Remembering the Pass – Exploring curatorial reenactment in PASS-AGES: References & Footnotes


  • Jayne Crawshay-Hall


Gabi Ngcobo, reenactment, curatorial practice, nomadic curator, PASS-AGES: References & Footnotes, site specific, memory, autoethnography


The exhibition, PASS-AGES: References & Footnotes (2010), curated by Gabi Ngcobo, was site-specific and took place at the former Pass Office in Johannesburg, a space not officially acknowledged as a struggle site. Ngcobo, recognising the potential for using dynamic display formats to mobilise a curatorial concept, brought memory to the fore by installing artworks at the Pass Office as reenactments of evidence. I argue that PASS-AGES invokes traumatic memory through curatorial reenactment, and indicates the potentials for reenactment to explore repressed histories that still hold presence in a contemporary moment. Memory is thus invoked as an additional “text” to mobilise the conceptual framework, akin to how remembrance is often used in the continuous struggle for justice. Employing an autoethnographic methodology, which describes an analytical approach used to critically examine the researcher’s own experiences as a means to access greater understanding of cultural experience, I allow the reader to experience the exhibition through my own account. I argue that, as a nomadic curator, Ngcobo was freed from contextual, spatial, or methodological limitations traditionally bound to a colonial logic of curatorial practice. I convey that a nomadic curatorial approach can be adopted to critique traditional or institutional curatorial paradigms. To this end, I argue that Ngcobo was able to engage care in her practice by using reenactment to interrogate memory in a manner that may otherwise have been subdued within an institutional context.