Archive: Issue No. 70, June 2003

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'Meeting' at Galerie Puta
Invitation image

Gallery Puta

Bruce Gordon at Gallery Puta

Meeting: Art in the Water Closet
by Tracy Murinik

If Duchamp brought bits of the bathroom into the gallery, then Gallery Puta takes the gallery into the bathroom.

"Not a 'salon des refusees'", Andrew Lamprecht - one of the three curators for Galerie Puta, alongside Cameron Platter and Ed Young - clarifies for me when I ask him about the concept behind 'Meeting: Art in the Water Closet' and the launch of Galerie Puta. Rather, Lamprecht offers, this "Gallery of the Prostitute" (puta meaning prostitute in Portuguese), is a "proactive" venture, "where a group of artists have gotten together" and created their own space where they can exhibit, and sell, new work.

Lamprecht describes the group as being made up of "serious, established artists� and young, new emerging artists doing cutting-edge things� [with] people not ordinarily considered artmakers being given opportunities to make something". The general idea is fun and light-hearted, but ultimately taken quite seriously by those involved (who hope that viewers/visitors to the space will take it quite seriously too� while also being fun and light-hearted about it).

Lamprecht further comments that this marks the first of what will become a regular programme of Galerie Puta events. Judging by the quality of several spectacular martinis, great music to chi-chi to, delightful visitors to the space and, well, even some very cool artworks, we should all be looking forward to the next editions to come.

To begin: Galerie Puta was launched on the night of May 17, existing as the transformed living space of Cameron Platter and Vuyisa Nyamende in a Green Point house belonging to Bridget Baker. The exhibition, curated by Lamprecht, Platter and Young, with Platter functioning also as the gallerist, was proliferated throughout the house, with an art-located emphasis in and around the bathroom.

Coming up the stairs, then, entering through the front door, was Zen Marie's (who's currently based in Amsterdam) series of digital prints - reminiscent in style to pics from a photo booth - of himself eating a Burger King burger, seen through its various stages of burger consumption. Further up above the landing, was a diptych of small paintings by Peet Pienaar.

A bit further on along the wall leading off the stairwell, above the light switch, was Vuyisa Nyamende's inscrutable little soap man presented to Nyamende and Platter when they moved into the house. The story goes that the original soap man was a gift of soap by Bridget Baker - bearing a picture of a man. Nyamende finally carved the resultant soap man to echo the original picture, and subsequently added a stuck-on pic of fab abs, strategically placed, to newly endow him.

At this point of entry into the house, and from a quick glance around the room, what became quickly apparent was a predominant trend amongst those already there, of wearing a white and red woollen mitt on one hand (or both hands on some), while holding an elegant-looking martini glass in the other (if un-mitted, that is). So, to mention first Bridget Baker's work for the exhibition (being responsible for the woollen mitt phenomenon), which was the sensual offer to anyone willing to insert a hand through a hole in the wall and receive a delectable hot wax treatment. This would then be followed by a ten-minute treatment period during which your hot-waxed hand was left to soften, covered in cling-wrap, and protected by said woollen mitts - all of which would then be removed to reveal a sweet-smelling, gorgeously softer paw than you would have had before.

The elegant martinis, though, were the work of the evening's gallerist, curator and spectacular cocktail mixer, Cameron Platter, whose exquisitely crisp, delicately dry vodka martinis with single pimento-stuffed green olives may or may not have been Platter's artwork for the evening (apparently he's undecided on that point).

Bumping into artist Ed Young, I later learned that his artwork for the exhibition was, in fact, his conscious act to "do nothing for the exhibition" - a nice self-conscious twist, perhaps, to his other recent project of having the person (Bruce Gordon in that instance) be the artwork.

On that score, enter Bruce Gordon: Bruce Gordon, (the artwork and in this case also the artist), brought with him to the exhibition journalist Bonny Schoonakker, as his artwork for the night, (another nice twist on the I am/he is the artwork scenario) and encouraged people to ask Schoonakker to tell stories of his first-hand experience, as a journalist, covering the recent war in Iraq.

If it felt occasionally challenging trying to determine whether the people around you were or were not part of the evening's artworks, then Matt Hindley's video projection - which beamed the words "No Content" onto (what became into the night) the dancefloor, and often onto people's heads and bodies - was a shrewd and charming turn: both in its reflexive scrutiny as a work being essentially projected light and thus essentially having "no content", and in its capacity to bring into question whether those that its words labelled in the process, were required to declare or defend their "substance" as people or lurking artworks.

Oh, and also a good time to mention another lurking artwork-as-person or vice versa in the form of Joao Ferreira, whose allotted role in being an artwork for the evening was "being a dodgy dealer" wearing a suit.

Staying in the lounge/dancefloor area was Teboho Edkins' video created for the exhibition, based on a longer documentary that he is working on which documents HIV roadshows in Lesotho. The video records an exchange between friends, chatting over drinks, describing their sexual exploits and tips on how to please their women. But the light, friendly bravado of the conversation is casually shattered at a certain point in their conversation by the offhand mention by one of the friend's of his HIV positive status.

Dan Halter, ex-Michaelis graduate, now successfully running a coffee shop in Switzerland, apparently, and making art, occasionally, when he chooses to, created for the exhibition a compilation CD which, for the first part of the evening, was displayed, subtly, as an object placed to the right-hand-side of the television, and later played and danced to.

Moving into the passage, on the wall, towards the bathroom, is Malcolm Payne's 'rebuttal' work for the exhibition: Colin Richards-Red-Slim Medium subtitled R. Butt, which comprised a red "butt-plug" which was to be inserted (by instruction in a printed letter to the gallerist of Galerie Puta, i.e. Cameron Platter, and signed by two witnesses) into the gallerist's buttocks for at least one hour during the exhibition, and then removed and placed, as is, into its original container. As far as slanging-matches go, this one might well have made it completely into the bathroom, rather than just the passage.

And in the bathroom: James Webb's offering was an elegant sculpture circle made of audio-cassettes - a nicely ironic play using the physical vessels of the art he's better known for (Webb is a sound artist) as self-reflexive reference, inferring sound not played. Richard de Jager's bathroom work was an exquisite gold knitted toilet set with bunny loo roll holder. Sean Slemon installed his artist's notebook, attached to the bathroom mirror. And prettily (although with a hazily sinister air) was Kathryn Smith's offering of "bathroom art": an image of a Victorian-looking woman, innocently enclosed in an oval frame, imparting the message, "Never look for unicorns until you run out of ponies".

And finally, back towards the kitchen, where, held in place by a (carefully selected, I'm told, broken) buffalo magnet, is Sue Williamson's work, a "Souvenir de Bruxelles": a caricatured commentary to a nun by the priest she's with, as they look up at a sculpture of a peeing putti: "Come sister, don't be in ecstasy like that."

And to the right of the fridge, cheerily soaping and buffing away was Andrew Lamprecht, being his artwork, namely, the ultimate professional dishwasher, and keeping the martini glasses in spectacular nick (edition one of his services was snapped up on the night at the sight of his gleaming display). Asking Lamprecht what distinguishes him from other, regular dishwashers, Lamprecht declared: "Most dishwashers use one cloth for drying and polishing. My technique is to use a highly absorbent cloth for drying, followed by treatment with a lint-free one for that final crystal glint".

Don't say you don't learn anything practical from visiting art exhibitions.

May 17

Galerie Puta
2A Dysart Road, Greenpoint, Cape Town
(Off Greenpoint Main Road, turn up Wigtown Road. Take the second stop street left into Dysart. It's the last house on the left.)

For further details contact Andrew Lamprecht on 083 530 6141 or