The collector’s asylum:

The politics of disposability in the work of Julia Rosa Clark

  • Andrew Hennlich Gwen Frostic School of Art, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Keywords: Julia Rosa Clark, archive, post-apartheid, Walter Benjamin, psychoanalysis, Dada, haunting


The South African artist Julia Rosa Clark’s (2015) collage-based practice is driven by what she terms ‘traditions of improvised practice’ — haruspex or soothsaying for example — that enable the practitioner to conceptualise new connections between past and present. Tracing these traditions across Clark’s oeuvre in this article, I compare them with the German philosopher Walter Benjamin’s (2006) philosophy of history. Benjamin’s commitment to the destruction of tradition unearths a politics within Clark’s practice, just as her work opens avenues to consider Benjamin’s work as haunted by colonialism. I conclude the discussion by considering the implication of colonialism’s haunting for Clark’s post-apartheid practice.