Masters, 2023, Shaun Motsi. Auto Italia, London, UK. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Henry Mills
Masters / Shaun Motsi
Jul 7 – Sep 3, 2023
Auto Italia
London, UK

Auto Italia presents Masters, a newly commissioned moving image work and the first exhibition in the UK by Zimbabwean-Canadian artist Shaun Motsi.

In this show, the film Masters (38 minutes, 4K film, 2023) presents a cast of fictional multigenerational characters, who reflect on dissensions arising from the institutionalization of Black subjectivity in mainstream culture and education settings.

The protagonist, Mr Clarke, is a retired Black independent filmmaker who is invited by an infamous online edutainment platform to teach an online course on filmmaking, as part of their new initiative titled ‘Black Masters’. Throughout the film, his assistant Aria challenges his decision to work with the company by highlighting the disingenuous nature of the channel and the suspicious motives behind the request for his participation. In spite of her interventions, Mr Clarke chooses to star in a series of lessons on the platform.

Masters continues Motsi’s interest in the ways Black subjectivity has been influenced by and partly shaped through Western consumer and media cultures. The film transforms the emerging framework of online edutainment into an allegory through which to explore how knowledge production and distribution perpetuates racial hierarchies, and how biases in educational spaces shape how information is formed and shared.

The project refers to historical conventions in Race Film, a twentieth-century cinema movement that developed in parallel to the growth of mainstream Hollywood, which produced films written, cast, produced and directed exclusively by Black people. In Masters, much of the dialogue takes place backstage, offering insight into the characters’ disagreements on the politics of inclusion within contexts that have failed to de-centre white supremacy. These conversations are interspersed with the voice of an anonymous series producer who commands Mr Clarke’s words and actions, through which Motsi examines the dogmatism in processes of knowledge formation.

The film is presented in conjunction with an installation featuring seven aluminium prints of a teleprompter displaying monologue excerpts from Mr Clarke’s lines. The texts pose a series of questions pertaining to the representation and visibility of Black subjectivity in cinema, thereby scrutinizing standardized approaches to Black representation in visual cultures.

Masters is co-commissioned by Auto Italia, London and Haus der Kunst, Munich. Its production has been made possible with support from The Canadian Embassy in Berlin, Kulturkreis der deutschen Wirtschaft im BDI e.V. Stadt Mönchengladbach and Rijksakademie van Beelende Kunsten.

The exhibition and its public program have been made possible with support from Goethe-Institut London and Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen.

Auto Italia’s commissions are made possible by our Exhibition Circle and Member supporters.

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