The concern about crime is rising to a crescendo in South Africa. In Pretoria this weekend, there was a march by artists against crime. While in Joburg, the second installment of the Armed Response project opened at the Goethe Institut in Parkwood.
The postcard invitation to the Armed Response II exhibition.
Although uneven, it strikes me as an important exhibition. Less of a protest, the exhibition, with its associated performance and installation pieces, is an exploration of the complex relationship between crime, paranoia, and security. It is also the first time that artists – both South African and international – have responded collectively to one of the most pressing social issues in this country, and in particular, in this dark city. The participating artists include Nina Barnett & Mitch Said (SA), Jacques Coetzer (SA), Christo Doherty (SA); Lukas Ligeti (Austria/USA), Carl Earl (UK), Karin Lustenberger (Switzerland), Maja Marx (SA), Anthea Moys (SA), Debbie Rogers (SA), Anke Schafer (Germany), Juliana Smith (USA), Annie Zeitz (Germany), Claudia Wegener (Germany).
Sponsored by the Goethe-Institut, the project has been the initiative of the Head of Programmes, Nikolai Petersen. Whether or not you agree with his main thesis, it is clear from the way that he speaks and writes on the subject, that it is something he feels about very intensely. Coming from a posting in Brazil to South Africa, he was struck by the parallels between the response to rampant crime in both countries. Both Brazil and South Africa, he believes, have responded to the failure of a weak state to provide protection in the same way. Both have spawned large privitized security industries. But these industries , in his view, are built upon a fatal contradiction. Dependent on crime for their usefulness and profits, they have an interest in maintaining the high crime levels in their countries.
The first installment took the form of a satirical play + a large (130) photo installation (by myself) + a conference. The project is archived at Armed Response I.
Perhaps more playful, the second edition of Armed Response, organised in collaboration with Kazoo
promised to "confront the topic with irony, openess and participation, whilst still acknowledging the reality of the situation." But can one be playful about such a topic? particularly to an audience where most have been direct victims of some sort of crime . . .
Artist, Juliana Smith, beginning her performance at Armed Response II
by collecting the plastic waterpistols which visitors to the exhibition
had picked up at the entrance.
Juliana Smith concludeds her performance by smashing the
collected waterpistols with lemons to make lemonade to a loud rendition
of "Lord w’ont you buy me a Mercedes Benz".