SEPTEMBER 17 - 26
Wednesday, September 17
A workshop day at the annexe of the National Gallery. Through Public Eye, Julia Clark and I are working with the Mandlovu Mayenzeke group at New Crossroads to complete three memorial boards, or street signs, honouring residents in the old Crossroads squatter camp who fought against demolition in the late 1970s . The boards are 1 x 1.25 metres each, and carry portraits and information about the old timers. The difficult part is spacing the lettering, all of which is being hand painted, and making the portraits look like the subjects. Lots to do before unveiling day, Heritage Day, next Wednesday.
Opening at Joao Ferreira's of Tracy Gander's new work - colour photographs of deserted spots in Cape Town as lit by the headlights of the artist's car. Both seductive and threatening. Quite David Lynch-y.
Last update, Andrew Lamprecht wrote my entire diary for me when I got flu. I thought he did a really good job (even though he didn't bother to establish if I actually had been somewhere or not). After Tracy's opening, take Andrew out for soup at the Mexican Kitchen to ask him if he would like to do it again this time. He has declined, pointing out that he did it as a conceptual piece which cannot be repeated.
Thursday, September 18
ArtThrob is a finalist in the Arts & Culture Trust Awards in the best media in support of the arts category. The ACT people are flying site designer Tracy Gander and I up to Johannesburg for the night for the awards dinner. I really think we have a good chance.
The event is being sponsored by Nedbank in their head office in Sandton. ArtThrob editor Sean O' Toole is there too, nominated in the category of best arts journalist. Surely ArtThrob will come away with at least one award! Trays of champagne and pretty cocktails are passed around before we are all ushered into an auditorium for the awards announcements. Two presenters - one of them is dancer Jay Pather - announce the finalists, all of whom have to wait beside the stage, ready to step up and receive a framed certificate. The winner in each category is announced very quickly, almost before one has taken in who the three finalists are. It seems to me a real opportunity is being lost - surely part of the reason for bringing everyone together is for us all to learn more about each other. A two minute powerpoint presentation on each finalist would have been so enlightening. Anway, we don't win. Artslink gets it again. Congrats to them, but it is disappointing. Can it be that Artslink serves all the arts disciplines while we focus strictly on one, the visual arts? One of the judges tells us the other judges (none of them artists) did not know the site. If this is true, and they are the judges, shouldn't they take the time to familiarise themselves with all the finalists?
Console ourselves with an excellent picnic basket and wine from an array set out on blankets and cushions on the lawns outside the Nedbank building, and feel further consoled when we discover an envelope asking for ArtThrob's banking details stuck to the back of our mounted certificate. The winner in each category receives R15 000, but surely this means there must now be a runners up prize as well?
Friday, September 19
A phone call to the ACT people establishes that the envelope asking for our banking details was "a mistake". Fly back to Cape Town.
Saturday, September 20
Another workshop at the National Gallery on the New Crossroads billboards. Julia SMSes that she overslept and cannot come through. Everyone works hard all day, but spelling mistakes are made and must be painted out again, and there is still quite a bit to do, and they must be put in the ground on Tuesday!
Sunday, September 21
Emma Bedford of the National Gallery brings Patrick Murphy, exhibitions director of the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin for morning coffee. Charming and articulate, Murphy's previous experience was as director of the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, where he worked with such artists as Rachel Whiteread, Bill Viola and Andres Serrano. He is planning an exchange between Irish and South African artists. This is Patrick's first preparatory visit, with a view to eventually holding an exhibition in Dublin at the RHA in 2005 followed by one at the SANG the following year.
Hear most disturbing news tonight. Mgcineni Sobopha, popularly known as Pro, (an occasional writer for ArtThrob) was picked up by the police last night on his way home and was beaten up so badly that a rib pierced a lung which has now collapsed. He is in Groote Schuur Hospital. His exhibition is supposed to open at the AVA tomorrow night.
Monday, September 22
Work on the street signs all day, with the help of Julia and an Irish intern called Terry. Finish them.
The opening at the AVA. The news of Pro is that he was badly injured but is all right. Apparently he was walking home when the police van stopped and called to him to get in the back. When he refused, they got out, dragged him in and beat him up. He will be laying a charge against the police. There is talk of a protest outside the Woodstock police station on Wednesday. At the opening, Julie McGee has a video camera set up so people can record messages to take back to Pro in hospital.
Tuesday, September 23
Greatmore Studios artist in residence Czechoslokian Jan Vicar, shortly to leave the country, is showing slides of his work tonight. His current work, wall sized woodcut images, printed in layers of colour, hang around the room. How on earth did he make such large scale works? Jan takes me into his studio. The man has treated the floor as a giant woodblock, cutting and incising his images into it, then inking up the floor, placing his paper facedown, and transferring the image by rubbing the back of the paper with a wooden spoon. The results are impressive.
Wednesday, September 24
Heritage Day. Out at the Indlovini Community Centre in New Crossroads bright and early for the unveiling of the street signs. People gather at the Centre, and a troop of smart drum majorettes in white, orange and gold accompanied by a brass band lead us to the first street sign, of Tyson Thozamile Tom, one of the negotiating team who prevented the demolition of old Crossroads. Prayers, singing and speeches precede the removal of the black drape. There is cheering and ululating, before we move on to the second sign, Regina Ntongana, the crowd growing in size and exuberance as we go. By the time we reach sign no 3, Mrs Luthango, several hundred people are celebrating. The signs will help keep alive the history of the community, and when more have been put up, also serve as a tourist attraction. Through the day, I see little knots of people stopping to read them. The project has been sponsored by the Royal Netherlands Embassy.
Back at the Community Centre, stalls sell vetkoek stuffed with chicken livers and mince, linocuts, and crafts. Inside, Mandlovu Mayenzeke are staging Crossroads' first ever film
festival. With high windows letting in too much light for daytime projection, an entire cinema has been erected inside the hall, constructed of cardboard walls and ceiling over a wooden frame, with raked stadium seating on scaffolding. Magical. Filmmaker Jonathan Wacks has flown over from the States to introduce the film he made on Crossroads around 1978-9, that the community has never seen. A highly emotional showing, as audience members relive those turbulent times.
Thursday, September 25
The Brett Kebble Awards people are setting up the exhibition in the International Convention Centre. Was asked to go and check my piece yesterday morning, but couldn't because I was in New Crossroads. Today I discover the booth I have been allocated is too shallow to allow the projector to project a properly rectangular image. A more sophisticated projector will have to be found.
Friday, September 26
The projector problem seems insoluble. In the end, I suggest that the only solution is to cut out the back of the booth to allow for rear projection through a transparent screen. This suggestion is strongly resisted by the construction team on the grounds that the booth could fall down/ all the other artwork will get showered in sawdust/they are not allowed to cut during the day because of the noise/they are out of here in two hours anyway, and this, with cutting and finishing, is a two day job. I stand my ground, and in the end, when it is done and works, everyone is relieved.