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Hélène Amouzou's Voyages at Autograph

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  • Friday dispatch
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Hélène Amouzou, Autoportrait, Molenbeek, 2007-2011.

Courtesy of the artist

Autograph, Rivington Place, London, EC2A 3BA
22 September 2023 - 20 January 2024


The exhibition Voyages by Hélène Amouzou (born in 1969, Togo) unfolds as an open diary, with the body at its core. It serves as a poetic testament to a personal journey of self-discovery, and a visual chronicle of the artist's encounter with her own identity and subjectivity. By experimenting with diverse possibilities of self-portraiture—exploring its formal, emotional, and discursive dimensions—photography becomes a conduit to the artist's own physicality. Through this medium, Amouzou lays bare the narrative of her ‘voyage’, which took her from her Togolese homeland to refuge in Europe and then back again.

An array of small-format gelatin silver prints, predominantly in black and white, are carefully placed on the walls of the exhibition room. Visitors are invited to enter this space, pausing to observe each image with attention and care. Each piece beckons the viewer to engage with a gentle, slow, contemplative pace, imbuing the exhibition space with a suspended sense of time.

Amouzou's images portray interior spaces (metaphorically, corporeally and architecturally) while allowing for the coexistence of absence and presence. She situates herself in derelict and desolate settings, marked by forlorn wallpaper, decaying walls, and layers of dust. Her body is revealed in varying postures, sometimes nude, sometimes clothed, yet it is intentionally blurred. Employing a photographic technique of extended exposure, the figure materialises and vanishes within the frame, lending the images a spectral quality. This play of visibility and invisibility exposes a complex interplay of vulnerability and melancholy, intermingled with empowerment and hints of eroticism. The intimate interiors and blurred female figures inevitably draw comparisons with the captivating self-portraits of Francesca Woodman.

Amouzou's work captures the emotions evoked by migratory processes, while documenting the impacts of the precarious experience of inhabiting in-between geographies. Through the body, the effects of bureaucratic systems surface and become visible. The symbolically charged presence of suitcases amplifies the sense of displacement. Furthermore, within these bodies lies a profound individual quest for the intersection of identity and subjectivity. Yet, this personal narrative also serves as a poignant testimony to the countless individuals, communities, and families who share the commonality of exile, often driven by extreme poverty, persecution, or fleeing the horrors of war.

In essence, this series of self-portraits communicates a message that is at once simple and profoundly resonant: it conveys a yearning for a sense of belonging. Voyages stands as the visual and poetic outcome of a quest for subjectivity within the constraints of geopolitics and national identity. Through the photographic ritual of capturing the body, the artist narrates a story of separation and solitude, but also one of determination, power, and resilience.


Paula Zambrano
Curator of Programmes

Rivington Place, London, EC2A 3BA
Opening Times: Wednesday and Friday: 11am - 6pm, Thursday: 11am - 9pm, Saturday: 12:30 - 6pm