Archive: Issue No. 78, February 2004

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Berni Searle

Berni Searle
Home and Away, 2003
2 channel projection video installation
16 mm colour film transferred to DVD
Dimensions. App 3m X 70 cm each
6 min each projection, played simultaneously

Cape Town Castle

The cistern room at the Cape Town Castle

Candice Breitz

Candice Breitz
14 channel video installation
Installation view


Tuesday, February 3

Berni Searle has dashed back from Wales, where she went to set up her work for the Artes Mundi contemporary art award show, in time for tonight's opening of her Standard Bank Young Artist Award exhibition at the National Gallery. Later this month she opens with new work at the Michael Stevenson. Busy artist. The SANG is packed. Two of her three video installations (the show is reviewed by Kim Gurney elsewhere in this issue) I have not seen before, and I am really impressed. Each of Berni's works centres on a very simple idea - in one, she is floating in the sea off the coast of Spain, the waves tumbling her long skirts about. Any number of narratives can be read into this lyrical exercise. In the other, the camera films her from under a sheet of glass which is being slowly flooded with oil as she attempts to walk across it, barefoot. Photographs accompany the installations.

Wednesday, February 4

An afternoon meeting with the Mayenzeke group who made the street names boards which went up in New Crossroads last September. We want to make another 12 or so. The last workshops were held in the Annexe of the National Gallery, but that meant R200 a day taxi fare to get the group backwards and forwards. There are materials for a shack available - a proposal is put forward to construct our own workshop with this in the grounds of the church in New Crossroads where we are meeting.

Mandy Lee Jandrell recently completed her Masters degree at the prestigious Goldsmiths College in London, and tonight is her first Cape Town showing, at the Joao Ferreira Gallery, since then. 'Take Photo Here' is the title of the exhibition, and for the most past the photographer photographs tourist photo opportunities. See Review. A big crowd at the opening, and as has become almost standard for exhibitions recently, there is to be an after party at LB's in Long Street. Would love to go, but I have just managed to force myself back to the gym after a four year lapse, and 7 a.m. classes are taking their toll. Sneak off to Club Duvet, as Brett Murray calls it.

Monday, February 9

Being ten years since the first election and all that, we are all going to get a little tired of the phrase 'A Decade of Democracy' before much longer (remember how boring the term 'the New Millennium got, and what a damp squib it all was). Seriously, it does give an appropriate occasion for all sorts of looking backwards and analysis stuff, and the SANG is mounting a large exhibition with this name looking at work made during this period to open in March.

As an adjunct to this show, the SANG wants to instal Messages from the Moat, the piece I made for the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale, with 1400 bottles engraved with the details of deeds of sales of slaves from 1658-1700, at The Cape Town Castle. (The Castle was built by the Dutch East India Company which also initiated the slave trade to this country). The problem up to now has been finding a suitable spot at The Castle, the oldest historical building in the country, to suspend the heavy net which has to hold about half the bottles, without causing any structural damage. Various suggestions so far have been rejected by the consulting architects.

This morning there is a meeting with people from the SANG and The Castle to inspect a new possibility - a low room with crumbly old brick walls and a well in the middle which was the old cistern. Eureka! The piece will have to be installed differently because of the low ceiling, but that is always what makes installation work interesting. Now, as long as The Castle authorities will agree ...

The next meeting of the morning is with MediaWorks who are to run a low tech course for the Mayenzeke group. These will extend the techniques of making signs which the group learned in the first workshops. The idea is that when the Street Names project is finished, the group will be able to take on signwriting and banner projects for the community. Various possibilities are discussed.

The third meeting of the day is with DigiCape who are to upgrade my Mac PowerBook G4 (once referred to in the diary as 'the object of my deepest desire'). I have been trying to cut a video on the Mac, and there is simply not enough disc space, so now a 60 gig hard drive is to be installed. Can't wait. I have got so frustrated at commands which don't get completed lately that I have nearly demolished the once-loved object.

Tuesday, February 10

Meeting with Double Storey Books, who are the extremely patient publishers who will publish the ArtThrob Archive, 1998-2003, the CDRom which will contain all our archives, beautifully arranged and search engined, and with thousands of pix. Sponsored by the Royal Netherlands Embassy, it is taking far longer than anticipated, all the artbios are being updated and duplicate material eliminated, and so much other work, but I assure Double Storey we will be finished by the end of April. I hope you'll all buy one when it's done!

Wednesday, February 11

The post brings an exhibition announcement from Candice Breitz - she's opening at Sonnabend in New York this weekend. Wow. You can't get much more big-time than Sonnabend! This is a really big step for the artist, who has become one of the hottest stars of the international circuit.

Thursday, February 12

Supper with Rose and Claire. The Tuscany-based art teachers now come here every year for a few months. Their first group of visiting students have left, and now they will meet a new group of international students in Johannesburg, and go up to the north of the country to Lesheba to worskhop there with the Venda artists in the village constructed by Noria Mabasa. The plan is for Penny Siopis and I to join them for four or five days. I'm so excited!

Friday, February 13

Cannot believe the difference in my computer now it has the new 60 gig hard drive! Bliss! Can't stop editing! It's so easy now I don't have to keep transferring clips to cds and an external drive, and then trying and failing to get them back again.

Saturday, February 14

Clive van den Berg and Claire Breukel of the Brett Kebble Awards come over to All Star Studio to address artists on the new awards for 2004. You can read it all up on their website, but in brief the big changes are more money, no limitations as to size or technique, all the work will be viewed at collection points rather than being judged from photographs, and the competition is now open to all South African artists anywhere in the world, or any artist of any nationality living in South Africa. This year, the venue is one of the big exhibition halls at the International Conference Centre in Cape Town rather than the corridors, as last year. Submission date: May 31.