Leora Farber


Country of origin

South AfricaNina Sellars

Image: Bo Wong


Leora Farber obtained a BA Fine Art (University of the Witwatersrand, 1985); a MA Fine Art (cum laude) (University of the Witwatersrand, 1992); and a DPhil (Visual Art) (University of Pretoria, 2013). She holds the position of Associate Professor and is the Director of the Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre, Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, University of Johannesburg. She currently works as an artist, academic, editor, curator and post-graduate supervisor.

She has published articles in numerous academic journals including Critical Arts, Image & Text and Textile. Journal of Cloth and Culture. Farber has guest-edited three special editions of Critical Arts and Image & Text respectively, and has edited four scholarly volumes. Her artwork has been shown on numerous international and South African platforms. Solo exhibitions include:

•2007-2008.  Dis-Location/Re-Location. Major exhibition which travelled to seven South African national galleries/museums: The Albany History Museum, Grahamstown; The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, Port Elizabeth; The South African Jewish Museum, Cape Town; The US Art Gallery, Stellenbosch; The Oliewenhuis Gallery, Bloemfontein; The Durban Art Gallery, The Johannesburg Art Gallery.

•2006. A Room of Her Own. Live performance and installation. The Premises, Johannesburg.

•2006. Designing for the Senses conference. Live performance installation. Rockefeller University, New York City.

•2001.  All You Can Be. Retrospective exhibition. Snowflake building, Art Circle, Potchefstroom.

•2001. Corpa Delicata. Sculptural performance and video installation. The Premises Gallery, Johannesburg.

•2000 Endless Renovations. Three-person show with Mark Hipper, and Geno Gindl. Joao Ferreria Fine Art, Cape Town.

•1997. Instrumental. Thompson Gallery in collaboration with Read Contemporary Art, Johannesburg.

•1996. Skinless. Gasworks Gallery, London.

•1993 Seeing through the Body. Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

Group exhibitions that Farber’s work has been shown on include: Second Skin. Curated by Ellen Lupton, Vitra Design Museum Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, New York City, 2002; Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei, 2007; Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Taipei, 2007; Skin-to-Skin. Curated by Fiona Kirkwood. Textile 07 Kaunus Art Biennial, Lativa, 2008; Body as Commodity. Nexus Contemporary Art, Atlanta (with Marc Quinn & Nan Goldin), 1999; The New Anatomists. Gallery 1010, The Wellcome Institute, London, 1999;  The Exquisite Corpse. Jibby Beane Contemporary, London, 1999; Adorn. Jibby Beane Contemporary, London 1999; Colours: Contemporary Art from South Africa. Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 1996; The Body Politic. Curated by Colin Richards. Johannesburg Biennale, Gertrude Posel Galleries, 1995.


Many, if not all of the concerns and imagery that I’ve dealt with in works over the past twenty years such as skin, the body, embodiment, abjection, the domestic interior, activities historically associated with ‘women’s work’ and domestic objects, resurface, in different ways in the (ongoing) project that I undertook during my residency at SymbioticA. Titled culturing colonies/colonial cultures, the project involves making  casts of domestic objects such as cups and saucers, dinner plates and bowls, from a solidified mixture of agar and bacterial nutrient, onto which live, naturally pigmented pathogenic bacteria have been painted. Inscribed into, imprinted onto, or infused with the translucent jelly-like substrate, the bacteria grow unpredictably, and often uncontrollably, in response to the patterns or surface applications that I attempt to create for them. Rather than being the product of my creative efforts alone, the work is made through a process of organic collaboration between the micro-organisms and myself; they happen ‘with’ the agencies of the microbes in a dynamic process of exchange. I am constantly fascinated by the extraordinary creative abilities of my collaborators and their ingenious growth patterns.

The work was produced in collaboration with Dr Kate Hammer, Senior Lecturer and Deputy Director Graduate Programs in Infectious Diseases, School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Western Australia.


Funding for the residency was granted by the South African National Research Foundation (NRF) and the University of Johannesburg Research Committee (URC).

Period of research

September 2019-January 2020.