Plato was perhaps the first philosopher to argue that art’s act of imitation distorts our understanding of the thing-in-itself. As an adjunct to this idea Jean Baudrillard went on to argue more recently that as a consequence the simulacra that are created in our post-modern world have become a proxy for the original and it is through these that we currently encounter the world.
Dan Halter has for some time been interested in these ideas. His work has more often than not investigated the ideas of a ‘homeland’ and the myths and, in his words, ‘fabrications’ that there exist in this search for it. However, in The Original is Unfaithful to the Translation he begins to stretch this idea a little further and begins to explore just how the fabrication itself becomes the (false) source of understanding.
It is perhaps not surprising that Halter (as Baudrillard did) takes as his point of departure the famous short story by Louis Borges, On the Exactitude of Science. This is a story distilled into a paragraph of, as Baudrillard put it, a time when ‘the cartographers of the Empire draw up a map so detailed that it ends up exactly covering the territory.’ Here Halter takes the text, weaving it into a work that bares some physical resemblance, at least in size, to the map of the story.
This work begins an examination, continued through the exhibition, of the idea of empire and its close cousin colonialism, and how we encounter them. And as in Baudrillard’s analysis of the story Halter is interested in the idea that ‘the territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory - precession of simulacra - it is the map that engenders the territory.’
Dan Halter’s artistic practice is informed by his position as a Zimbabwean living in South Africa. Using materials ubiquitous to South Africa and Zimbabwe Halter employs the language of craft and curio as a visual strategy to articulate his concerns within a fine art context. Through this, as well as through photography and video, Halter addresses notions of a dislocated national identity and the politics of post-colonial Zimbabwe within a broader African context. Dan Halter was born in Zimbabwe in 1977. In addition to five solo exhibitions Halter has participated in numerous group shows including US at the South African National Gallery, curated by Simon Njami, Zeitgenössiche Fotokunst aus Südafrika at the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (NBK), 2009 Havana Biennale and Earth Matters at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington DC. He has completed three international residencies, in Zürich, Rio de Janeiro and Scotland. Recent exhibitions include the 7th Triennial of Contemporary Textile Arts of Tournai, Belgium and Dan Halter / Mappa Del Mondo at the Nassauischer Kunstverein in Wiesbaden Germany.
Dan Halter lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa.