Margareta Kern is a visual artist whose practice references both the documentary and experimental modes of image making, often drawing on her personal history shaped by migration and conflict. Kern’s multi-disciplinary practice includes film, photography, installation, drawing, performance and text. Her work is developed from rigorous research, theoretical enquiry and a range of visual strategies that respond to urgent political questions and contexts.
Current long-term artistic and critical inquiry deals with the politics of making visible systems and forms of often imperceptible power that manifests through what Achille Mbembe recently called ‘the new infrastructures of the unconscious’. This new body of work and research provisionally titled ‘Thursday War’ starts from the artist’s kitchen window where she sees nuclear submarines, naval ships and fighter jets simulating a never-ending war. She also sees Silicon Valley libertarians building a privatised floating city-state, as well as sea monsters rising up from the bottom of the ocean.
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Kern holds BA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths College and MA in Visual Anthropology, UCL. Her work has been presented across international gallery and educational contexts, including Tate Modern, The Photographers Gallery (London), Whitechapel Gallery (London), Spacex (Exeter), SC Gallery (Zagreb), Impressions Gallery (Bradford), INIVA (London), Shedhalle (Zurich), Photomonth Krakow, Muscarnok (Budapest) and many others. Kern is a recipient of several project grants and awards, including from the National Media Museum, the British Film Institute and in 2013 an international 54th October Salon Award, from the Cultural Centre Belgrade. Most recently Kern was awarded an Arts Council England Project Grant for a new body of work, starting with the commission for Whitstable Biennale in June 2018, and continuing with an artist-in-residence programme at Birkbeck School of Law in 2018-2019.
Margareta Kern teaches photography at Falmouth University's Institute of Photography.
Originally from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kern has been based in the UK since 1992. She currently lives in Cornwall and London.
“The horrors of necro-capitalism, the history of human violence, and the making economic of horror in slavery and exploitation, are seemingly insurmountable. Yet we must become better readers of images that neutralize us and make us complicit in this violence, and look and think instead towards images of alternative worlds that do not thrive upon and promote violence. Somewhere between acephalism and the many-headed hydra. This position would not pretend that destructive images and actions do not exist, or must be ignored, but rather understands the temptation and power of such a vision of the world. We should not seek to protect ourselves from horrible images, or rely on others to do the hard labour of image selection, but rather cultivate powerful political images that dialectically reverse necro-capitalist desires. Aggression may be a central feature of human life, but it can be addressed if it is understood, and channelled away from cruelty towards compassion and care.”
Nina Power, Necro-capitalism and Counter-images (2018)