Archive: Issue No. 64, December 2002

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Hotel de La Paz

The grand entrance of the Hotel de La Paz

Francisco Ali Brouchard

Francisco Ali Brouchard sipping mate, the bitter green tea which was passed around constantly

The Bienal of the Most Virginal

Greg Streak and Sandro Perreira inside & pilgrims across the street

The Bienal of the Most Virginal

The Bienal of the Most Virginal

Monday, December 2

Leaving on a jet plane in the morning, but tonight there are three openings to attend.
The first is studio mate Justin Anschutz, who is showing at Joao Ferreira.
The clouds of sawdust that fill the All Star Studio when Justin forgets to close his power tool workshop door have evolved into two columns of layered wood which reach the gallery ceiling, and a grouping of strange double pointed and faceted shapes, like giant chrysalises, which lie on the gallery floor.
Justin has a fine sense of how to use materials, and his screens, eggs and spires of sharp edged glass are elegant and edgy.
On to show No 2 - Zwelethu Mthethwa is having his first solo show in years at the AVA. Crowds are already blocking the entrance as I approach.
Wow! Zwelethu has had the gallery painted deep Venetian red, and his new colour saturated work - all paintings - look rich and dramatic against this backdrop.
The gallery is packed and buzzing.
Zwelethu tells me later many people there have never been to a gallery before - he wanted to introduce them to the experience.
Jimmy Dludlu will head up the band which will play later - the instruments are already set up in the corner, and it's obviously going to be a great party, but I must go.
On to the Bell Roberts Gallery, where issue No 2 of Art South Africa is being launched.
The fact that this is issue No. 2 makes the occasion even more important than the launch of the first issue in September.
The magazine has become a real thing, not just a one issue wonder, well on its way to being established, with a first issue sales record of 2 500.
Congratulations to editor Sophie Perryer and publisher Brendon Bell Roberts.

Tuesday, December 3

Many flying hours later, it is late at night and I arrive at the Hotel de la Paz in the small provincial town of Lujan, Argentina - about 50 kms west of Buenos Aires.
General Juan Peron and his bride Eva Duarte celebrated their wedding lunch in this hotel, which dates from 1870 and has wonderful front rooms, high-ceilinged and airy with a magnificent wood and etched glass revolving door entrance.
Lujan's other claim to fame is that it has the largest cathedral in Argentina, right opposite the hotel, but more about that on Sunday.

Wednesday, December 4

It is at the invitation of the Rain network, supported by the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam that I have come, as an organiser in a workshop on cultural management for artists' initiatives.
Greg Streak from Pulse in Durban is here too, to reportback on his projects, as is Goddy Daye of Cameroun.
The rest of the group is from various parts of Argentina, and it takes about five minutes for me to realise how skimpy my knowledge of this vast country really is.
Mar del Plata?
I need a map.
For the next three days, each person in the group will describe at length and show slides of their initiative.
I am to hear about El Ingenio, a group of young artists in Tucuman, one of the most oppressed areas, where the Museum of Fine Art was closed five years ago and not re-opened, who have banded together to make work.
About the Casona de los Olivera, an elegant colonial mansion in a 40 hectare park in the western part of Buenos Aires, once derelict, now revamped as a cultural centre, but with serious funding problems.
About the Fondo Internacional de Arte Contemporaneo started by Mario Germin and Daniel Besoytaorube in Argentina's version of Durban, Mar del Plato.
Their aim was to put Mar del Plato on the cultural map and give young artists a reason to stay and work there instead of leaving for Buenos Aires.

This evening, after a day of these fascinating discussions - Allina and Ingrid are there to translate backwards and forwards from English to Spanish - photographer Marcelo Brodsky of Buenos Aires has sent a car for some of us.
We are to go into the city so that we might witness the annual march of resistance of the mothers of the disappeared in the Plaza de Mayo, in central Buenos Aires.
This march goes on for 24 hours, with the mothers, white handkerchief scarves tied round their heads and supported in many cases by family or friends, circling the central monument of the plaza.
Photographs of the disappeared are tied to railings in the plaza.
One section shows young couples with their children.
The regime would remove whole families, and having killed the parents, would give the children out for adoption to government supporting families.
Part of the work of the human rights organisations is to locate and identify these lost children, now grown, and even up to now, these identifications are still taking place.
It is a deeply moving event.

Later we walk through the streets with its boarded up banks and whole families engaged in picking through rubbish for recycling (familiar to South Africans, but new in Argentina since last December's upheavals).
People are sleeping on the streets everywhere.

Thursday, December 5 - Saturday, December 7

More days of intense discussions, followed by debates, often finishing late in the evening.
But there are rewards for the weary discussants, when with the large front room to ourselves, the wine is opened, tango music is put on, and Marcelo de la Fuente of the Casona and Marina, organiser of TRAMA the host organsiation, demonstrate and teach the group tango.
Where better to learn than Argentina?
Special tango shoes with leather soles to glide along the floor, high heels to show off the calf, and straps to keep the shoes firmly in place during the rapid fire footwork are required - it's just not the same trying it out in slops or trainers.

Sunday, December 8

The Day of the Virgin, all over Argentina, but the Virgin of Lujan is perhaps the most potent.
As we sit at the long table in the front room at breakfast with double doors open on to the street, we are immediately opposite the side entrance to the cathedral.
Thousands of people have come to be blessed by the Virgin, walking through the night from their homes, and as we reach for another croissant, some of these are literally crawling on their knees along the street into the entrance of the cathedral.
Two energetic young priests who obviously did not go without their sleep are sprinkling the tired pilgrims with holy water dispensed from a plastic bucket as they enter.
The streets around the hotel are thick with Santerias - shops which sell religious mementoes of every kind.
We decide to hold a Bienal of the Virgin. There will be three categories: Most Virginal, Least Virginal, and Miss Congeniality.
Each of us to is buy a virgin and sneak it anonymously on to a table, then all will vote to select the winners at the end of the workshop.
My non-winning contribution is a snowdome filled with golden plastic money with a tiny virgin stuck on the outside.

Thursday, December 12

The workshop is over, the experts on fundraising and preparing successful proposals who gave extremely useful and practical seminars have left, the Bienal of the Virgin has been judged, (a gay-looking Jesus in a short skin outfit, a phallic figure holding the virgin in his arms, and a music box packed with religious items) and we leave early in the morning for Buenos Aires.
From here, Marcelo Brodsky picks me up to take me to the Memory Park, still under construction, which memorialises the disappeared. It is on the banks of the River Plata, into which the bodies were thrown.
Eventually, there will be 14 sculptures, but for now, there are only two - both by Americans - William Tucker and Dennis Oppenheim.

The rest of the day is spent visiting some of the projects which we heard about in the workshop - the Casona de los Olivera, in a park with green parrots screeching in the surrounding jacarandas, Duplus, three beautiful exhibition rooms in a residential building, and a one room gallery in the top floor of a beautiful three floored restaurant, in which each room is painted its own deep colour - red, purple, yellow.
Named Lele de Troya, the curator is Ana Gallardo, who loves ephemeral installations.

All of these spaces say they would welcome presentations from South African artists, though permanent funding problems would require ingenious and economical solutions.
But the door is open.

And to all of you, a very happy Christmas and New Year.


The William Kentridge opening

Reflections as a critic

Gavin Younge's opening and a parcel from Sweden

Visit to Jo'burg

History/Now in Stockholm

Documenta at speed

Sue Williamson is out-and-about in Cape Town

Sue Williamson catches the opening of Big Brother II

'Grime' at Bell-Roberts, Jo'burg Art City & the CT Convention Centre

Gallery-hopping in Cape Town

The Dak/Art Biennnial in Senegal

Sue Williamson in Jo'burg

'Who defines the contemporary? Biennials and the global art world'

Smithsonian's National Museum for African Art, Washington

Homeport at the V&A Waterfront

Jo'burg & the Joubert Park Project

Artist Matthew Hindley at the World Wide Video Festival

Exhibitions in Chicago and Washington

A visit to South Africa House in London

Joubert Park Project; Art Spaces in Gender Perspective, Germany

'Homeport' collaboration; Joubert Park Project; Omar Badsha