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Cameron Platter

By Rike Sitas
The Battle of the Cinema Privé and Casino and Grill in Rorkes Drift About 2009

Cameron Platter
The Battle of the Cinema Privé and Casino and Grill in Rorkes Drift About 2009, . Pencil crayon on paper 152 x 240 cm.

Platter, linocut porn king and bling provocateur, has become known for his sometimes outrageous and seemingly controversial art of the underbelly. Harry the Crocodile’s lounge-lizard existence, in a world where consumerism has gone mad bad, will illicit the odd titter from a wine-toting Sunday painter. Black Up That White Ass II (2010) may offend a general viewing public (who possibly have no problem watching 45 minutes of ‘real’ porn), but beneath the kaleidoscopic exterior lurks a critique of, and critical engagement with, power politics in historical and contemporary culture. In his own words, he is intrigued with the following:

Drawing, Sculpture, Video, Hustler Magazine, Red Thigh-High Pleather Boots, Daily Sun (“Found By A Chicken”), The Kilimanjaro Action Sports Bar (Open 24hrs), Manuel Vazquez Montalban, Lily Rose Platter, Ceramics, Chicken Licken, Big Wet Asses III, The Battle of Rorkes Drift & Isandlwana, John Ndevasia Muafangejo, Cecil Skotnes, The Killer Transvestite Zebras From Outer Space, Dakar Taxis, Harry Lime, Sequinned Dresses, Peri-Peri, Tanning Salons, Sauna & Steam, Mel Ramos, Sports Water & Penis Combo, Enlargement, Biere la Crocodile, The Seabelle, Bunny Chow, Humidity, Palm Trees, The Big Lebowski, Gwyn Diesel, The Assassination of Shaka, BBQ Sauce, Dashiell Hammet, Politicians, Tele-Evangelists, Money, Foie Gras, Richard Quest, Casinos, Things Falling Apart, Crème Soda, Dolphins, Minibars, KwaZulu-Natal, Dance Strip 24hrs, Eternal Happiness, World Domination, 0727123082… (Platter, 2010)

 

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Although some may think that Platter spends his life trawling bars in the Point area of Durban, his work is more inspired by everyday experiences of people, power and social interaction. His socio-political and cultural commentary is not a surface level engagement with what so-and-so said on the radio the other day, but rather a complex negotiation through contemporary consumption and everyday desire. Many people writing about Platter’s work comment on a ‘post-apocalyptic’ (Sudheim, 2008) or ‘post-capitalist’ (Machen, 2008) and generally sordid fictional world that he has created. But, according to Platter ‘(r)eality is getting stranger than fiction’. His work is less about a parallel universe, but rather a critical comment on how we behave, the decisions we make, and what we prioritize in the context of neo-liberal capitalism and individualist entitlement.

Platter’s parables use popular (often filmic) techniques to tell surprisingly moral stories set in the context of the depravity of the twenty-first century. When asked what his relationship to John Muafangejo is, Platter had the following to say:
 
'I do greatly admire Muafangejo. I think he was great because he told these everyday stories, which reflected what was going on around him politically and socially, globally and locally. You could tell exactly what he thought and quite often his was a voice of an old-fashioned, upstanding gentleman. He produced very complex works, which got their messages across very simply and powerfully. Although my work revels in the perversity of everyday goings-on, I try to make my stance clear.' (Platter, 2008)

It is this that has sparked Platter’s popularity locally and globally. Although Platter keeps trying to kill his characters off, they keep reincarnating in weirder and more wonderful forms. South Africans recognize Prince Barrack Hussein from his previous incarnation, but also from our street corners, as highly gendered promises of betterness are peddled on three-toned flyers. But Platter’s stories and characters are also recognizable to foreign audiences. Fascinated by James Bond and action flicks, Platter's characters are recognizable through their archetypal villainy, and everyday humanity, alike.

In 2008, Platter set up his studio in the KZNSA gallery in Durban. He used the space to create the work and instead of an opening, threw a closing event to celebrate the end of the process of making work.

'When we had the show almost ready/ set up, with the minibar’s car soundsystem playing and its strobe light going, this security guard was having a look, and he said to his friend: “These are something like James Bond things.” It was probably the most astute, rad, and complimentary comment I’ve had on the show.' (Cameron in Sloon, 2008)

Cameron Platter’s visual style and attention to detail have thus made him a recognizable character on the contemporary artscape. Platter works across a range of media, from 2D prints and drawing, to sculpture, to video and animation: each work teasing out more nuanced and complex engagements with popular culture, current politics and the dreams and desires of human endeavour.

Unlike many other artists who prefer working in relative solitude, Platter plays nicely with other people. His long-time collaborator and friend, sound artist and musician Dean Henning, has composed most the music for his videos. Henning enjoys working with Platter as he is not precious about his practice. Platter interviewed Henning for a feature for Pythagorus TV and he had this to say:

'Firstly, I’m incredibly hyper-critical and self-doubting when I write music for myself. I find it really difficult to feel that I have finished something to my absolute best, or to a standard that I think is good enough to play to anyone. Working with you, I am freed of that worry. Secondly, you give me such weird shit to work with. I don’t think I’d ever touch a Shakira song with a barge pole – but there I am working on one for you! Also things like: “Dean, could you make a maskandi-afrobeat-death metal song?” Thirdly, you’re pretty open to the ideas I come up with, even if it seems to me that you don’t quite know what I’m on about. You’re willing to let me play. You trust me, which is really important in a collaboration'. (Henning, 2009)

He has also worked with a range of other prominent creative practitioners, such as Ashleigh McLean, the curator of Whatiftheworld/ (who represents him in Cape Town) and photographer Roger Jardine, of Disturbance Design fame.

Despite his increasing prevalence in the contemporary art world, and his notoriety for transvestite killer zebras from outer space, Platter is a gentle and humble character, whose obsession with art is equally matched by his fascination with food and the east coast of KZN. He is not fixated with the city-based soap opera of the ‘arty-farty-glitterati’. His move away from Cape Town, the professed cultural capital, to the coastal village of Shaka’s Rock in KZN, attests to this.

'Living in KZN has given me the space to return to basics, concentrate, expand, and the luxury of distance from distractions. I can also indulge myself in working eight to ten hours a day and then swim in a warm sea to unwind'. (Platter, 2008)

ARTIST’S STATEMENT

OR IS IT REALLY AN ISLAND…

Zoom on island

OR A SECRET HI-TECH FACILITY/ LAIR???

Island opens in half to reveal cut-out facility/lair

satellite dish grows out of lair and sends red circles into the sky

Zoom

Cut to series of 4 interiors

Lizard in lab coat walks through them, interiors constructed from cutouts, all have playboy pinups on the wall

Cut to SHAKIRA DANCE STRIP SCENE (chop up of la Loba soundtrack)

Suddenly dance sequence turns into TV screen with static. Clawed, gloved hand changes the channel. Cut to ad

GET THIS 3 IN 1 PENIS COMBO

ONLY R 1000 IF YOU CALL 0727123082 NOW AND WE’LL GIVE YOU THIS JUMBO SIZED LYODE CREAM ABSOLUTELY FREE

TERMS AND CONDITIONS APPLY…

BUT EVEN THOUGH EVERYTHING WAS PERFECT ON ASSTROPOLIS, THE ZEBRAS WANTED TO GIVE BACK TO THE INTERGALACTIC COMMUNITY. ON PLANET EARTH, WHERE BAD THINGS HAPPENED ALL THE TIME, SHIT WAS TOTALLY OUT OF CONTROL. THE ZEBRAS DECIDED TO SORT THINGS OUT ONCE ALL FOR ALL BY FORMING A TEAM OF…

Text scrolls downwards, white on black

Text disappears, hold black for 3 sec

KILLER TRANSVESTITE ZEBRAS FROM OUTER SPACE

Text flashes Yellow/ White

IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT

Noir sound (Third Man soundtrack) Text flickering, grainy, black and white.

Quick cuts of rain and lightning flashes

Cut to exterior view of door. It reads “Prince Barrack Hussein/ Private Investigator”

Zoom through door

Cut to interior view of run down office, crocodile (in red hat) paces up and down

I WAS WATCHING THE RAIN POUR…

cut to shot of rain

THE CLOCK TICK… /p>

shot of a clock ticking- second hand moves slower than a second


AND THE SMOKE CURL LAZILY TO THE CEILING

smoke spirals past a light, against a bare brick wall

WHEN I HEARD A KNOCK AT THE DOOR…

An excerpt from: notes on the “old fashion”
                   
WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID

‘Platter's effusive, inexhaustible artistic output veers vertiginously from the whimsical to the profound and the playful to the serious in an exploding kaleidoscope of colour, chaos and craziness’ (Sudheim, 2008).

‘Artist Cameron Platter is the undisputed king of Afro-bling’ (O’Toole, 2007).

‘I'm a solid fan of his bizarre world reality, although it's easy to see how more reactionary types might find it all a bit much. Platter, of course, while maintaining a perpetual gentleness in his madness, isn't interested in the old world from which such reactions stem. He's careering towards a new world’ (Machen, 2008).

‘Is Platter an agent provocateur with a sinister agenda or simply the kid who refuses to be duped by all the hoopla and points that the emperor is as naked as Nicole Narain? Is this guy a self-imploding Dada dodo or a hyper-prescient angel of the apocalypse? Or is he both, all, nothing of the above? Who knows. The weapons-grade conjecture-piercing shell required to get to the bottom of this conundrum remains as apocryphal as Platter's art (Sudheim, 2009)’.

CURRENTLY

Platter’s daughter, Lily Rose, was born on May 20th, so he has been focusing on creative output of another kind for the past few months. In addition he is beginning to busy himself on a major video project, ambitious in scope and length, to be screened in real life locations (bars, cinemas, strip clubs, the bush, and the internet) around the world. The content includes a full-length film-noir; dance montages; live performance; and a contemporary take on the assassination of uShaka. Currently, he has his work on show at Brot Kunsthalle in Vienna – in addition to video and drawings, he has a huge aluminium sculpture of a rocket attached to the exterior of gallery. He has also been collecting mussels over the past weekend.

BEFORE THAT

In 2010 he has eaten in restaurants in New York, Toulouse, Paris, Dakar, Cape Town, and Vienna – where he has also been exhibiting work. He had his first solo show in 4 years, ‘Hard Times, Great Expectations’ in Cape Town at Whatiftheworld/ Gallery in June 2010. He has also built a house, and got married the year before.

AND BEFORE THAT

‘Cleaning restaurant floors at 3am and having knife-fights with my room-mate, Vuyisa Nyamende’ (Platter, 2010).

NEXT UP

His work will be on show at MoMA (Museum of Modern Art, New York) in 2011. He is also showing at art fairs in Miami, New York, and Madrid next year. Solo shows in Joburg, Miami, and Vienna in 2011 should keep him busy. He is about to take two weeks off to relax and write a detective story, but will also concentrate on eating, swimming, and reading, and most importantly, his biggest and most important project to date with his wife Gwyneth: his daughter, Lily Rose.

AND AFTER THAT

‘Total World Domination, and being Fat and Famous by Fifty’ (Platter, 2010).

BRIEF CV

Born Johannesburg 1978, Platter now lives and works in Shaka’s Rock, KwaZulu- Natal.

Education
2001 BAFA, Michaelis, Cape Town

Selected solo exhibitions


2010
‘Hard Times, Great Expectations’, Whatiftheworld/ Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
‘The Old Fashion’, Volta NY, New York, USA
‘I Am Lonelyness’, Hilger Contemporary, Vienna, Austria

2009
‘Black Up That White Ass II’, YOUNGBLACKMAN, Cape Town, South Africa

2008
‘Studio’, KNSA Gallery, Durban, South Africa
‘3 Stories’, KZNSA Gallery, Durban, South Africa
‘Too Much of Anything is Very Dangerous’, Hilger Contemporary, Vienna, Austria

2006
‘Party Time’, Blank Projects, Cape Town, South Africa
‘Beware the Curves’, Labia Cinema, Cape Town, South Africa

2005
‘Life Is Very Interesting’, Bell- Roberts Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

2004
‘Storm’, NSA Gallery, Durban, KwaZulu- Natal, South Africa
‘The Love is Approaching’, Joao Ferreira Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

Selected group exhibitions

2010
‘Coca- Colonized’, Brot Kunsthalle, Vienna, Austria
‘Contemporary Artists from South Africa’, BEK, Norway
‘Dak’Art 2010’, Biennial of Contemporary African Art, Dakar, Senegal
‘Twenty, 20 Years of South African Sculpture’, Nirox Foundation, Gauteng
‘1910 - 2010: From Pierneef to Gugulective’, South African National Gallery
‘The Spirit is Not the Idea, Says the Penguin’, CO-OP, Johannesburg
‘Pulse NY’, Hilger Contemporary, New York
‘Spier Contemporary’, Travelling, South Africa

2009
‘Clair/ Obscur Film Festival’, Basel, Switzerland
‘Manifesto’, CO-OP, Johannesburg, South Africa
‘Word Up!’, AVA Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
‘Volta 05’, Basel, Whatiftheworld/ Gallery
‘Sing Into My Mouth’, Whatiftheworld/ Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
‘Johannesburg Art Fair’, KZNSA Gallery, South Africa

2008
‘On a Clear Day You Can See Forever’, Hilger Contemporary, Vienna, Austria
‘Art 39 Basel’, Hilger Contemporary
‘Prints & Editions 08’, Whatiftheworld/ Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
‘Viennafair’, Galerie Ernst Hilger, Vienna, Austria

2007
‘Love’, South Beach Emporium, Miami, USA
‘Art Cologne’, Hilger Contemorary, Cologne, Germany

2006
‘Analog- Digital-Fractal’, Galerie Ernst Hilger, PULSE, Miami, USA
‘06’, Bell- Roberts Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
‘Tour, a slice of life’, Hilger Contemporary, Vienna, Austria
‘Rotterdam International Film Festival’, Rotterdam, Holland
‘About Face’, Klein Karoo National Art Festival, South Africa
‘20 Artists>10 Years’, Bell- Roberts Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

2005 
‘KO Video/ 1st Durban Video Festival’, Durban Art Gallery, Durban, South Africa
‘Shots New Directors Showcase’, London, England and Cannes, France
‘2nd Black and White Poster Project’, Dirt Contemporary Art Space, Cape Town
‘Printtttt’, AVA gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
‘In Motion’, Franchise, Johannesburg, South Africa

2004
‘Negotiate; Conciliation’ Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
‘Brett Kebble Art Awards’, Cape Town, South Africa
‘In Motion’, Erdmann Contemporary, Cape Town, South Africa
’Saatchi and Saatchi New Directors Showcase’, Cannes Lions Festival, France
’Contra Mundi’, AVA gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
‘Exchange views on...’, Espace Croix- Baragon, Toulouse, France
’ABSA Atelier’, ABSA Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

2003
‘Picnic’, Bell- Roberts, Cape Town, South Africa
’Art as Usual’, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
’Galerie Puta’, 2a Dysart Road, Cape Town, South Africa

2001
‘YDETAG’, South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
’Stolen Painting’, Art Night Out, Cape Town, South Africa

2000
‘Returning the Gaze’, One City, Many Cultures, Cape Town, South Africa
’Emergency’, Bell- Roberts Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

Filmography

The Old Fashion, 2010
Black Up That White Ass II, 2009
Dr Bombaka Presents…, 2009
Color Blind (Vivid Raw) Vol 2, 2008
The Stripper and the Zebras; Mr Muafangejo and the Lion; and the Crocodile and God (Also known as 3 Stories), 2008
How the Crocodile Got his Shoes and Other Collected Stories
, 2007
Beware the Curves, 2006
My BM is Bigger Than Yours (Also known as When Days Are Dark Friends Are Few), 2005
Strangers in the Dark and Stormy Night, 2004
Vexation Island, 2004
Jealous is the Freedom of Fools, 2004
The Love is Approaching, 2004
The Attack of the Killer Zebras from Outer Space, 2004