JULY 14 - 31
Wednesday, July 14
The little blue corrugated iron building destined to be the kernel of a new arts and crafts centre in New Crossroads, on the outskirts of Cape Town, is nearly finished. The deck has been laid down. It is time to start the second phase of the memorial boards to go up on streets in New Crossroads, commemorating figures who were important in the history of the community. The first three went up last year, on Heritage Day, unveiled in a high spirited day of celebration which included drum majorettes, blessings, speeches.
This morning, my intern, Sonja Korselt and I have come out to have a preparatory meeting with the Mayenzeke group. Eight people. The stalwart of the group, Mrs Adelaide Mene was the headmistress of Noxolo school in Old Crossroads in the late seventies, and there are seven others, men and women.
The boards, of galvanised steel, must be primed before painting and lettering can start, but more importantly, research must be done on the people to be represented: what exactly is the most significant information to give on each one? How would their families like them to be remembered?
The sun is shining, the group is enthusiastic, I am sure it is going to be a great project.
Tonight is the opening of Kevin Brand's show 'Plus 50', at Brendon Bell Roberts, a playful meditation on reaching that age, golf scores, and life in general. The room is lined with geometric arrangements of boxes, embossed with the words PLUS 50, and carrying lenticular images of abacus beads.
Across the room, I spot the smiling face of artist Moshekwa Langa, here from Amsterdam to do some work with students at Michaelis. He gave a talk at the school today, which I did not know about and regret missing. His work always holds the attention, and with his international profile, he is a role model for younger artists here. So pleased he's here.
Wednesday, July 21
Dash back from a morning workshop in New Crossroads in time to catch this week's lunchtime lecture at Michaelis - my ex and most influential tutor, Jules van de Vijver, now head of an art school of new media in Breda, Holland. Before he came to Michaelis to head up the printmaking department in the early eighties, Jules and his wife Ada ran the Rourkes Drift Art Centre, in Kwa Zulu Natal, tutoring such artists as Pat Kagiso Mautloa, and Sam Nhlengethwa. Today Jules talks of those times, of screen printing posters in a chicken run in Gugulethu, and how his interest turned to the technological.
Thursday, July 22
Call in at the Michaelis print shop where Moshekwa is working with head of the department, Stephen Inggs on a new series of lithographs to be produced by the department. Old images of found photographs are being printed in soft metallic colours over a background of an intense velvety black. Moshekwa has agreed to make a print for the Editions for ArtThrob series, which I am delighted about. What the image will be is still to be resolved.
Monday, July 26
CAPE the acronym for the Cape Africa Platform, the visual arts initiative which is planning a major international art event in Cape Town each year, alternating conferences with visual arts events, holds its first birthday party in its new premises off Dunckley Square. The first event is planned for 2005. Susan Glanville, publicity director for the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale, is spearheading the initiative, assisted by Robert Weinek. Tom Mulcaire is at the party, back from the Sydney Biennale, and SANG curator Emma Bedford. Everyone admires the lurid yellow and black cupcakes in the CAPE corporate colours on their chandeliered stand - and some are brave enough to bite into one.
Wednesday, July 28
The usual craziness precedes a trip to the airport to leave for Bochum, in Germany. New Identities, Contemporary Art from South Africa will open at the Museum Bochum on Saturday night, and the museum is bringing all the artists to the opening. In the south of Germany, the town of Bochum is near Dusseldorf, where the mega 90-artist show Afrika Remix: Contemporary Art of Africa has just opened at the Dusseldorf Kunst Palast.
Thursday, July 29
So, Bochum. A quiet, leafy town with an overwhelming feeling of orderliness and stability. Once a centre of the coal mining industry, there is no sign now of its grubby past.
Arriving at the hotel, we walk immediately to the museum. There is always a feeling of trepidation before going to see one's work hung or installed in an unknown exhibition space. One hopes for a great space, and that the work will appear to its best advantage but often one is disappointed. It is a relief, then, to discover the abundant volumes and good lighting of the Museum Bochum. In the downstairs auditorium, the vast back wall of the space has been painted by Esther Mahlangu, and never has her work looked so impressive. Apparently even she was astonished by the size of the wall when she first saw it, though measurements had been sent to her beforehand. Recovering immediately, she was hoisted up on a raised platform, and starting at top right and with no preparatory sketches of any kind, assisted by her son Elias, the artist simply worked her way across and down in the following three weeks.
In the rest of the spaces, each artist has been given a large space, allowing the display of up to 10 works, or in the case of the video artists, two videos. It is especially a relief to see all this because the design of the printed invitation to the show, which reached the artists in South Africa a day or two before departure, was so tacky. An image from Berni Searle's Snow White, in which the artist is kneeling, veiled in white flour, had been chopped through the figure and juxtaposed with Esther's geometric designs. This design has been carried through on to the exhibition posters and also on to the catalogue cover, a beautifully printed volume a little marred by hasty editing.
Friday, July 30
It's always a little astonishing to see how many journalists will turn up for an art museum press conference in Europe - and are prepared to sit through an hour of speeches from various museum people. But it seems that this exhibition is attracting unusual attention.
Museum director Hans Gunter Golinksi has invited all the artists for supper at his Bauhaus designed house in nearby Wuppertal. An architectural gem, the pink house backs on to a forest, and we sit out under the trees, eating, laughing, drinking wine, talking. "Don't put that on ArtThrob", someone says, more than once. "I won't", I reply. Not that there is anything not to put on ArtThrob.
In the course of one of the more serious conversations, I am told that each town in Germany has an art museum, and that together with the kunsthalle and the smaller art institutions, there are probably between 1500 and 2000 art institutions in the country. On average, one art museum every 50 km.
Saturday, July 31
Opening night. All the videos are working, even Minnette V�ri's The Calling. Her two- screen projection has been the most difficult to instal. People are crowding in. My ex intern Lisa Schmidt is here, artist Christian Hanussek has come from Berlin, Irene Below, who has written on Irma Stern has come from Bielefeld. It's being said that this is the biggest crowd for an opening event in years. The auditorium is packed for the speeches, and afterwards, Samson Madzunga does a performance, drumming on the inside of one of his enormous drums as it is pushed around the space, then eventually emerging, head first, his ankles bound in wooden chains. This is not a reference to the years of apartheid, as one might think, but of a time when through community jealousy he was jailed for something he did not do. Zwelethu Mthethwa is showing a new series of photographs in which Beezy Bailey has blackened his skin and takes on the role of domestic worker in his own home. Visitors are intrigued. Jane Alexander is showing Bom Boys, which haunts one wherever it is installed, and photographs from the African Adventure series. Penny Siopis' Pinky Pinky, an imposing but vulnerable looking four metre high painting of the mythical character who is supposed to lie in wait for children in toilets dominates the end wall of the main gallery.
Outside, people are munching on so-called 'African' snacks - spring rolls with spinach and feta - and enjoying the warm evening. The show feels like a success, but one will have to wait for the serious reviews to see how the show is critically received.