Two Turkana boys confront each other at Circa Gallery , Johannesburg. The figures, ominous yet vulnerable, in their stitched and genderless nudity, are sculpted from vellum sewn with linen thread. From a new exhibition of sculptures, drawings, and photographs by Gavin Younge. In the exhibition notes, Mark Read writes: "Somewhat shockingly Gavin Younge came up with the idea of treating the Cradle [of Mankind] and its surrounds as a landscape—a landscape that had been foraged upon, changed, altered and re-interpreted from many different perspectives over a very long period of time." A powerful and fresh exhibition by one of the veterans of South African "struggle art" during the 1980s. Very worth seeing – also for the way that Younge has utilized the striking but difficult space of the new Circa Gallery.
Photo by Christo Doherty
One of the most consistently interesting artists currently working in Joburg must be Nadine Hutton. Perhaps from her years working as a professional photo journalist (mostly for the Mail & Guardian) she seems to have been rooted in the tradition of documentary photography. However the trajectory of her art of the last few years has seen her pushing herself beyond the limitations of this tradition. Even so, the two works that she exhibited at the Bag Factory’s 20 year show were a new departure, even for her. Her latest works could be described as satirical techo-sculptures. An "engraved magic bullet vibrator" which jolted around a mirrored surface was entitled It’s not the size . . . It’s the motion of the Gautrain. A modified arcade console video game which allowed participants to gun down rows of pixelated zulu maidens was entitled Skirt Invaders and cheekily referenced the President’s polygamous/promiscuous proclivities. The console was being sold as a limited edition of 3 machines "+ Full MAME Multiple Arcade Machine Emulation" of approximately 5,500 games. The editions were going for R19000 each; while a limited 1st edition (of 100) signed CD copies of the game Win/Mac was on sale for R350 a throw. What was particularly impressive is that she did the reprogramming of the original Space Invaders herself, using the manual.
photos by christo doherty
Criticised at ‘pure musical madness’ and ‘too far out there’… That makes me very happy! If you want madness and ‘far out there’ – make sure you attend our next show – details will be posted here…
Kai Lossgo and Anthea Moys in the performance art piece, Unsaid, ath the Johannesburg Art Gallery, 18 May 2008.
It was a rather odd experience to watch performance art performed at the Johannesburg Art Gallery on a balmy Sunday afternoon with the occasional burst of gunfire in the background as ethic violence raged around parts of Joburg. Up from Cape Town were the winner and finalists in the Spier Contemporary Art Awards 2007 – the performance category which featured prominently on this year’s awards. Various pieces have been staged around Wits University School of Arts and outside the Sandton Convention Centre. I didn’t catch any of those but I did see two pieces on the last day at the JAG.
The first up was Unsaid by Kai Lossgot and Anthea Moys. In a short piece barely four minutes long - a domestic slapstick tinged with pathos – the two performers faced each other across the lip of the fountain. While water poured down the abyss below them; they spat streams of water at each other, acting out the universal stages of a relationship, balanced on the edge of the fountain, the threat of break up and failure. Anthea Moys in her grandmother’s vivid red dress; Kai Lossgot more enigmatic in a plain white shirt and grey pants. They leaned away from each other and towards each other, held together in a force-field of love, or habit, before exploding into confrontation and spitting.
The afternoon featured the overall winner of the Spier Contemporary Art Award in 2007: Peter van Heerden’s Flowers for my Flesh, a perverse interpretation of the fairy tale in which van Heerden, naked except for pair of veldskoens and a floral kappie, acts the part of Sleeping Beauty in a kind of bugger drag. He follows a trail of flowers across the Fountain and through the Gallery to his Prince Charming. His prince turns out to be a paunchy lout in a ragged old South Africa Tshirt who beats him before returning sulkily to his braai while cheesy Afrikaans pop music blares around the Gallery courtyard.
The sight of this beefy Afrikaaner man clambering around the Gallery fountain in his white kappie and iron harness provoked a wave of interest amongst the people relaxing in the park behind the green pallisade fence that separates the space of art from the space of public recreation. Within a short time the entire population of the park was pressing against the fence to catch of glimpse of van Heerden splashing through the water in search of his true love.
Van Heerden’s performance was acted out with great gusto and physical risk-taking, from the provocation of his nakedness to his scrambling up the face of the fountain and his rope climbing; but it felt that he was performing the last rites of a cultural complaint whose time has passed. Exploding the ethnic pieties, the stranglehold of patriarchy and sentimental romance, in Afrikaaner culture, no longer seems very relevant or very urgent. There are new forms of ethnic consciousness which demand articulation. Perhaps by other artists with direct experience of these forms. A few blocks below the Gallery in central Joburg and in other parts of the city, this new and more violent form of ethnic consciousness seems to be emerging into the daylight of the South African psyche. Thousands of people have been displaced, while many have been attacked, injured and even killed by mobs waving pangas and singing the old songs of the struggle against Apartheid. Somehow, the Lossgot and Moys piece, although smaller and less elaborate, by exploring the human all-too-human contradictions of relationships on the edge of precipice, seemed to speak to the reality of current life in Johannesburg.
(All the above photos by Christo Doherty - photo albums of the performances can be viewed at Flickr )
Photo from The Times coverage of the anti-foreign violence in Johannesburg.