rigidities of the documentary frame to which post-Apartheid photography in South Africa is so often inclined to, becomes an active site of memory – both personal and collective; a living, generative space that both recalls real places in space and time, and revisits and reimagines them through complex networks of association and narrative.This duality endows them with an undeniable enigma and surrealism – one has the sense that events are occurring, actual and imagined, which cannot fully be seen or expressed.The photograph thus sits somewhere between object and place, between real and unreal, tangible and intangible.
Botha’s "Wonderboom" series is a virtuosic distillation of these steadfast concerns. A visual companion piece to her debut novel of the same name, which tracks the protagonist’s journey across a dystopic South Africa as she slowly loses her memory, each image corresponds to a chapter. A series of disintegrating photographic texts, "Wonderboom"
references Eadweard James Muybridge’s groundbreaking image sequences. But while Muybridge’s sequences are accumulative and continuous, Botha’s tracks a trajectory of loss and disintegration. Layers of meaning are progressively stripped away, severing connections and associations as they disappear.The collection of objects comes to represent a mind that is slowly losing its grip on itself, a place slowly eroded, a history forgotten or confused.This visual entropy effects a tactile sense of loss, and reminds us that lived experience is predicated on complex layers of association which are ever vulnerable to disruption, destruction and delirium.