A monthly feature on an artist currently in the public eye
Andries Botha in his studio March 2000
Force of Victory from the Human Structures exhibition1984
South African Skin series - Andries Botha (senior) - I put her name on my arm, but I could never tell her I loved her. I was going out with her sister at the time 1998
The Dance 1995
Botha maps - Andries Botha in front of current map series (untitled) 2000
maps detail (untitled map series)2000
by Virginia MacKenny (April, 2000)
Andries Botha's breakthrough exhibition 'Human Structures' came in 1984 - in it he moved away from mainstream sculptural production and initiated a series of works located in the very material of the South African landscape. 'Human Structures' consisted of a series of evocative works created from thatching, wattle and wax. Woven, using the skills of a group of traditional thatchers and weavers in the Natal Midlands, the works spoke of containment, death and transcendance. It was from this point onwards that Botha's work took on its specific characteristics - referencing inherited practices and locally symbolic materials, such as tyres and telephone wire, the works mesh Western and African culture.
Deeply concerned with his heritage as a white Afrikaans male brought up in the apartheid era, Botha constantly questions his identity in terms of his historical, geographical and political context. Reading both the body and the land as contested territory with sub-texts of past violence, Botha utilises the metaphor of the map to link the two. A concern with memory and the 'archiving' of physical and emotional information has become a consistent theme. Operating in the arena of what Botha terms 'cultural citizenship', his work engages with the broader society and has included a number of community projects and alternative educational forums. Currently, the artist is involved with a women's community project producing work evoking personal narrative which he hopes will become economically sustainable.
Known for engaging labour-intensive processes, which, for Botha, imbue the work with a 'persistent insistence' that gives them an intense materiality and presence, his work has more recently expanded to include the production of a CD, sound pieces, installation, video and computer-activated work.
"I would like to see myself as operating in many domains as a creative person: one domain is the manufacture of objects, the other is responding as creatively as I possibly can to the emotional and societal context in which I live."
Botha is one of four South Africans including Zwelethu Mthethwa, Tracey Rose and Berni Searle selected for the Dakar Biennale (DAK'ART 2000) which takes place next month. He will also take part in 'Continental Shift', a project involving five artists from the African diaspora at the Bonnefanten Museum in Maastricht.
In 1998 Botha was involved in an exhibition with Marlene Dumas 'Damenwahl' ('Ladies Choice') at the Kasseler Kunstverein in Kassel, Germany. Here Botha worked with the idea of 'skin' - skin as a 'concretisation of race', as an 'archival surface' which carries the marks and memory of its history. For this show, Botha created a membrane of simulated skin in an installation incorporating sound and presented photographs of the tattoos on the bodies of older, white, South African men - men who are 'defeated, but their skin carries the map of optimism, or arrogant history'. For Botha these 'blemishes and marks are trade-routes of desire and will, the etchings of romance and sadness, of power and sometimes regrets' - these are 'powerful men with love messages all over their skin' - whose tattoos revealed an internal, emotional history which was loving and sentimental whilst they lived brutal lives'. Out of this exhibition Botha and Dumas produced a collaborative multiple in the form of a CD with recordings of love stories from people in a men's shelter in Durban and an artist's book of playing cards of pin-ups; Dangerous Women & Defeated Men was published in a limited edition of 300.
Botha's continued interest in sound installation produced in 1998-99 the controversial commission for MTN's headquarters in Sandton. An interactive work which occupies three floors and which can be phoned in to - it hums and whispers in the heart of the building.
And before that:
Another contentious work was Home, constructed at the 2nd Johanesburg Bienniale in 1997. Here Botha utilised a simple wendy-house structure surrounded by a white picket fence; almost a caricature of all the generic values of 'home'. Picturesque from the outside, but within lined with steel sheets and beaten lead 'pages' stamped with stories from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, it represented the physical and emotional history of South Africa during apartheid 'invoked by the voices of the oppressed'.
A sculpture project in the Museum of Ethnology (Volkenkunde Museum) in Leiden, Holland. Here Botha will treat the Dutch to a little of their own colonising medicine. He intends to arrive in Holland as an explorer doing a kind of 'reverse safari'; examining and documenting the miscellany of life in Holland as though it were some 'exotic other' and then re-presenting it, after some free interpretation, to the Dutch people.
A travelling one-person exhibition in Brazil which will be shown in Sao Paulo, Rio and Bella Horizonte.
Durban Art Gallery; Tatham Art Gallery, Maritzburg; Empangeni Art Gallery;