Stumbling Block is an ongoing performance project initiated by Gabrielle Goliath in 2011. Recalling the sleeping form of a homeless person, a huddled and blanketed body lies on cardboard boxes, partially blocking the entrance to a gallery, museum or other cultural space. Forced to negotiate the shrouded human form, access is complicated for those wishing to enter or exit the space, the privileged remove of which is thrown into question. Significant here is the idea of how the hyper-visibility of marginalised and ‘unseen’ bodies is negotiated (or negated). Made apparent also, and performed, is the problematic relation of art to its market, in the symbolic inclusion of a body ordinarily excluded from such an economy.
This is a work that demands response – as those encountering it must decide whether to skirt or step-over the blanketed form. Sometimes the body is kicked, sometimes investigated, at other times fed and asked after, and in some cases even stripped of its blanket. Demonstrated in these various interactions is something of how the 'excluded' bodies of marginalised individuals come to bear on routines of privilege – the implied politics of which is critical to the chronic disparity as well as racial, gendered and economic divides that constitute the social habit and normalised violence of post-apartheid South Africa.
Three Stumbling Block performances were staged at the launch of Zeitz Mocaa in September 2017, each complicating a point of access to or within the museum. Performed by brown women collaborators, particular to this intervention was its allusion not only to the privileged site of Zeitz Mocaa itself, but also to the plight of residents of Bromwell Street, Woodstock, threatened with eviction and displacement by encroaching property developments
Photograph: Gabrielle Goliath, Stumbling Block (2011- ), Zeitz Mocca, 2017, long term performance