Selected Reviews

  • “In Everyone is Present, South African visual artist and writer Terry Kurgan follows in the footsteps of her Jewish ancestors who fled Poland in 1939. Kurgan reconstructs this history based on the diary that her grandfather kept and the photographs he made … The result is a collection of essays in which images are analyzed as an anatomical lesson … Through the complete fixation on a handful of individuals, her family, this proverbial drop reveals an ocean of pain and dismay, loss and displacement.”Bart Luirink, Zam Magazine
  • “One of the things Kurgan looks at “anew” is the computer application Google Street View which allowed her to examine the exact spot her family inhabited in the town of Bielsko, about 60km from Krakow, where the Nazis attacked Poland in 1939. The narrative of her family’s flight from Poland takes on nail-biting proportions. But, it is the mechanical simplicity of Google Street View, seen in 2013 when Kurgan was doing her research, that is cause for introspection about the impact of conflict on our daily lives.”Matthew Krouse, South African Jewish Report
  • “Terry Kurgan is one of South Africa’s most accomplished and sophisticated theorists of her own photographic practice. Her projects, both studio-based and publicly engaged, have frequently explored the mediations of power relations at play in domestic photography. In Everyone is Present she offers a set of sensitive readings of a small cache of family photographs from the mid to late 1930s and early 1940s as its own kind of experimental art practice. The result is a deeply personal meditation on authorship, memory, and photography.”Andrew van der Vlies, Africa in Words
  • “Daar is lesers en daar is boeklesers. Laasgenoemde, weerbarstig teen die banaliteit van skerms en kindle, het ’n kontrak met die gedrukte produk, ’n fisieke verhouding met die sienén tasbare wat die leesproses met boek-in-die-hand eksistensiëel verruim en bevredig. Boeke soos Fourth Wall se prag-uitgawe van Terry Kurgan se serebraal-elegante Everyone is Present: Essays on Photography, Memory and Family is ’n voortreflike bewys van daardie pand. Drukversorging tot in die fynste, netjiesste detail, sober en moderne ontwerp en die bladsyplan wat die teks tussen prente laat voortstu, sorg vir ’n perfekte estetiese onderbou vir my boek van die jaar.  Melvyn Minnaar, Die Burger
  • “He took us only as far as Auschwitz’—Read an excerpt from Everyone is Present: Essays on Photography, Memory and Family by Terry Kurgan, published by Fourthwall Books, and distributed by Jacana Media. The JRB patron Ivan Vladislavić  wrote of Everyone is Present, ‘Kurgan has achieved something rare in this book: a truly dynamic fusion of text and image. She brings a deep knowledge of craft to everyday images, whether she’s teasing fugitive meanings from a creased pre-war snapshot or taking the pulse of an apparently impersonal digital image. The result is both a moving family memoir and an illuminating reflection on photography and memory.” – The Johannesburg Review of Books
  • “The first photograph in Terry Kurgan’s Everyone is Present shows what appears to be a mid-20th century idyllic scene of a young family at a spa in southern Poland. It’s a scene that puts one in mind of the reverie in old photographs described by French theorist Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida and the nostalgic fragments used so evocatively by the Anglo-German novelist W.G Sebald in Austerlitz and elsewhere. But Kurgan, the Johannesburg-based artist, writer and curator, is more forceful in her efforts to wrest meaning from this and other images … ” – Michael Godby, The Conversation
  • “In this fascinating portrait of a family, Terry Kurgan, a well-known South African artist uses the medium of writing for a series of meditations on photography that give us startling insights into how photographs work: what they conceal, how they mislead, and what provocations they contain … It is a powerful, intimate and beautiful portrait of a family, and an important historical document …”Lore Watterson, Creative Feel
  • “Jointly organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA), Public Intimacy: Art & other Ordinary Acts in South Africa, brings together 25 artists and collectives who disrupt expected images of a country known through its apartheid history. The exhibition features an arc of artists who look to the intimate encounters of daily life to express the poetics and politics of the “ordinary act,” with work primarily from the last five years as well as photographic works that figure as historical precedents.”Marcus Bunyan, Art Blart
  • South African artist Terry Kurgan creates a participatory public art project inspired by the vast community bulletin boards and internet cafes that served the Johannesburg suburb of Yeoville. From the exhibition, Public Intimacy: Art & other Ordinary Acts in South Africa in collaboration with SFMOMA at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco.
  • “A Johannesburg, quartiers libres pour les artistes. La cité sud-africaine est un puzzle où, en dépit de la misère et de la violence, les arts s’épanouissent. C’est une ville en pleine mutation. Une ville fondée en 1886 autour des mines d’or, et qui ressemble aujourd’hui à un puzzle de banlieues juxtaposées les unes aux autres. Dans le cadre de la saison culturelle de l’Afrique du Sud en France, deux événements organisés à Paris et en région parisienne permettent de prendre le pouls de cette Johannesburg en mouvement : le Festival d’Ile-de-France, dimanche 8 septembre à Chaussy (Val-d’Oise), et le programme multiculturel “Sharp Sharp”, du 12 octobre au 8 novembre, à la Gaîté-Lyrique à Paris.”Stephanie Binet, Le Monde
  • “Hotel Yeoville shows the possibilities that manifest when one combines high art and human tragedy with popular culture.  Artist Terry Kurgan and collaborators instruct visitors to a website that their site-specific intervention, housed at the Yeoville library, is to be a chronicle of experience. Yeoville residents are encouraged to tell stories of Jo’burg, home, loss, love and longing. The public art project was launched last May and has been developed by Kurgan in partnership with Wits University’s Forced Migration Studies Programme.”Percy Zvomuya, Mail & Guardian
  • “Hotel Yeoville both echoes and deviates from these representations of alienation, foreignness, xenophobia, migrancy and otherness that have rippled through South African public life in the aftermath of May 2008. If there is any binding impulse or shared strategy that informs this diversity of contemporary responses, it might be a reluctance to revert to directly representational modes of documentary figuration, which are tainted by a heritage of colonial representations of the other and an incapacity to shake off the unequal author/subject power relations implicit in the ethnographic gaze.”Alex Dodd, Archive & Public Culture
  • “I spent Saturday morning at Hotel Yeoville, one of the most exciting interactive exhibitions I have seen. Hotel Yeoville is the brainchild of photographer and artist Terry Kurgan who has for the past three years championed this project to as she puts it to “make the invisible community visible”. Its aim is to create a social map of the migrant or immigrant experience of Johannesburg – to track the experiences of those who have travelled from all over and now call Joburg home. Ironically home is not always a refuge – and the exhibition uses popular social media technologies to create safe spaces in which the complex emotions people have about home can be articulated and shared.” Laurice Taitz, To Do In Joburg
  • “There is a meticulous continuity in the nature of Kurgan’s questionings. Her vigorous engagement over the years with what photographs mean – of how subjects perform for and within the act of consciously being photographed – has been extensive and significant. She has, and continues to probe, refract and deepen her complex reading and articulation of the nature of photography … they are keenly perceptive inquiries into the nature of subjectivity and representation.” – Tracy Murinik, Gallery AOP
  • “In 1999, Terry Kurgan’s Family Affairs show included revealing, intimate photographs of her two young children. There were accusations of exploitation, of perverting innocence and young sexuality for the ends of art. Other juicy analyses attempted to give a bit of spice to that sometimes-banal transaction that is art appreciation in South Africa. One photograph from that earlier show stood out … ” – Chris Roper, Mail & Guardian
  • “This series of images returns your focus to Kurgan’s images, which bear the stains of her process. The red oxide smudges or pink gouache washes that bubble like water at the surface don’t simply evoke a self-conscious engagement with art making, but are discreet markers of time. They age her canvas and steep it in a history while she tries to negotiate representing a subject suspended in another time.”Mary Corrigall, Sunday Independent
  • “Terry Kurgan and Ruth Rosengarten both engage in the photographic discourse generated in the space created between the publication of Susan Sontag’s On Photography (1977) and Fred Ritchin’s After Photography (2009). Kurgan and Rosengarten fill that creative space by, what seems to be their translation of photographs in their respective drawings on exhibition at GALLERY AOP.”Wilhelm van Rensburg, Gallery AOP