Gabbie De Baron explores the work of one of Auckland’s Black artist groups in this review of Regarde Moi, Vol. 2 by Synthia, Frandson, and Sonielle Bahati.
A luminescence of faded colors and a tiny ‘90s television, that read ‘REGARDE-MOI, VOL 2’ as it played a video recording of the space in real time, were the first things you would see. The Bahatis have utilised the space in such a way that the exhibit is one cohesive artwork. No labels dictate what is what: it’s beautiful seeing everything consummate into the preeminent idea of Regarde Moi: “to gather people who wouldn’t normally go into gallery spaces or see themselves in the images surrounding; images that command a sense of agency to have people see and acknowledge the Black community around us. To really see them not only visually but in the physical too”.
The gallery is partitioned into a bifold. The first room has the tiny television in the off-center, surrounded by photographs that are scattered on the wall and a photography publication to culminate the experience. The second room is overlaid in a red light, with photographs hanging on the left accompanied by lightboxes in the center of the space, and more.
To detail, a powerful A1 close-up portrait hangs perpendicular to these, and in between, a pair of jeans don the wall. A crowd of printed mini-Frandsons sprawl the jeans; these prints are screen-printed by hand and are done to the absolute nines! – plus, during the opening they were also selling some nineteen99 garments, which is a side hustle of theirs as well (fucking talented beings!). As you navigate the room, you notice a few photographs that vary in size and color. These photographs disseminate through the space and shroud you so sublimely. Seemingly haphazard, it entails that these moments were documented as they happened in relation to the artist. We, the audience, only see what the artist has fixated within the frame; the ephemerality of the moment is immortalised. What they felt then and what they want you to feel as you view it is dictated by every component photograph’s fashion, thus the composition, color, texture, and even size; It’s a strong piece: they all come from one lens, an umbrella element of warmth transcends through the aesthetic.
The alluring continues as you realise that a projector plays a large moving image piece. It basically covers the wall and memories emanate from this light as it flows through the first room of the gallery. A small white table camouflages to the wall the video is projected on. Atop holds a publication created by Synthia Bahati, entitled “The Pyramids Are Rising”. It’s an agglomeration: documentations of a portion of the Black community in Aotearoa, and it’s done with an ascendancy is only factual. These bodies are portrayed in such power and the book is its own divine diadem! As you explore, the space between the two rooms are hinted with analog collage pygmies, forging the wall as a scrapbook. It shows a trace of the manual labour of cutting and rearranging these photographs; an interaction with these moments in the physical form. This enacted a break from the predominantly digital sphere in the exhibit.
Though the first room was its own reverie, it was the inner room that lived as an august chimera! That night, it was cloaked in a red light which dressed the work in such stellar fashion. Large portraits hung on a clothesline to the left and large photographs in lightboxes structured the centerspace. These two works harmonised with a cheeky lot of the dispersed photographs; creating a linear force in the room. They yolk this line with another, as they drape a wall from top to bottom filled with screen-printed tote bags of the Regarde Moi poster and alee this piece, is my absolute favorite one: the moving image piece. The scale of the projection is much smaller and because the room is as well, there’s an intimacy felt; the piece narrated a visual memoir by stringing together anecdotes that definitely hypnotized. This room was just a vivid dream breathed into life and the Bahatis have shaped an intersection of creativity, even in this small space.
There is a volume of media used throughout the exhibit, yet they all cohese and just prove how multi-talented these siblings are. The Bahatis carry so much power as makers, and they have delivered it with such tonicity. The use of no labels set an accord for them as a collective. It was a warm opening to an exhibit, everyone was connected to everyone. Both rooms have their own spirals of animateness yet exist in unison. They’ve fashioned the space with such liveliness and dynamism across the room, yet leaving spaces to let the viewer breathe. They have showcased the exhibit, demanded an agency to regard the Black community around us, yet the Bahatis have reasoned how their voices, not only insist a ‘regard’ but, necessitate a world centralised on the multifaceted and the diverse.