Wednesday, December 1
It starts to rain during the opening speeches of the annual Michaelis student exhibition, but the audience politely stays in place to hear painting lecturer Virginia MacKenny say she considers Michaelis to be one of the best if not the best art school in the country. There is certainly some incredibly promising work up. Top students Stuart Bird (quirky sculptures) Andrzej Nowicki (really good moody and eccentric paintings in assorted sizes of his dreamlife/past/family history/ life) and Mikhael Subotzky (deeply engaged panoramic photographs of prison scenes) are standouts. In other spaces, there seems to be a trend of working with fabrics and other materials, elaborately cutout and embroidered, to make installations.
Thursday, December 2
An email from Christine Kreamer at the National Museum of African Art in Washington. The museum recently bought an edition CDRom of Can't Forget, Can't Remember, and are debating how best to preserve this and other digital artwork - an issue of increasing concern to art institutions. Basically, discs are fragile, and also the new technology and the rapid obsolescence of methods of transmission require a constant updating of preservation methodology. A CDRom purchased today may be unplayable in 10 years time. What will be needed is a migration of the work from disc to hard drive to new technology as it evolves. The museum is working through the best programme for this. I ask to be kept updated.
Tuesday, December 7
This afternoon, an end of the year party at the new craft centre at New Crossroads. The Public Eye/Mandlovu project has seen the erection of the centre as well as a new series of memorial boards in the area, commemorating the outstanding characters of old Crossroads, after whom the streets of the new townships are named.
The project has also thrown up a talented new painter, Manelise Mene. We are hoping that it might be possible for him to start studying art properly next year, perhaps at Mediaworks, the new incarnation of the Community Arts Project.
Another participant has been Simon Stemela, a self taught artist who has been the backbone of the project, making sure all the boards have been properly primed, and attending every session. I have photographed some of his linocuts and have promised to get the work displayed on the South African Artists website. Note to self: Must put aside time to do this. Simon is also hoping to do some courses in painting and life drawing at Mediaworks next year.
But back to the party - like most township jols, it's a mellow event, starting off slowly with a gradual drift of people into the area, gathering momentum as food is served and the music starts. A group of women in full Xhosa regalia entertain the guests with traditional songs and instruments. It's the end of the year, Christmas is around the corner, even if most of the people here will have little extra to spend on it, the centre is standing here where there was bare ground a year ago, and the laughter is quick and easy.
Wednesday, December 8
Two openings tonight - the first is Katherine Bull's 'Data' at Joao Ferreira. The artist has set up her laptop in the gallery space, and is making head and shoulders portraits of sitters on her computer by working from life, and building up layers in CMYK colours using pixels of the previous sitter's head and shoulders portrait. If you follow. The finished portrait is then printed out as a tiny miniature except for one large scale self portrait of Katherine herself, which fills one wall.
Around the corner, the Bell Roberts Gallery has moved closer to the centre of town and has relocated at 89 Bree Street, giving the gallery the space it needs to run its publishing business alongside the gallery arm. Tonight is the launch of its biggest publication to date 10 Years 100 Artists, edited by Sophie Perryer. A Publishers Choice, the book was well reviewed in the Mail & Guardian, and certainly fills a much needed gap in providing an overview of the South African art scene.
Someone pins a brooch on me - a little image of a geisha with a Zulu headdress against a background of Mount Fuji - the pinner is Peter Engblom, who will be showing his latest Zulu Sushi work at Christopher Till's Generator next week.
Friday, December 10
Another evening, another end of year party, this one the 10th anniversary of the launch Streets exhibition at the District Six Museum. District Six was famous for its musicians, and some of the old gang play tonight, a jazz combo accompanying a blues singer, filling the air with nostalgia.
The museum is expanding into the old Sacks Futeran building, which it was able to buy at a greatly reduced priced from the Sacks family, and has generous grants to continue its excellent work.
Thursday, December 16
Now living in London, Cape Town artist Lisa Brice is back in town for the holidays. Today we have a long lunch at Blues, together with old friend Clare van Zyl of Monkey Films. A window table of course - gazing out at the unparalleled view of beach and sea is one of the great pleasures of this breezy restaurant. When the food is indifferent one can feast with the eyes.
It's catch up time. After years of making constructed works, Lisa has started to paint again, using the green palette of night shot photography. Examples of some of the new work appears in 10 Years 100 Artists. Returning to London from Cape Town, she will be there a week, then go to Trinidad for a six-week residency.
The great benefit of residencies is not really, as might be thought, that one is in a new exotic space with fresh images to act as inspiration (although this can happen). Rather, it is that one is removed from daily life with its burden of incessantly ringing phones and boring administrative tasks and given a time space to really concentrate on work.
Friday, December 17
Oh, dear. The annual Mother City Queer Party. The serious misgivings I had when I heard that this year's venue was a godforsaken piece of fenced land almost under the foreshore highway turn out to be entirely justified. The uninspiring venue has led to a complete lack of motivation in the costume department amongst the usual suspects.
In the end, after various more sensible friends have announced there is no way they are going this year, our little group of four is clad for the Jungle Fever theme thus: Me: vague khaki safari outfit. Bruce: a reprise of his Barbara Cartland costume of some years back, now opportunistically retitled "Queen of the Jungle". Visiting Swiss artist Kerim Seliger and friend: A donkey. An attempt to get the donkey into the party on one ticket is foiled at the gate, and we have to go to the back of the queue.
Inside, the howling gale has already destroyed the main tent and the chillout tents, and the only redeeming feature of the space is an amazing anaconda shaped tunnel constructed of mauve and orange fluorescent string which snakes across the area and through which revellers must pass.
Apart from a slight diversion when Barbara - sorry, the Queen - attempts to mount and ride the donkey, with predictable results, the evening is spent removing bits of dried grass from one's eyes in order to recognise friends.
Tuesday, December 21
A party for Lisa Brice at Clare van Zyl's. MCQP organiser Andre Vorster, who has run the party so brilliantly and valiantly for the past ten years is there. Asked about this year's event, Andre shakes his head and grins dispiritedly The terrible wind ... the water restrictions which did not allow the grass to be kept green and alive in the weeks leading up to the event ... no financial support from the city ... attendance figures were down this year, and next year, if it happens, the event make take on a new character as a street party.
Sunday, December 25
And so another year winds down. To all of you who have been patient enough to read this stream of consciousness stuff, a very happy Christmas and may the New Year take off like a rocket. If that's what you want.