24.07.01 Medal d'Excellence for HIV/AIDS Billboards Portfolio|
24.07.01 Sue Williamson's New York diary 3
18.07.01 Absa Atelier Award winners announced
17.07.01 Tribute to George Pemba (1912-2001)
17.07.01 SA art historians conference - report
17.07.01 Sue Williamson's New York diary 2
10.07.01 Countdown to the Absa Atelier 2001
10.07.01 Foto 2001 winners announced
10.07.01 Jewish Museum shows record-setting Kentridge work
10.07.01 Sue Williamson's New York diary
03.07.01 Roger Ballen interviewed by Dave Southwood
03.07.01 Christian Nerf - Street situationist
03.07.01 Billboard Liberation Army hits Jo'burg
26.06.01 MTN New Contemporaries Award launched
26.06.01 Mark Coetzee interviewed by Sue Williamson
26.06.01 Unesco conference on arts education
26.06.01 David Goldblatt - Citation by Pippa Skotnes
Medal d'Excellence for HIV/AIDS Billboards Portfolio
The Duban-based HIV/AIDS Billboards Portfolio project has just scored a coup at the Fête d'Excellence in Geneva, winning a Medal d'Excellence for its innovative approach to creating public awareness of HIV/AIDS. The Fête d'Excellence recognises excellence in a range of fields including the environment, sport, youth activities, edutainment and disability. HIV/AIDS Billboards Portfolio project leader Jan Jordaan will accept the award along with Gabi Nkosi, one of the artists who produced an image for the portfolio, in Geneva on August 3. They join an illustrious group of recipients, including Sidney Poitier and Muhammed Ali, who will receive awards for their Spirit of Service, the World Deaf Games for their contribution to disability and the Harlem Globetrotters for their contribution to sports.
The HIV/AIDS Billboards Portfolio is an initiative currently run by the projects committee of the Artists for Human Rights Trust (AHRT). The AHRT has been involved in human rights arts projects since 1988. Recent projects include the Images for Human Rights Print Portfolio (1996) and the Universal Declaration of Human Right International Print Portfolio (1999). The current project for HIV/AIDS is a two-pronged initiative - while producing a print portfolio for museums, public institutions and corporate buyers it also attempts to reach a broader public through the arena of billboards under the heading "Break the Silence". These have been set up in KwaMashu, Umlazi and Claremont in Durban and on Harrow Road in Johannesburg. As funds and sponsorship come in more billboards go up around the country. The project features the work of, among others, David Kolane, Chris Diedericks, Diane Victor, Stembiso Sibisi and Dominic Thorburn, as well as artists from Uganda, Thailand, Bolivia and Ghana.
More information on AHRT projects can be found at www.ahr.org.za.
Sue Williamson's New York diary
Tuesday July 16
Amanda's labour pains start in the night. By lunchtime, the pains are close enough apart to go to the hospital, Columbia Presbyterian. I cancel an appointment with Robert Storr of the Museum of Modern Art for that evening. Many hours later, at 2.05am the next morning, Sebastian Williamson Scarbrough, hair a blond peach fuzz, weight 8 lbs 6 ozs, emerges to take his place in the world. An extraordinary moment.
Wednesday July 17
Go back home to Brooklyn to recover from 36 hours of wakefulness.
Thursday July 18
Amanda, Bill and the baby return from the hospital, and Sebastian is introduced to his new home. Many photos are taken, and we all agree he is exceptionally gorgeous for a new-born.
Friday July 19
Earlier on this trip I acquired the object of my deepest desire, a Mac G4 titanium laptop, and as a new Mac owner, decide to go to the last day of an enormous exposition called the MacWorld Expo. It's being held in the Jacob Javits Conference Centre, a huge glass palace that occupies about four city blocks on the West Side of Manhattan, next to the Hudson River. Arriving, visitors wait in line to register on one of several aisles of gleaming new G4s. As I finish typing in pages of semi-true information, (and with Mac-like bossiness, the computer will not allow you to skip lines) and step away from the machine, a young Macperson is calling my name, and hands me my delegates badge, already printed with my name and title.
I suppose this is geek heaven. Acres of Macs and every possible peripheral device. From raised pulpits in front of giant screens in arenas round the halls, demonstrations of new software are going on, watched by attendees on rows of chairs. To encourage you to stay, tickets are handed out, and audience members receive free software, manuals and T-shirts at the end of each demonstration. Raffle ticket in hand, I sit through a crashingly boring presentation of something called Filemaker, trying to imagine how it could possibly have any relevance to my life. Am greatly relieved when I don't win anything. Even the software that allows one to be creative like Paintbrush (I think it was) is a turnoff as stolidly demonstrated here, and one finally understands how it is that software like Photoshop, for instance, used by millions around the world, comes to have such banal imagery on startup.
The expo finishes at 4pm and at 10 minutes before the hour, tape is being stripped up and red carpets rapidly rolled. I'm quite close to the Chelsea art district here, and walk 10 blocks downtown to take in a couple of shows.
Gagosian are showing 'Monitor: Volume 1', a roomful of single channel video works by young artists, including one by Vanessa Beecroft whose modus operandi is to stage a performance in a space in which she selects a group of young women who have to stand in rows, dressed often only in very high heels and wigs of varying kinds. Their gradual weariness and slight shifting of position is the subject of the video that is made at each one. Her art "products" are these videos and accompanying photographs which sell well enough to allow her to stage the next event. In the current Artforum, Bruce Hainley comments: "I'd like to call Vanessa Beecroft the Leni Riefenstahl of performance art, but that wouldn't be fair. Her fascism's fake: no menace or power or insanity, beyond capital, underwrites her project. Miser, she makes nudity, one of the saving graces of life, tedious." At Admit One, which specialises in contemporary South Asian work, an artist well known in the South African art world, Sunil Gupta, is showing a series of paired photographic images. Sunil's work deals with the immigrant experience in the developing world, setting up contrasting images from each, and also with his own history as a gay man who is HIV positive. An "I love you" scrawled on a Euston wall is paired with an image of the artist himself, in St Thomas' hospital, London, standing with bandaged body and flasks of fluid drained from his lungs.
Saturday July 21
Meet Laurie Farrell, associate curator of the Museum for African Art. At the Ace Gallery, we enter the incredible world of Hiro Yamagata, who puts on a show of lighting effects which outdoes any international rock concert. The Ace Gallery is vast, 25 000 square feet, and Yamagata has utilised all the space for an immensely complex installation of passages and rooms and halls each of which gives a different visual experience, The unifying element is the refractive holographic panels covering all the surfaces of the gallery - walls, floor and ceiling are all layered with silvery refractive surfaces. From the ceilings hang a myriad mirrored cubes which spin at different speeds. The laser/lighting systems are run by an intricate series of computer programmes which change the ambience from points of blue light in darkness through a series of ever mutating colour changes to a light bright silver world. Through my enchantment I cannot help wondering what it all cost, and note that "this exhibition has been made possible by the generous support of Nasa, Arco, Sony, IBM and Mercedes Benz." Not a bad sponsor line-up.
Finally, a quick flip (it's close to closing) through the New Museum to look at William Kentridge's show. Very, very impressive. Some spaces are devoted to William's drawings, others to screenings of what seems to be his entire oeuvre of video works. Laurie's review of the show can be found on ArtThrob's Reviews page. I am familiar with nearly all the work, but there is one surprise: by itself in a small room is a piece called Medicine Chest - a small cabinet frame with two glass shelves has a screen for a back wall on which is played out a series of classic Kentridge images.
Absa Atelier Award winners announced
Gauteng artist Stefanus Rademeyer will be the next young South African to take up residence at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, it was announced at the Absa Gallery in downtown Johannesburg on Wednesday night. Rademeyer, 25, won the 2001 Absa Atelier Art Award with Mimetic Reconstructions, a mixed media work combining glass, steel and text. He walks away with R60 000 in cash, a round trip to Paris and six months accommodation at the Cité.
Four runners up each received merit prizes of R10 000 - they are Daniel Hirschmann, Marco Cianfanelli and Merryn Singer, all of Gauteng, and Brent Meistre of the Eastern Cape. Joni Brenner (Gauteng), Frederick Eksteen (Gauteng), Collen Maswanganyi (Northern Province), Henk Serfontein (Gauteng) and Doreen Southwood (Western Cape) were awarded certificates acknowledging their places in the top 10.
Competition sponsors Absa purchased works by two of the top 10 artists for the group's corporate art collection, paying R16 000 for a wooden sculpture by Maswanganyi titled Helicopter Rescuing Mozambican Mother, and R8 500 for Cianfanelli's merit award winning Head II.
The panel of judges who chose the overall winners comprised artist Vusimuzi Khumalo; Karel Nel, professor in the Department of Fine Arts at Wits University; art critic Cobus van Bosch; Conrad Theys, president of the South African National Association for the Visual Arts; and Ian Redelinghuys, head of the Department of Fine and Applied Arts at Technikon Pretoria.
The Absa Atelier show is on view to the public until August 17. Visit ArtThrob next week for a review.
Absa Gallery, Absa Towers North, 161 Main Street, Johannesburg
A tribute to George Pemba|
by Hayden Proud
Dr George Milwa Mnyaluza Pemba (born 1912), one of South Africa's most venerable artists, died at his home near Port Elizabeth this last week. A member of the "Thirties Generation" of pioneer black artists in this country, which included his associate Gerard Sekoto (1913-1993), Pemba's life and work span and reflect seven decades of our tragic history. Although of advanced age, his passing still comes as a shock and a profound loss. This is not only because he - Pemba the painter - had quietly assumed the status of a "national treasure" in our minds, but because his comparatively recent "discovery" by a wider public outside of the Eastern Cape since the mid-1990s makes it seem that we did not in fact have the honour of knowing him for all that long, despite his 89 years. That we did not know of him earlier and for longer is but part of the long legacy of truncated and dislocated relationships generated by apartheid.
While apartheid and racial segregation were clearly responsible for hiding and marginalising Pemba's impressive talents for so long, it has also to be said that he - like so many other figurative artists - became a casualty, even in provincial South Africa, of major shifts in taste. Between 1936 and 1960 Pemba was a regular exhibitor, along with a majority of white artists, at the annual exhibitions of the Eastern Province Society of Arts and Crafts (EPSAC) in Port Elizabeth, where he sold well. He terminated his involvement with EPSAC after 1965 because of hearsay that an envious committee member had questioned his presence as a "black" artist on their exhibitions. It also has to be noted that by 1965, control of EPSAC had shifted into the hands of degreed and "professional" artists, who began to exclude artists who were considered "amateur" or lacking in training.
A major influence in this regard was Professor Brian Bradshaw at Rhodes University, whose brand of macho abstraction and whose followers supplanted the more academic and figurative traditions personified by the work of Dorothy Kay, who died in 1964. Thus the insistently figurative Pemba became further obscured from notice by a major shift in taste largely dictated by a white-dominated and provincial art organisation attempting to conform to the dogmas of Modernism. The "rediscovery" of Pemba, starting with his presence on Steven Sack's exhibition "The Neglected Tradition" in 1989, and culminating in his retrospective at the South African National Gallery in 1996, went hand-in-hand, not only with the collapse of apartheid, but also with the advent of a new era of cultural pluralism.
Arthritis and illness prevented Pemba from actively working in the last years of his life, but even as his powers faded there was enough of the "hidden" Pemba, it seems, to carry his reputation ever forward, even now, after his death. His retrospective exhibition featured only 123 of his best works, but many more have come to light since, and continue to do so. Estimates of the number of pictures he painted, quoted in various sources, vary wildly from the hundreds to the thousands. It has to be admitted that within this prodigious output there are variations in quality. The superb quality of Pemba's early watercolours of the 1940s often seem at variance with the quality of his oil paintings of the 1980s. It seems at times a pity that he abandoned watercolour almost altogether in favour of oil, but the shift, advised by his friend Gerard Sekoto, who told him that white patrons paid more handsomely for oil paintings, was made for financial considerations. On the other hand, the shift offered richer scope in terms of scale and colour, and these shine at their best in his finest oils.
Represented at last in our major public collections in South Africa, and now sought by international collectors, Pemba leaves an impressive legacy for all South Africans. The example of Pemba's life as an artist is that he persisted "against all odds" - to quote the title of a recent monograph on him - with his calling. He was, ultimately, an artist first and last, possessed of a deep humility, a profound sense of human dignity and frailty, and an impish sense of humour. He has fully earned and deserves a position of special affection in our nation's heart.
Hayden Proud, a curator at the South African National Gallery, put together the George Pemba retrospective exhibition held at the SANG in 1996
Wafer spoke on his work at the conference
Wafer spoke on his work at the conference
Reportback on the 17th SA Association of Art and Architectural Historians Conference|
by Virginia MacKenny
The culpability of traditional authorial power has left many a contemporary critical writer pussyfooting around issues for fear of appearing too proscriptive. Some of this prevarication marked the 17th South African Association of Art and Architectural Historians Conference (July 11-13). Organised by Juliette Leeb du Toit and Sabine Marschall, it was a collaborative venture between the University of Durban-Westville and the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, and hosted by Technikon Natal. Its thematic concerns were based on a topic first made popular in the Eighties: reading and interpretation; reception and perception and the lack of fixity of meaning.
Despite the well-trod ground of the topic, this year's conference promised an interesting and slightly upbeat programme with a couple of subversive entries such as Ian Robert Marley's Parys landscape charcoal drawings converted into a computer-generated virtual reality and Andrew Lamprecht and Roderick Sauls' video, presented in their absence, entitled Receiving Vision: Gesture, Symbol and the Collapse of Perception. This last presentation showed cine images of Cape Town Zoo and Rhodes Memorial over 40 years ago juxtaposed with more recent footage of the zoo's abandoned cages and the now graffiti-damaged memorial. Despite being somewhat pretentious and definitely under-edited, it nonetheless provoked thought on both private and public memory and the encroachment of time on symbols of power.
Other sections of the conference were dedicated to more traditional areas of investigation such as the 'Symbolic in the Material' and 'Allegory, Perception and the Sublime', which featured a typically dense paper by Gerhard Schoeman on the relationships between Anselm Kiefer's work and Albrecht Durer's Melancolia, and an intriguingly offbeat analysis by Mark Haywood of the Romanticism embedded in the land speed records set by Campbell on Lake Coniston in the Lake District in his boat 'Bluebird'. 'Re-readings in South African Art', 'Issues of Identity and Display' and 'Current Debates on Transformation in the Arts' brought the focus back to South Africa with a special bias on the reading of material culture in KwaZulu-Natal, with papers such as Juliette Armstrong's on the meaning in the letters, words and motifs on Zulu beer drinking vessels, Megan Ann Jones' re-reading of form and function in Zulu basketry and Dieter Reusch's analysis of the ceremonial dress codes in KwaMabaso.
Reusch himself was the centre of some discussion when it became evident, through a paper by Juliette Leeb du Toit, that he had been used as something of a pawn by Michael Mathews, one of the organisers of the 'Fokofo' exhibition previously reported on by ArtThrob (see Reviews). 'Fokofo', provocatively subtitled 'Natives on Display', is an exhibition attempting to explore the "different ways in which we record, present and re-present" the world with a focus on the Mabaso tribe near Msinga. Presented in press releases as a collaboration between artist Mathews and anthropologist Reusch, it seems now that Mathews used Reusch as a prime case study, given Reusch's Germanic heritage and Germany's history of ethnological "adjustment", without Reusch being fully aware of the intent.
A special session was dedicated to the artist's voice (no doubt in acknowledgement of the fact that most art historians talk about/for artists, thereby privileging the voice of the critic over that of the artist/author). This allowed for artists Jeremy Wafer, Bronwen Findlay and Ian Robert Marley to present their work and its sources directly. Somewhat ironically, the opening paper by Maureen de Jager, entitled 'The Death of the Author and the Contested Will of Meaning', set a theoretical counterpoint to that session, prompting Wafer to introduce himself as "a ghost/absent". De Jager's paper tackled the problematic posed by Roland Barthes' "death of the author" in terms of the implications for the reader, arriving at the conclusion that if the author "dies" and the critic loses her interpretative function, then the reader is left to engage in an endless play of possibilities that become ultimately meaningless.
Following quick on the heels of the "death of the author" and the expiry of the fatigued and disillusioned reader came Lisa Allan's paper on the death of painting in the contemporary art world in Johannesburg, interrogating the presumption that painting has lost its meaning and relevance to contemporary discourse. Others giving papers seemed undisturbed by such polemics and continued to reinforce the value of painting, albeit with other agendas that were relevant to contemporary debate. Vulindlela Nyoni, a practising artist, examined the problems of exoticism and fetishism in representations of the black male, and Faiza Galdhari, a practising Muslim artist, spoke of the difficulties for contemporary Muslim artists of dealing with the traditional Islamic prohibition on figurative imagery.
Despite the "alternative" entries the conference failed to draw the crowds. Only about 30 diehards were present on the first day, and conspicuous by their absence were speakers from Wits, Unisa and UCT (Stellenbosch's Sandra Klopper, in absentia, did present an amusing and intriguing paper on the predilection of early 20th century Zulu aristocracy for adopting jodhpurs as de rigeur). Disappointingly a number of speakers never materialised - Ptika Ntuli, the keynote speaker, missed his plane; Nsiswa Dlamin was apparently caught between conferences; and Robyn Sassen and Anne Solomon were unable to attend.
It seems a pity that one of the few arenas for informed critical debate that exists in South Africa should be so poorly supported. The Association for International Art Critics (AICA) has no representative body in South Africa and critical journals for the arts have such a minority readership that they rise and fall sometimes with a single edition. The dearth of black art theorists is also sorely felt, although those who did attend were well received, speaking often, as they did, from within their practice. If critical theorists feel that the SAAAH is outmoded and no longer relevant, then it is incumbent on them to develop new forums to replace it.
Sue Williamson's New York diary 2|
Monday July 9
My daughter's baby is due on Wednesday, so we will be somewhat housebound this week. I have bought the object of my deepest desire, a Mac G4 titanium Powerbook, and have a whole list of projects I am supposed to be working on, including teaching myself video editing, so I am happy to be at home.
Wednesday July 11
"Undeterred by Crises, Sao Paulo Biennial Celebrates at 5O" reads the Arts Abroad headline in the New York Times today (byline: Larry Rohter). "The biennial turns 50 this year. To mark the occasion, a show that is part retrospective and part contemplation of the future recently opened here. It is not an extravagant, large-scale exhibition like the last biennial (in 1998) which cost almost $12-million and drew nearly 400 000 visitors during a two-month run, but simply a tribute to the longevity of an institution that few thought would ever survive. It is a sort of pre-biennial, the actual one taking place next year.
"It is difficult to overstate the biennial's impact on Brazilian and Latin American art. As the first event in the Southern hemisphere to gain a place on the international art calendar, it has moulded two generations of artists, curators and collectors."
ArtThrob readers may remember that the Sao Paulo biennial's 25th edition should have taken place last year, but the biennial board decided not to compete with a $25-million mega art exposition marking the 500th anniversary of the Portuguese discovery of Brazil, and cancelled it while chief curator Ivo Mesquita was out of the country, causing Mesquito's resignation in protest.
Unlike South Africa, which seems unable to organise a third biennial in any shape or form, the Brazilians have now decided to resolve their organisational and financial limitations by opting for something "delicate and pocket-size ... the contemporary section of the current exhibition consists of 34 multimedia works, some created specifically for the show by young Brazilian artists that convey a strong sensation of urban angst".
Co-ordinator Pieter Tjebbes (who I met at the Paris conference on setting an agenda for African art last September) is quoted as saying that the current exhibition should not be regarded strictly as a preview of next year's biennial, whose theme is "Metropolitan Iconographies" and will feature works from eight cities around the world, including New York, but he acknowledged there would be some similarities.
Friday July 13
No baby yet, and maybe it's just as well it wasn't a Friday the 13th arrival.
One of the pleasures of being here is a leisurely reading of the New York Times each morning. "Can Suffering be Too Beautiful?" is the headline of a review by Michael Kimmelman of photographs by the Brazilian Sebastião Salgado at the International Centre of Photography in Manhattan. Salgado is a photographer who, having previously borne witness to widespread starvation in Africa and chronicled manual labour around the world, has now turned his attention to the dispossessed for a new book called Migrations, from which the work on the show have been taken. The theme of Kimmelman's lengthy review is the balance between the importance of bearing witness and the exploitative aspect of making such photographs purely to further artistic ambition.
"This is a sprawling, frequently gruesome story - the scale and the gravity of it should speak for themselves - and if the suffering doesn't prompt guilt, indifference to it will. That's how emotional blackmail and effective moral photojournalism work. Mr Salgado practices both as well as anyone does, these days... it's a tricky business to get people to look at other people they may have spent a great deal of time trying, consciously or otherwise, not to notice.
"That said, the good photographs are so stupendously gorgeous that they make you forget everything else while you are looking at them."
Sunday July 15
Drama in the Williamsburg neighbourhood of Brooklyn. Two 40-storey-high gas towers which have marked the skyline for as long as anyone can remember are to be imploded at 7am today - the process being paid for by the producers of an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. The area has been barricaded off by the police, but for us the chimneys are a walk down the street and across a park. Living so close, Bill and I, video cameras in hand, have been allowed to be about a hundred metres from the towers, along with the environmental monitors. Half a dozen helicopters buzz overhead. When at precisely 7, puffs of smoke emerge and there is a mega roar, the massive towers buckle and go down in seconds. I finally understand the expression "wall of sound" - it has been like receiving a blow in the solar plexus, an astonishing, visceral experience. The explosion has set off all the car alarms in the area, and dogs bark furiously. Clouds of smoke rise from the fallen towers, and the atmosphere is post apocalyptic. Well, almost.
A much quieter afternoon is spent by making a trip to the Brooklyn Museum of Art to look at an exhibition of digital printmaking by 84 American artists. An introduction to the exhibition is provided by prints from the BMA's permanent collection - including fine examples by Durer, Goya and Warhol. The criterion for the main part of the show is that a computer must have played some part in the creation of the print - in some cases this has simply meant the inclusion of scanned images, in others computer manipulation has played a critical part, as in Sally Minker's amusing Sour Grapes, and Ann Hamilton's disturbing image of coarse hair protruding from an open mouth.
Countdown to the Absa Atelier 2001|
Eighty-three artists, aged 21 to 35, from all over South Africa have been selected as finalists for the Absa Atelier Art Awards 2001. Now in its 16th year the competition, while perhaps not the most prestigious in the country, certainly offers the most substantial monetary reward. The winner - to be announced at a function in Johannesburg on July 18 - will receive R60 000 in cash, a round trip to France and a coveted six-month residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. Four runners-up will each receive R10 000 and, for the first time, the top 10 finalists this year will each receive a certificate.
The finalists' works were selected from 600 pieces submitted for regional judging. The panel of judges who will choose the overall winners are Karel Nel, professor in the Department of Fine Arts, Wits University; Cobus van Bosch, art critic for Die Burger; Conrad Theys, president of the South African National Association for the Visual Arts; Ian Redelinghuys, head of the Department of Fine and Applied Arts at Technikon Pretoria; and artist Vusimuzi Khumalo.
Last year's winner was Brad Hammond for his video piece Inner City, with merit awards going to Nigel Mullins, Natasha Christopher, Joni Brenner and Colbert Mashile. Christopher, Brenner and Mashile are all finalists again this year.
The finalists' works will be exhibited at the Absa Gallery, 161 Main Street, Johannesburg, from July 19 to August 17. The finalists, by region, are:
Gauteng (Johannesburg): Robyn Arenstein, Joni Brenner, Natasha Christopher, Marco Cianfanelli, Fiona Couldridge, Kathleen Cranswick, Monty Gaeyaya, Daniel Hirschmann, Lynn Joubert Mills, Michelle Kriek, Stephanie Lang, Venessa Luyt, Mandla Mabila, Ian Marley, Colbert Mashile, Siobhan McCusker, Alastair McLachlan, Dikgwele Molete, Johannes Mtakwende, Judith Mthini, Helen Neocleous, Marcus Neustetter, Richard Penn, Stefanus Rademeyer, Robin Rhode, Bettina Schultz, Merryn Singer, Kathryn Smith, Emily Stainer, Amichai Tahor, Israel Thavhana, Gina Waldman, Janet Wilson, Carine Zaayman.
Gauteng (Pretoria): Pieter Binsbergen, Olaf Bisschoff, Gary Brownlee, Suzanne du Preez, Frederik Eksteen, Abrie Fourie, Cecile Heystek, Mpumelelo Maluleka, Setumane Mokoena, Daniel Mosako, Lucia Schröder, Henk Serfontein, Peter Sibanda, Zondi Skosana, Karin van Niekerk, Monika Woszczyk.
Western Cape: Sanell Aggenbach, Kim Bauer, Kim Boezaart, Jean Brundrit, Katherine Bull, Karen Cronje, Nicola Deane, Liza Grobler, Matthew Haresnape, Karen Jay, Svea Josephy, Antoinette Naudé, Lyndi Sales, Doreen Southwood, Zhané Warren, James Webb.
KwaZulu-Natal: Clinton de Menezes, Peter Ford, Georgia Kotretsos, Cyril Ngcobo, Gabisile Nkosi, Sithembiso Shongwe.
Eastern Cape: Francois du Toit, Brent Meistre, Dinisile Qapa.
Free State: Ronette Els, Hester le Roux, Petronella Slabbert, Charleen Stroud.
Northern Province: Azwimpheleli Magoro, Collen Maswanganyi, Jack Soundy, Donald Woodhead.
Foto 2001 winners announced|
The winners of Foto 2001, the Arts Association of Bellville's annual photographic competition sponsored by the City of Cape Town, were announced on June 27. Selected out of a record number of 311 entries from professional, amateur and student photographers across the country, the overall winner was Lawrence Brennon with his Richtersveld Landscape I, II, III & IV. Nina Joubert took the prize in the colour category with Fairies Coming Out to Play. In the black & white category, André Kleynhans took first place with his Richtersveld Vista. Jennifer Lovemore-Reed won the photo series category with Untitled I, II & III and Kurt Sunkel and Liza Kruger received merit prizes for their entries Hotrods and Nude Photograph respectively. The judges were Geoff Grundlingh, George Hallett and Irvine Meyer.
The winning photos are on view in the Arts Association Gallery until July 28.
Arts Association of Bellville, Library Centre, Carel van Aswegen Street, Bellville
Jewish Museum shows record-setting Kentridge work|
The buyer of the record-setting set of four films by William Kentridge at Christie's New York contemporary auction on May 17 this year was the Jewish Museum in New York, located on the upper reaches of Fifth Avenue. The group of four 16mm animated films, the first in Kentridge's 'Drawing for Projection' series (1989-91) - Johannesburg, Second Greatest City after Paris; Moment; Mine; and Sobriety, Obesity and Growing Old - sold for $149 000, an auction record for a work by the artist. Christie's previous best auction price for Kentridge was $101 500, realised on November 13 last year for Felix in Exile and The History of the Main Complaint, both on laser disc.
The Jewish Museum has added their new acquisition to their current show, 'Voice, Image, Gesture: Selections from the Jewish Museum Collection 1945-2000'. "This highly expressive work is certain to be particularly meaningful to our visitors," said Jewish Museum assistant curator Karen Levitov. "Kentridge's two fictional Jewish antagonists - Soho Eckstein and Felix Teitlebaum - metaphorically play out the social, political and moral legacy of apartheid as they go about their daily lives." The exhibition remains on view until August 5.
A child plays in one of the cells of Manhive, Buzz Club
On the window of a PS1 stairwell, a torn paper image by William Kentridge
A child plays in one of the cells of Manhive, Buzz Club
On the window of a PS1 stairwell, a torn paper image by William Kentridge
On the window of a PS1 stairwell, a torn paper image by William Kentridge
Sue Williamson's New York diary|
Wednesday June 27
On the plane again to New York - doesn't seem very long since I was there last, but this time my daughter Amanda is expecting a baby, due date July 12. At 10pm the plane spits us out at Lagos, Nigeria. We're here for three hours? The travel agent certainly didn't mention that detail. Lagos airport looks like it was last refurbished in the Fifties, tacky in the extreme. Not one clock works and signage is almost non-existent. I see a familiar face in the crowd of peevish looking passengers - Claudette Schreuders, on her way to take up a six-week residency at Omi, in Kent, upstate New York. They have asked whether she wants a large piece of wood ordered for her to carve while she is there, but she has declined, preferring to keep her work options open until she gets there. Other future plans? Her show at the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York last year was a total sellout, and the Shainman would like her to schedule another.
Thursday June 28
A 6am arrival at JFK in New York. I stand by the luggage carousel waiting for my suitcase and a very large cardboard box. Earlier this year, I sold a piece consisting of 49 A4-sized framed images to a New York collector, and after getting a quote of R9 100 from Elliotts to pack and air freight it, I have decided to use this opportunity to bring it with me, in bits. I will get the glass cut in Brooklyn and put it all together, and take the final piece over by cab. Work estimate: two to three days. But where is the box? And why on earth didn't I insure it? An airport official assures me it will "catch up" with me in a day or two.
Friday June 29
A little gentle shopping is on the agenda. I need a new sketchbook, a purchase of the utmost importance, and for me an essential part of the artmaking process. The current one, with a blue suede cover and spiral binding, A5 sized, was bought in The Hague last June, and now is almost full of drawings, ideas for possible new work, notes made at conferences, cuttings ripped from newspapers etc. Essential requirements: a strong binding, and a size small enough so I can carry the sketchbook everywhere I go without being conscious of it till I need it. Eureka. In a shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn: the Moleskine, "the legendary notebook of Van Gogh and Matisse". On a sheet of paper inside, Australian writer Bruce Chatwin, who apparently stocked up on Moleskines before each journey, is quoted: "Losing my passport was the least of my worries, losing my notebook was a catastrophe." Made in Italy, bound in black with an elastic band to keep it closed, the Moleskine is 9cm x 14cm. Perfect. Even has its own website - www.modoemodo.com.
The missing cardboard box arrives, delivered by a turbaned Sikh.
Saturday June 30
Unpack the box. Oh no. The 49 frames are hand-covered, and 14 of them, finished with several layers of shellac, now have a pattern of round marks embedded deep into the shellac. Lawrence, my occasional studio assistant, has packed each frame individually in bubble wrap with the bubbles on the inside, not the out. Each one will now have to have the shellac carefully sanded down without damaging the paper underneath, and refinished. I'll have to use the finest grade of wet sandpaper.
Sunday July 1
Sand frames. Break off to go with Amanda to visit Justine Wheeler, who has just had a baby with partner Jeff Koons. The baby, Sean, is very sweet, but apparently lets Justine get almost no sleep.
Monday July 2
Sand frames. Track down a place to cut glass. Order 49 pieces. Collect it.
Tuesday July 3
Start cleaning the glass. Go to Pearl Paint, New York's art supply department store (five floors), in Chinatown to get other materials to finish the framing job: framing tape, Modge Podge, gouache and brushes for touchup, white cotton gloves to keep fingerprints off the newly cleaned glass, framing points for my framing gun.
Wednesday July 4
It's Independence Day, America's birthday. The smell of barbecues hangs over Brooklyn, and fireworks are popping over the East River against the Manhattan skyline, but I have my head down, framing.
Thursday July 5
Frame frame frame. Five of the frames are almost 1cm narrower than the others, so it's back to the glass cutters to have the glass for those trimmed.
Friday July 6
Frame frame. Finished! All I have to do now is wrap each frame and pack them in boxes, ready for delivery.
Saturday July 7
Sunday July 8
Time for an art fix, at last. Pick on PS1, the enormous red brick public school in Queens now converted into a contemporary art museum and an outpost of the Museum of Modern Art. The three-deep queue to get in stretches halfway around the block. The courtyard has been transformed for the summer months by Lindy Roy, a young Manhattan architect, into an urban beach scene complete with sand, beach chairs, hammocks, plastic tubing strung just above head height which emits gentle sprays of water, and diaphanous white fabric pavilions. Everyone is fully into it and obviously having fun. Irritatingly, there are white garbed young museum attendants everywhere preventing people taking photos, so I don't get all the shots I'd like to take.
Inside, the kids-having-fun theme continues - in the first of two galleries by the Buzz Club from Japan, Hideyuki Tanaka has set out inflatable chairs and toadstools, blow-up pandas hang from the roof, and visitors are invited to fix plastic flower stickers to the walls. An elderly Japanese gentleman has felt sufficiently at home here amidst all the brilliant magentas, lime green and turquoises to have fallen deeply asleep in one of the chairs. In the second gallery, a honeycomb of hexagonal tubes constructed from corrugated cardboard is entitled Manhive. Its 20m length supports mini installations and design objects by 200 young artists, displaying the "distinct urban sensibility of contemporary Tokyo perfect both in its atomised isolation from and absolute connectedness to each other".
The stairwell leading to the next floor is lined with William Kentridge "drawings" torn from black paper and stuck to the wall. Upstairs, Los Carpinteros, the carpenters, a group of three Cuban artists who also exhibited on the 1997 2nd Johannesburg Biennale, have installed Ciudad Transportable, the Transportable City. Made for the Havana Biennale of 2000, the piece was one of the winners of the Unesco prize for Artistic Excellence. Ciudad Transportable comprises intriguing abstractions of well-known Cuban buildings (such as the state capital) constructed as tented structures on metal frameworks. It has been my observation that a very central theme of contemporary Cuban art is that of leaving Cuba, and thus the idea of a capital city which can be packed up and set up elsewhere, while true of an emigrant experience anywhere in the world, seems particularly poignant emanating from Havana. I take my photo from inside one of the buildings to avoid the bossy guard.
I'm in the museum for another two hours, there's so much to see, but for me one of the best of the rest is a piece by the Korean artist Kim Sooja, entitled A Needle Woman. In eight simultaneously projected videos, Kim stands perfectly still, back to camera, in the crowded streets of Tokyo, New York, London, Mexico City, Cairo, Delhi, Shanghai and Lagos. The artist sees herself as an inert element in the swift flow of human traffic which together "weave[s] a social fabric around the artist's needle-like figure". Once the situation has been absorbed, the interesting part for the viewer is seeing how different the experience is for Kim from city to city. In New York and London, cosmopolitan crowds, many busy on cellphones, glance only fleetingly in the artist's direction. In Lagos a crowd of children gather in front of her and a woman stands directly opposite, inches from her face, and in an apparently vain attempt to attract her attention, tries to stare her down.
A dance programme is opening at 7pm, but I've had my fill for the day. On leaving PS1 I see that the queue has now multiplied to stretching round three sides of the block, and I cannot imagine how they are all going to fit into the already packed courtyard.
Roger Ballen interviewed by Dave Southwood|
Roger Ballen recently won the prize for best book at PhotoEspaña 2001, the festival of photography currently taking place in Madrid, for Outlands, published by Phaidon earlier this year. Ballen (RB) discusses his work with Cape Town photographer Dave Southwood (DS), whose series 'people who other people think look like me/highbrow' appears on 'Dislocation', one of the shows on PhotoEspaña.
DS: When did you first come to South Africa?
RB: I first came in 1974 - I hitch-hiked and walked from Cairo to Cape Town. I spent a year and a half there and then went to Asia. It was during that time that I did my first book, Boyhood.
DS:Was your photographic personality an adjunct to your main job, which was looking at rocks (geology)?
RB: No, my mother worked for Magnum in New York and as a kid I knew all the world-famous photographers. I had an introduction to photography at early age - the house was filled with it ...
DS: I have often heard your work criticised because you were born in America and are not a "naturalised" South African.
RB: Well, you could say that about most Americans - the only real Americans are American Indians. And only black people are real South Africans. I think it's a stupid comment. It's a matter of perception - what do we mean by "real"? In America, I remember during the Vietnam War the only "real" Americans were the ones who supported the Vietnam War. I've been [in SA] for 30 years.
DS: Tell me about Boyhood.
RB: Boyhood was published in America and England while I was doing my Phd. I didn't do much promotion and the book sold very well. It was shot on 35mm. I didn't own a square [medium format camera] at that time. After my Phd I got a square. I bought Hasselblad. I didn't like it, the shutter stuck. I felt like an athlete who swings halfway and couldn't complete the stroke. So I bought a Rolleiflex. I have used Rollei since 1982.
DS: Your next book was called Dorps.
RB: Dorps was shot 70 percent on my Rollei and rest were 35mm [small format]. It was a transitional period.
DS: So what was happening in your choice of equipment was that you were moving towards more static appreciation of subjects, using a bigger camera that required more laborious preparation.
RB: Yes, I like the clarity of bigger format. I immediately felt more comfortable with square: a more meditative approach, not just a passing approach.
DS: And what was the purpose of Dorps?
RB: I wanted to define a unique aesthetic in small towns of South Africa, which only existed in those places. At that time I was influenced by Walker Evans. What I was doing had some relation to images he saw in the South in the Thirties. In a way this was not original from a point of view of seeing, but it certainly laid the foundation for my later work.
DS: Do you think you were taking a whole lot of seemingly similar items and collapsing them into a stereotype, suggesting some generic form?
RB: I found a "Dorp" aesthetic which in most ways was relevant to South Africa dorps, but had some commonality with other places outside SA. People could relate. Outside SA people really liked it.
DS: Dorps to Platteland: so from outside you went inside?
DS: How do you view the role of the background in your pictures? Suddenly you have the opportunity to comment on your subjects through their domestic environments. How do you select what you photograph the people against, and are some combinations of person and environment disparaging, do you think?
RB: The foreground, which in some cases is the subject, and the background, which in some cases is the wall, is an integrated approach because if there wasn't an integrated relationship the picture wouldn't work. There have to be some formal relationships and relationships in content to make the image feel unified. So, by definition, a good photo has to have uniformity and wouldn't have a disparaging effect between the two.
DS: Can you place your pictures in relation to those of Dane Arbus? Her subjects are free from the affect of effects and what she addresses is the characters and not so much their environments.
RB: In Platteland I think there are some content relationships - both deal with a marginalised people, people on fringes. People say in Platteland there are pictures of "freaks" - I don't really know what they mean by it. Arbus had the same criticism, I don't even know why it's a criticism, I don't even know what is it. I can't even define the term. There could be similarities. I wouldn't say there aren't.
DS: The subject matter may be similar but your pictures are much more constructed so you lend them a far more overt of sense of your personality.
RB: In Platteland they were less constructed ...
DS: Than Arbus' pictures, or than your pictures now?
RB: No, no, than now. Towards the end of Platteland I began to construct pictures. Platteland was a case where I didn't really touch the background too much. I told subjects to stand here or stand somewhere else, but what was there was what was there. I didn't move things and didn't want to create a psychodrama.
DS: So by implication you interact with not only the subjects but with their belongings as well.
RB: This is an important point. People always say, where do you define the subject and why did you choose this subject or that subject? And asking that question doesn't show complete understanding of what I am doing. Everything in my pictures means something: a hole in the wall means something, a cat means something, the subject and the way they stand means something. Everything has integrated and equal participation. If one thing weren't there, everything would fall apart.
DS: Formally or substantively?
RB: Generally they are linked in so many ways. My pictures aren't only about people but also about environments I create. In this Phaidon book, the guy who wrote the story said that I am creating "photo-installations". It's a good way of putting it ...
Christian Nerf - Street situationist|
by Sean O'Toole
Anti-globalisation is now firmly entrenched as a rallying cry for a disparate grouping of activists, be they anti-brand, anti-corporate or anti-capitalist. Texts such as Naomi Klein's No Logo, Thomas Frank's The Conquest of Cool and Noreena Hertz's The Silent Takeover have variously contributed towards defining the intellectual boundaries the term charts. Yet even with the expression touted as a possible marker of the post-Nineties idiom, it still appears imprecisely understood in the local context.
One artist whose work is grounded in this polemic, bringing the anti-globalisation debate into sharper focus in South Africa, is Christian Nerf. Trained as a fine artist, Nerf currently inhabits that grey area between fully-fledged art practice and corporate jobbing for survival. It might explain why this Johannesburg-based individual is quick to eschew any defining nomenclature such as "artist".
"I used to have a hang-up about the white box and all the politics about it," he admits. Preferring a more organic and unpredictable environment in which to develop and communicate his ideas, Nerf has situated most of his previous work in the street. Take, for instance, his direct action 'Sans Copyright' sticker bombing campaign. It is an ongoing initiative that has drawn an increasing number of impromptu activists into questioning the creep of corporate wordplay into our daily vernacular.
The project was born in 1995 when the self-exiled art director sat pondering the word "happiness". "Global corporate culture takes a word like 'happiness', or 'life'," he explains. "It then registers the word. 'Life' is registered - 'life' is theirs. Suddenly the word is no longer a noun or a descriptor as it was intended; now it has a little registered mark. Now, all of a sudden, it's the name of a product." Interrupting this process, Nerf's stickers have appeared in all "the little areas in people's lives", places such as ATMs, billboards and roadside posters.
Musing on the remarkable duration and visibility of his project, Nerf states that it may have something to do with the fact that people "love the idea that they can play a part in modifying at least one facet of a brand, or not even the brand, a statement, an icon". Proving that it is not solely commercial icons that can be subverted, Nerf's stickers made an appearance at the 1997 Johannesburg Biennale where they were randomly placed on artworks by numerous pranksters.
Mentioning the noisy shenanigans of the Sixties Situationists, Nerf comments that his work seeks to revive "the possibilities of interrupting people and getting them to think". One project that deftly achieved this was exhibited at this year's Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees. Entitled Working with Tom, the piece is an arresting "analysis of prejudice". The project started out with a request by Nerf to a roadside beggar on the corner of 7th Ave and Jan Smuts in Rosebank. Tom was asked to photograph the motorists he solicited money from, using a camera disguised as beer tin.
Says Nerf: "I enjoyed seeing how people's perceptions altered because it was a beer can and not a Coke can. Beer commercials constantly try recreating the happy times spent with alcohol, but as the picture [of Tom] shows this is a sad time, a homeless man with a beer can." Reflecting on the large-grain, pixelated images of the various motorists, Nerf says: "Maybe there is certain amount of honesty shown in terms of how people react to the alcohol."
Responding to the unquestionable commercial veneer which marks his work, Nerf says: "Rather than reject a lot of the influences the advertising industry has had on me, rather I embrace what I learnt in terms of communication systems, manipulation systems, propaganda." This approach has antecedents in the work of conceptual artist Hans Haacke. During the Seventies Haacke executed a series of fake advertisements in which he critiqued British Leyland's sale of Land Rovers to the apartheid government. A project piece entitled Stephen Hobbs in his Citi, a "subvertisement" that faithfully plagiarises VW South Africa's Citi Golf campaign, offers an amusing, yet socially accurate, update on Haacke's original broadside.
"I enjoy using the same machinery that the corporations use," Nerf explains. "I enjoy creating something that in small instances has the same impact as a multi-million rand ad campaign." Some viewers may feel ill at ease labeling Nerf's work art. It does uncomfortably position itself midway between media critique and pure art concept. "If someone comes to an art exhibition and says 'this isn't art,' I can fully accept that," Nerf says. "It is truly up to them." It is a revealing admission, hinting at the current uncertainties about genre and media and their relation to art practice. "Maybe people in the arts are too caught up in scruples," Nerf quips, "and people in the ad communication industry are busy selling those scruples."
Look out for a CD-ROM entitled 'slekker. It includes contributions by Brad Hammond and Peet Pienaar, and was produced by the Blow-Up Gods collective, of whom Nerf is a member. For more details on the Sans Copyright contact firstname.lastname@example.org. A Flash version of Working with Tom can be downloaded from www.interactivesignal.com/
The McDonalds billboard overlooking Barry Herzog Drive
Billboard Liberation Army hits Jo'burg|
Bringing the concept of "culture jamming" to Johannesburg, the Billboard Liberation Army (BLA) sent out a press release this week announcing their subversion of the giant McDonalds billboard near the bridge overlooking Barry Hertzog Drive in Greenside - a high volume traffic zone. The famous McDonalds smile was given a pair of shiny vampire teeth, accompanied by the BLA signature, in a comment on McDonalds' alleged bad environmental and labour practices.
According to the press release, "The covert mission took less than 10 minutes to complete by three ace operatives who received special international training in the art of creative resistance. The training was held in a secret guerrilla art camp of unconfirmed destination. The camp is believed to be somewhere in the third world and the activists are reputed to have international funding from an unknown source."
"The Billboard Liberation Army is a co-operative of public artists, pranksters, performance art provocateurs and culture jamming activists. 'Culture jamming' is a loose term used to define creative resistance and protest against advertising culture, the mass consumerism currently contributing to the large-scale loss of natural environment, and the negative effects of globalisation such as the Americanisation of ethnic cultures around the world. In the US, Canada, Australia and parts of Europe, billboard liberation is already a popular resistance tool for alternative media activists. BLA is one of South Africa�s first culture jamming groups and plans to keep up continuous billboard liberation activity. The actions are funded by member's own contributions."
Clive Kellner, curator of the first MTN New Contemporaries Award, as captured in a video work by Stephen Hobbs
MTN New Contemporaries Award launched|
by Kathryn Smith
I have written on and critiqued art competitions before, and gone on record in the Mail & Guardian stating that I have little patience with people who enter competitions and then bemoan the process. Competitions are competitions - and there can only be one winner. And yes, it's about how you play, but it's also about the desirability of the prize, kudos and 15 minutes of fame that supposedly await winners. I love them and hate them equally, but ultimately respect the process if it smells sensible and considered. And now we have another. Cellular network operator MTN, in conjunction with the MTN Art Institute and Camouflage (Centre for Contemporary Art of Southern Africa), has announced a new contemporary art prize with a first prize award of R20 000. Dubbed the MTN New Contemporaries Award, the organisers say it's being positioned as "one of the country's most prestigious awards in this category".
According to the press release received from MTN, it will work something like this: each year a curator will be appointed by the judging committee to short-list four emerging young artists from around South Africa. They will be invited to show a selection of work. This year, the curator is Clive Kellner, director of Camouflage in Johannesburg. It was at Kellner's suggestion that the competition has been launched.
Ronel Loukakis, director of the MTN Art Institute, comments: "The MTN New Contemporaries Award is aimed at recognising emerging South African artists who have not yet received critical acclaim but have the potential to become the next generation of South Africa's acknowledged artists. There is a period in the development of most artists where it is difficult to receive support, have solo exhibitions or be integrated into the larger professional system."
Indeed there is, and the lack of focused spaces in Johannesburg (or anywhere in South Africa), which choose to tap into this burgeoning scene, doesn't offer much promise in this regard. Furthermore, if this doesn't begin to happen, contemporary art will become a less attractive pursuit or career option for school leavers, or anyone else for that matter.
Loukakis says the MTN New Contemporaries Award ties in perfectly with the MTN Art Institute's vision, which is to promote and assist with art education through various outreach projects and to provide opportunities for young emerging artists.
"The idea of supporting a new generation of emerging artists was the brainchild of Clive Kellner," says Loukakis. "He presented the idea to the MTN Art Institute and we thought it appropriate to appoint him as the first curator of the MTN New Contemporaries Award to ensure that the essence of the award is retained."
Now, despite talk about "essences" or as if the recognition that young artists need support is anything new, you might be forgiven for thinking "so this is kind of like the FNB Vita". Well, it is and it isn't. The similarity may lie in the orientation around "the contemporary", but this applies to the Absa Atelier and the Sasol New Signatures as well. The difference is that the latter two competitions are more of a free-for-all, with a weeding-out process to choose the best of what was submitted.
The Vita, like the MTN New Contemporaries, works on a nomination system, thereby isolating the artists through strategic choice (this is arguable). But the difference here is that the artists selected for the MTN prize seem to be at the sole discretion of the curator. Eager critics be silent for a moment, 'cos here's a thought: this is a damn good opportunity for producing intelligent and knowledgeable curators as much as it is about producing fresh young talent. And we know how much we need those.
The winner will be selected by a judging committee (as yet to be announced) and these judges will also be responsible for selecting the curator for 2002. A catalogue will be produced with texts written by the artists, and the mandatory public walkabouts and workshops are scheduled to take place.
Unlike our other major contemporary prizes, where winners are judged by virtue of the one or two works they submit, Kellner wishes to stress the evidence of process and development in the chosen artists' works. Although the Vita operates in a similar way, with one work, or a body of work, being commissioned and judged, a context is provided by the catalogue produced.
So it appears we have a serious contender in the competition stakes in our midst, and about time too. Hats off to what sounds like a considered process, but we'll have to wait for the announcement of artists and judges and the show itself to see how it all manifests. But several questions make themselves apparent here. Some of these, although sparked by this announcement, can apply to competitions generally.
With interdisciplinary practice in the arts not only being de rigueur but a matter of necessary research and often plain survival, many young artists are poised to be considered as artists and curators. How should these boundaries be defined, if at all?
In the attempt to create a launch pad for young contemporary artists, production fees are necessary as well as careful management of the process to ensure aspects of professional practice are carried both ways - between participants and the organisers. Although it may not be the job description of competitions to manage sustainable careers, they certainly set themselves up to launch these careers. Are they going to be sufficiently encouraging, and are other spaces going to be sufficiently supportive to ensure young artists don't look abroad as their only option?
Should the competition be based at Camouflage every year and can artists choose to work outside of the gallery space? In other words, should the competition encourage more experimental practices?
How does one constitute "young and emergent" versus "young and acclaimed"? In other words, should young artists like Moshekwa Langa and Tracey Rose be exempt from consideration for a prize like this?
Should the competition aggressively seek out so-called previously disadvantaged artists? From Loukakis's comment that the competition aims to "ensure that new emerging artists have an equal opportunity of receiving exposure and recognition", it would seem so.
The MTN New Contemporaries exhibition opens at Camouflage on July 27 and runs until September 15, coinciding quite neatly with the Vita and hopefully generating some critical debate on the state of our art. ArtThrob would like to open the floor on this issue and receive some responses from readers. Please e-mail email@example.com.
Work by Keith Haring and Gilbert and George
Work by Takashi Murakami
Interview with Mark Coetzee|
by Sue Williamson
How on earth did a young Cape Town artist whose sole experience had been running a small local gallery snaffle one of the most prestigious museum directorships in the United States from under the noses of a shortlist of international art world figures? Mark Coetzee, in Cape Town this week to supervise the printing of the new Rubell Contemporary Art Collection catalogue (which will be produced here), is interviewed by Sue Williamson.
SW: Mark, you are now the director of one of the most important collections of contemporary art in America, the Rubell Family Collection in Miami. I think that is an incredible coup. But how ever did you manage it?
MC: (laughs) You don't seem to have much confidence in me!
SW: Not at all - I have the greatest confidence in you. I always thought you ran the Mark Coetzee Fine Art Cabinet impeccably, working hard for all your artists, taking great care with the installations, always getting small catalogues out, and making sure the press got all the information and images needed. But let's face it, it's quite a jump up from running the little Cabinet in Cape Town to directing the massive Rubell Family Collection in Miami. Every heavyweight museum director in America - and elsewhere - must have been after the job. So how exactly did it come about that you got it?
MC: Two Miami collectors, Ruth and Richard Shack - Richard Shack founded the Museum of Contemporary Art in Miami - visited Cape Town in the middle of last year and bought work by South African artists through me. Then I went on a visit to Miami, and the Shacks put me up in a hotel near the collection and threw this party at which I met Don and Mera Rubell. Before I was introduced to them, I had been giving an interview to a reporter on the Miami Herald, and describing what it was like to run a little gallery in Cape Town - making little handmade catalogues, getting buses to sponsor Art Night, all that kind of thing, and I noticed this man listening in to the interview - and that turned out to be Don Rubell. They were looking for someone who could do everything, and I was at once invited to go and see the Rubell Collection. Next day, Mera arrived at the hotel in her little yellow sports car to collect me.
After we had been through the museum, we talked. Mera picked up books and handed them to me. "What do you think of this person's work - and this piece? Have you seen such and such?" After the first meeting, Mera told me, "We like the way you talk about art." They wanted someone with an eye they could trust. I had been completely honest. I had nothing to lose, and sometimes I was highly critical. I think they liked that. Everyone brown noses them. She mentioned that they were looking for a director for the collection, and then astonished me by saying, "Don't you realise I'm interviewing you already?" They had a shortlist of candidates and flew to New York and London to interview them. I came back to Miami in October, and on November 15 they offered me the job. Mera said: "Do you really want to do this? Do you think you can do it?", and I started on January 1, with the idea of doing it for a year or two. Since then I have had three job offers from other museums.
SW: What is the history of the Rubell Collection? Wasn't it Steve Rubell who ran the famous Studio 54 in New York? Is he involved?
MC: Steve Rubell is the brother, but it is Don and Mera who started collecting contemporary art in the Seventies, in New York, and then began the museum in 1992 when they moved to Miami from New York. Don had been a gynaecologist and Mera was a top New York estate agent and now they own a string of hotels. Art is their life. The Rubell art collection is massive and consists of at least 6 000 contemporary artworks by such internationally famous artists as Joseph Beuys, Julian Schnabel, Carl Andre, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francesco Clemente, Eric Fischl and Cindy Sherman. Once they collect an artist, they want one piece from each period, and unlike Saatchi they never deacquisition. There are also video animations by William Kentridge in the collection. In the present museum, there is 4 000 square metres of space, divided into 14 different exhibition areas, each of which is generally dedicated to a single artist. Only about 10% of the collection is on view at any one time, while the rest of the work is kept in storage.
SW: Sounds great! I know you are here on this visit because you have decided to bring business back to South Africa by having the new catalogue printed by Bell Roberts Printing in Cape Town - which is a vote of confidence in local expertise that's very good to get. Will anything else happen in South Africa as a result of your appointment?
MC: Definitely. Among the reasons for my appointment is that the Rubells need to fill a contemporary African art gap in the collection. They want African art to hold its own in the international arena. And also we have started an internship programme, and young South Africans who might be interested in working in the museum for a three-month period can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. At the moment we have Iratxe Larea from the Guggenheim Bilbao and Adriana Vergara from the National Museum of Bogota in Columbia.
SW: More good news! And what else is happening?
MC: In Miami, we are selling the existing building. We have bought an industrial block in North Miami in the middle of a residential area. There's an existing structure of 75 000 square feet, and at the moment there's an international competition in progress for architects to turn this into the new museum. There will be two sectors - one will change all the time, and there will be 40 other rooms, each dedicated to one artist. A Jeff Koons room, and so on.
Other factory buildings adjoining will be turned into artists' studios and let at subsidised rates. The third building will be a restaurant/coffee shop/bookshop - and the last one, 5 000 square feet - will be an experimental space, a Project Room, with shows of three or four weeks. I will curate these, and it will also provide a space for visiting gallerists to mount shows. And then there is a whole series of outbuildings - two of these will be provide residences for visiting curators. Others will be for artists. We believe that this kind of investment in art infrastructure is the only way we can get Miami to an international level.
But that's not all. We have also bought a hotel in Washington designed by Morris Lapidus. He is credited with initiating Art Deco style, and did dozens of buildings in Miami. This is going to be renovated, and together with the adjacent land, is to be turned into a Kunsthalle - a contemporary art museum. Everything in Washington is very historical, and we don't want to compete with the existing institutions. In the new Kunsthalle, there will be four shows a year, and the Rubells will purchase all the work and it will be moved down to the permanent collection in Miami.
SW: What will your role be in this new venture?
MC: I will be the director of the new Kunsthalle as well - and travel up and down between the two museums.
SW: Mark, all I can say is congratulations, good luck and wow! The scale of the projects you are involved in now is almost unimaginable. But I do have one more question. Earlier this year you had a very moving exhibition at the AVA in Cape Town, entitled 'All Our Sons' (See April Reviews). What is happening with that? How does your work as an artist fit into this frenetic life as major museum director?
MC: 'All Our Sons' will go to some galleries in the States and then to France.
SW: Good. And anything new?
MC: With so much to do for the Rubells, I'm finding it easier to work digitally on a laptop these days ... video projections. I'm working on digitally altering the announcement that appeared in the newspaper when I was born - and in Columbia I found some little coffins, lined with plastic supermarket bags instead of fabric, and I have an idea for a piece using those. It's not always easy to find time to work, but I sometimes feel that if I don't keep making work, I don�t exist ...
Mark Coetzee has a BA Fine Art and an MA Fine Art from Stellenbosch University. He completed the Post Graduate Advanced Diploma in Fine Art at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. He also has a Diploma in French Language and Civilisation from the Sorbonne, University of Paris. His work is represented in private and public collections across the globe.
Fikile Mvinjelwa in 'Love and Green Onions'
Unesco conference on arts education
This week (June 24-30), South Africa hosts Unesco's African Regional Conference on arts education, which opened on Monday with an address by Arts and Culture Minister Ben Ngubane. The conference brings together policy makers, educationalists, artists and arts NGOs from 29 sub-Saharan countries to share experiences and develop strategies around arts education and training.
Hosted by the Departments of Education and Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, the conference, held in Port Elizabeth, was timed to coincide with the Standard Bank National Arts Festival (see Grahamstown listings). The 100 delegates will visit Grahamstown for the first two days of the festival, which runs from June 28 to July 7, where they will attend the premiere of the jazz opera Love and Green Onions and a walkabout of the visual art exhibitions. They will also be taken on the Egazini tour of the town, visiting key sites and hearing stories about Makana, the Xhosa prophet who led 10 000 warriors against the British in the Battle of Grahamstown. Part of the time will be spent discussing how history can be used to stimulate cultural tourism.
The aim of the conference is primarily to offer opportunities for networking and the sharing of ideas between formal and community based organisations. Main objectives include the sharing of best practices, materials, resources and implementation strategies; the exchange of information about training programmes and the promotion of networking and skills sharing between individuals, institutions and states; the development of advocacy strategies for arts education; and exploration of the economic value of cultural industries within the region. A comprehensive overview document on the state of arts education in sub-Saharan Africa will be produced.
In addition to representatives from various African countries, international NGOs such as the International Society for Education Through Art, International Drama/Theatre and Education Association, the International Music Council and the International Society for Music Education have a presence at the conference. There is also a strong contingent of delegates from South Africa and Unesco.
David Goldblatt - Citation by Pippa Skotnes
Veteran photographer David Goldblatt was awarded the University of Cape Town's first ever Honorary Doctorate in Fine Art last week. Pippa Skotnes, Professor at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, gave the following citation
In his book South Africa The Structure of Things Then, David Goldblatt tells of how in 1961 he photographed a Hindu temple on the southern border of what had been Sophiatown. He describes the temple as having "an extraordinary presence, a composure which seemed to emanate from a harmonic resonance between the devises of Hinduism which adorned it and the building modes and materials of the Witwatersrand in which it had been constructed" (1998:8). He tells of how he returned to the temple to re-photograph it some 18 months later, but the building had been destroyed and the community it served removed under the Group Areas Act to Lenasia 32km beyond the city.
Had he known of this removal, Goldblatt writes that he would surely have photographed more of the place and the people along with the destruction of their temple, yet the existing photographs seem, in the end, to suffice. For him they hint, "beyond the bearing of witness to the demolition, at the inestimable value of what was lost" (1988:9).
This presence of loss saturates photography which is always about a moment passed, a time that is gone and a place that has changed. Photographs speak about the irrevocable and this quality is powerfully present in the images we know as David Goldblatts. But in his work this loss, this irrevocability, is not just about places destroyed, lives now ended, hopes and aspirations never realised - it is also about absence, an absence of self-reflection - a failure of South Africans to imagine outside our narrow cultural and ideological enclosures, an incapacity to see beyond stereotypes and the ways in which people have been characterised and classified.
David Goldblatt was born in Randfontein, attended school in Krugersdorp and studied for a commerce degree at the University of the Witwatersrand. There was little scope in the 1950s for employment as the kind of photographer David wanted to become and initially he went into his father's business. He nevertheless began to take photographs as a way of understanding his world, and simultaneously as a way of embodying that understanding. His first images were of apartheid signs going up at the Johannesburg Station after the nationalist government came into power. Then he photographed "the Russians", a gang active in Newclare, Johannesburg, and later the beginning of the Defiance Campaign. In 1963 David Goldblatt gave up his job and became a professional photographer. For the next decade, he photographed both for assignments, and as an expression of his own creativity. He developed a way of seeing that depended on acute observation of detail, on exposing the nuanced surfaces of walls and buildings, faces and hands and on capturing a quality of sky and light and space.
I first encountered the work of David Goldblatt when I was a photography student in the 1970s. By then he had published two collections of photographs, On the Mines (1973) with Nadine Gordimer and Some Afrikaners Photographed (1975). These books were, at the time, extraordinary sources of inspiration. They were powerful yet understated, contemplative yet full of disturbing undercurrents. They dealt with themes of control and subjugation, yet never reduced the complexity of human emotion to a single origin. They exposed a depth of experience which did not allow for caricature or stereotype. They pictured South African violence, inhumanity, injustice but not through the big events and the dramatic moments. Rather they created a quieter space away from the sensation of the streets where such conflict could be contemplated through anecdote, through individual narratives, through composition and the contrast of tone and texture. For us, most importantly, they revealed a mutual embeddedness of social history and art where the one could not be fully comprehended without the other.
In the 1970s and 1980s David worked on many other photographic projects, notably one on Soweto, one which resulted in the book In Boxburg (1982) and one called The Transported of KwaNdebele (1989) which focussed on the misery and hardship of forced removals and the resulting interminable journeys to and from work. These were resonant documents which were to impact on the impressions many people had of South African both here and abroad. In the 1990s he published a book called South Africa The Structure of Things Then - perhaps his most contemplative work and the one most filled with both pathos and condemnation. In these photographs he manages to draw us in as viewers, to seduce us into the world he represents and then almost at once to catapult us out of it. These images are simultaneously full of recognition and strangeness. They show us cultural bleakness and poverty, hubris, forbearance and heroism through the structures and buildings for which they stand as metonymy. They demand that the world we know, or think we know, be seen with new eyes.
Since then David Goldblatt has been recognised for his work all over the world. He holds the distinction of being the first South African artist to have been invited to exhibit his work in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He has exhibited in many major centres, lectured widely and spent time as a Gahan Fellow in photography at Harvard University. In addition he has worked on projects to expose disadvantaged youngsters to visual literacy and photographic skills.
David Goldblatt pioneered a way of looking at South African society and inspired a generation of younger photographers. His work reflected a reality many would not and could not see, and now, in these post-apartheid years, how we remember the past will be immeasurably enriched by his work. Nadine Gordimer once said of David Goldblatt: "[He presents us with] our world, terrible and beautiful, in aspects we are perhaps too blind to see until he gives us the freedom of his extraordinary insight, his intellectual courage, and his gifts as a photographer."