Archive: Issue No. 124, December 2007

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Spier Contemporary 2007 announces award winners

From an initial submission of 2137 works, 120 by 92 artists were chosen to be exhibited at the first annual Spier Contemporary bienale. The chosen works cover an astonishing range of media, from sculpture to performance, installation and video. The organisers defined very few parameters for submissions, requiring only that artists be South African residents.

The selection team comprised Virginia MacKenny, award-winning artist and senior lecturer at the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the UCT; Thembinkosi Goniwe, lecturer at the Division of Visual Arts at the Wits School of Arts, and the Spier Contemporary team of Clive van den Berg (Curator of the exhibition), Jay Pather (Co-curator), Churchill Madikida (Outreach Officer) and Kadiatou Diallo (Project Manager).

From the outset, the curatorial team emphasised that the event was not be solely about winners and prizes, although there was a significant cash incentive for particpants, including a R3000 payment for each chosen work. In the end, six award winners were selected by a team of judges comprising Senegalese curator, art publisher and consultant in cultural policies N'gone Fall; Yugoslavian London-based interdisciplinary artist, art historian and curator Predrag Pajdic, and South African artist, curator, critic and Director of the Johannesburg Art Gallery Clive Kellner.

Interestingly no paintings, drawings or sculpture were selected by the judges for awards, or the three works which received honourable mention. Of the six awards, one was a photograph, two were video pieces and the others were performance pieces. Winners will now have to motivate to the organisers what they plan to do to advance their careers with their respective shares of the R700 000 pool.

Van den Berg was very happy with the judges' selection, stating, 'It doesn't matter what the medium is. The judges selected a fresh, young and exciting collection. Any group of judges is going to have its own dynamic, and I am pleased that they found the performance and video work interesting, especially as both media have been neglected in this country in the past.'

The winners were:
- Abrie Fourie for his photographic works Beverley Hills, Sunnyside, Pretoria 2007 and Changing Room, Hillcrest Swimming Pool, Pretoria 2007;
- Chuma Sopotela, Mwenya Kabwe and Kemang Wa Lehulere for their performance U nyamo alunampumlo (The foot has no nose), a work that explores African urban centres, through a hybrid of theatrical forms including live-feed video projection, living installations and live performance work;
- Doing it for Daddy, a group comprising Bettina Malcomess, Rene Holleman and Linda Stupart, for their walking tour of the Spier Estate which reimages real and fictional histories;
- Nina Barnett and Robyn Nesbitt for their video Warcry, a challenging and thrilling look at the war cries of two Johannesburg schools;
- Andrew Putter for Secretly I will love you more, a haunting video installation based on three paintings in the Castle of Good Hope in which the portrait of Maria van Riebeek sings a Khoi Khoi lovesong-lullaby, celebrating her love for Krotoa, her adopted Khoi Khoi daughter;
- Peter van Heerden for his performance Die Uitlander, the African and the Vrouw, which looks at the patriotism, dedication and resolve of African women.

Receiving special mention were Tegan Bristow for her video Chalk Vision; Bongani Joseph Khoza for his video piece On Trains with Bongani; and Kai Losgott and Anthea Moys for their video work Unsaid.

A People's Choice Award, nominations for which are being received at the venue, will be announced upon the exhibition's closing on February 20. Despite a small problem with weather last weekend, the exhibition is up-and-running and well worth the visit. A review will be published here in January.