Johannesburg-based painter and filmmaker Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi presents a multi-site video and multimedia artwork titled Equations for a Body at Rest, which tracks the history and symbolic presentation of the Commonwealth Games (and, by association, of the Commonwealth body itself) from its genesis in empire to the current day.
Has the changing public face of the Games corresponded to equivalent changes at an anatomical level? And what are the implications for all those participating in the Games today?
Equations for a Body at Rest has two components, The Same Track and The Name Game with each constituent part working in concert with the other. Together they form a public work in video, print and online. Spread across the city within community groups, large screens, posters and billboards Nkosi’s works speak to bodies put through the institutional exploitations and desires of a white Commonwealth geo-political-industrial complex.
The Same Track is a new video work playing on screens around the city, using archival footage of black athletes at rest or resistance – cut together moments throughout Commonwealth Games history. The videos symbolically juxtapose how the makeup of the participants in the games have changed over time while the physical structures around them remain constant.
The Name Game takes the form of a series of street posters placed on six prominent billboard sites throughout the city. Each poster, reminiscent of historical Games posters such as the style of the 1938 “Empire Games”, has been redrawn and painted by Nkosi to tell of the current Games here in Birmingham.
Audiences can participate in a quiz designed to provoke a reaction by encountering historical information about the games including via QR Codes. This provocative intervention aims to create an interactive space online where there is room for discussion and response. To examine our complex histories like this is powerful in establishing a sense of real community in the present, and laying the foundations for a more equitable future.