Over recent years, Breitz has collected and archived a wide range
of found footage fragments that document ‘white people talking
about race.’ Her archive includes the voices of prominent
political figures, news anchors and talk show hosts, as well as
those of lesser known and anonymous YouTube bloggers, covering
white perspectives that run the gamut from neo-Nazi ideology and
far right propaganda to everyday racism and the posturing of ‘good
white people.’ Specifically, the archive observes the rising
anxiety of white people as long-standing calls to dismantle white
supremacy proliferate and intensify across the globe. As such, it
offers insight into the ongoing backlash against anti-racist
movements, as white people struggle to come to terms with public
discourse that highlights phenomena such as ‘white privilege,’
‘white fragility,’ ‘white rage’ and ‘white guilt.’
Breitz appropriates and ventriloquizes dozens of voices drawn from
this archive, channelling them through her own white body. Wearing
nothing but a white dress shirt and zombie contact lenses, the
artist conjures up whiteness in a variety of its guises, rotating
through a series of cheap blonde wigs as the work unfolds, among
which her own platinum head of hair is featured. Breitz’s
un-wigged appearance among the characters that populate the piece,
serves to acknowledge the artist’s own embeddedness in whiteness.
Yet, while Breitz and many of the disembodied voices that she
lip-syncs may be recognisable in
(Tucker Carlson, Rachel Dolezal, Bill Maher, Richard Spencer and
Robin DiAngelo all make vocal cameos), specific white folks are
not the primary target of this stinging satire. Rather, it is the
condition of whiteness that Breitz seeks to prod into visibility.
Dislocated from the white people who originally uttered them, the
words that stream through Breitz accumulate to provide a scathing
study of the vocabulary and grammar underlying this condition, a
critical survey of the language via which whiteness frames,
normalises and leverages its power.
The white dogma that flows through Breitz will be deeply familiar
to those whose lives are impacted by racism.
is a portrait of whiteness in a state of panic. As the privileged
status of white people comes under increasing pressure, narratives
about white extinction have multiplied across the political
spectrum. At a time when we are all threatened by possible
extinction in light of the climate change crisis and other looming
parodies the absurdity of white extinction anxiety—which, perhaps
more than any other expression of whiteness, points to the
delusional narcissism at the heart of the condition.
Breitz’s deliberately theatrical performance in
draws attention to the constructed nature of whiteness and other
racial categories. Her bleached presence and deadened eyes locate
the fictions that naturalise and perpetuate white supremacy
squarely within the genre of horror. Race is a dangerous fiction
that continues to exert real and violent consequences.
, Breitz is presenting seven single-channel videos from a new body
of work titled
, as well as a series of photographic portraits of the characters
that make up the cast of
Born and raised in South Africa during the era of apartheid,
Breitz has consistently sought to grapple with whiteness in her
work, from early photographic series such as
(1994), to later installations such as
represents her most direct stab at autoethnography yet.
was commissioned by the Museum Folkwang with generous support from
the Kunsthalle Baden-Baden. Special thanks to Sabine Brunckhorst.