Archive: Issue No. 110, October 2006

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Ruth Sacks

Ruth Sacks

Ruth Sacks

Stuffed pigeon, 2005
Taxidermied pigeon

Ruth Sacks

Onesizefitsall 2005
Found objects, superglue

Ruth Sacks

Consolation Trophies, 2004
Engraved found objects

Ruth Sacks

Consolation Trophies (det) 2004

Ruth Sacks

High Tea at the Plaza 2006

Ruth Sacks

High Tea at the Plaza (det)

Ruth Sacks

You can't have your cake and eat it too, 2004
Found objects, scented wax and resin

Ruth Sacks

Don't Panic 2005
Photographic documentation of skywrite

Ruth Sacks

Don't Panic 2005
Photographic documentation of skywrite

Ruth Sacks

Dance dance revolution 2005
Video arcade machine
Installation at Joao Ferreira Gallery

Ruth Sacks

We are relying on your support, 2004
Cleaning materials
Installation at Johannesburg Art Gallery

Ruth Sacks
by Sue Williamson (October, 2006)


Ruth Sacks is the eye of the camera that sweeps over her immediate environment, picking up details and making small modifications and interventions to bring about a slight change in the consciousness of those who register the alteration as it blips across their radar.

Such an intervention might have an absurd side to it. Says actress Tatu, 'Most people know the number of a good dentist. Ruth knows the number of a good taxidermist.'� Sacks' overly stuffed pigeons became the Pamela Andersons of the avian world, a pouting surprise to those who spotted them in odd spots around Cape Town.

In� onesizefitsall, the tops of plastic sandals were separated from their soles, and superglued to the ground in public places in different cities, humble monuments to daily human traffic � or perhaps an invitation to slip one�s feet into a pair, and anchor oneself to that particular piece of earth.

Often playful and witty, sometimes acerbic, Sacks' projects have, on occasion, also demonstrated a gentleness of spirit and a concern for her fellow human beings.� Her piece for the Brett Kebble Awards 2004, was an array of small silver cup trophies, one for each participant. Each was engraved with a message, such as I LIKED YOURS BEST or DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY. After the awards show, these were sent out to participating artists. The name of the piece was Consolation Trophies.

On Heritage Day in September this year, Sacks invited passers by to High Tea at the Plaza � the plaza in question being a public space near the city centre. A large cake with a map of the world was the centerpiece, and members of the audience could nominate which country they would like to have as their piece of cake.

High Tea harked back in form if not in spirit to one of Sacks� earlier pieces from a previous body of work. For You can�t have your cake and eat it too (2003), the artist coated found objects in scented wax and resin, rendering them inedible as she transformed them into exquisite small decorative objects.� It should be noted that language and wordplay are important elements in Sacks� output.


'Essentially I just try to make people look a little harder at their surroundings � I like to insert idiosyncrasies or unusual things in day to day life. That's a statement you hear a lot in contemporary art but when you come from a specific experience of living in Cape Town, you bring a particular perspective into the genre - making interventions, using found objects, not having a medium.

'All my recent works have been ephemeral, but after this body of work I'll go off and make something completely different. The themes always remain the same.

'It's the context that's important.'


Sacks was recently announced as the ABSA Atelier winner for 2006 - one of� the art calendar's most desirable awards for young artists, carrying with it an air ticket to Paris, accommodation at the Cité des Artes for six months, and enough money to live and work during that time.

The prize was awarded for Sacks' documentation of one of her most ambitious and memorable projects - a skywrite which took place on Human Rights Day in 2005.� In letters that were two kilometers long, a pilot wrote DOnT PAniC across the sky above Cape Town, a message that could be read all the way out to the northern suburbs.

Sacks had not instructed the pilot on the matter of typeface, and when the letters came out in a mixture of upper and lower case, the message seemed to take on the character of a holdup note as much as one of those placebo reassurances issued by governments in movies in which the world is under attack by aliens.

The DOnT blew away quite quickly but PAniC hung in the air quite a long time, allowing Sacks and her martini-sipping guests to enjoy its artistry at length, while the general sky-gazing populace wondered a tad anxiously what it all meant.


At the opening of her solo show 'When the Inside Stays Inside' at the João Ferreira Gallery in Cape Town last year, Sacks installed an arcade game entitled Dance Dance Revolution for visitors in which one had to stand on a platform of the Japanese made machinery and follow rapid dance steps shown on a screen to score - a nod to the global language of dance culture.� Of the show in general, which also marshalled documentation of several Sacks' projects into a gallery setting, ArtThrob reviewer Linda Stupart said� '(it) prods tentatively at the boundaries of the personal, public, political and the mundane.'


For a show entitled 'Negotiate' at the Johannesburg Art Gallery in 2004, Sacks set out a bucket and cleaning materials, with a printed notice inviting gallery goers to 'Please assist with cleaning using the materials and equipment provided. We are relying on your support. Thank you'.


'In the next month I'm doing a monument out of concrete - just off the Grand Parade ... a monument to (Cape Town activist) Cissie Gool commissioned by the Sunday Times 100 Years of Stories project.� It will be a series of� 24 different sized bollards, and incised into each one will be an action taken by Cissie Gool, like getting a payrise for dentists. Little changes.� The bollards will be like stepping stones for kids to walk on, or seats. Cissie Gool was extremely practical.'

Along with artists Kendell Geers, Robin Rhode, and Gauteng performer Johan Thom, Sacks has been invited to participate in the 1st Biennale of Architecture and Landscape of the Canary Islands which opens on November 27 under the curatorship of Antonio Zaya.� The event will take place at Tenerife, and Sacks has been allocated Los Lavaderos, the Old Washouse, as a venue. Her brief was to make a site specific work in the space.

Unable to find out much about the history of the building, Sacks decided that the site specificity was the whole group of islands, and planned a piece that will take� on the politics of the whole area.� Zaya's curatorial essay talks of the enormous amounts of immigrants from Africa that pour into the area en route to Europe and are deported back again after being kept in inhumane conditions.

Sacks decided to focus on their plight and increase the discomfort level of residents in the area by attaching very powerful naval issue search lights with an automatic pan on to Los Lavaderos so that the immediate area will be under surveillance at nighttime and visible from far away.

And then... April in Paris. Learning how to tango.� Embarking on a classically doomed love affair.


Born in Port Elizabeth in 1977, lives and works in Cape Town.



1st Architecture, Art and Landscape Biennial of the Canaries, Los Lavaderos, Tenerife: Group show.
The Cape Town Biennale 2006 at blank projects, blank projects, Cape Town: group show.
inHERITAGE, University of Cape Town, group show� (cat).
Liste 06: The young art fair in Basel, group show with João Ferreira Fine Art (cat).
ABSA L'Atellier Exhibition, Bellville Arts Centre, Cape Town,ABSA Gallery, Johannesburg: group show (cat).

Absolut Finale, AVA, Cape Town: group show.
International Film Screening, Senator Park, Cape Town: public intervention
Black and White Poster Project, Dirt Contemporary Art Space, Cape Town: group show (cat).
When the Inside Stays Inside, João Ferreira Fine Art, Cape Town: solo show (cat).
Printtttt, AVA, Cape Town: group show.
Don't Panic, Cape Town: public intervention: skywrite.

Brett Kebble Art Awards exhibition, Convention Centre
Cape Town: group show�(cat).
A Winner in Hawaii II, Collaboration with Asha Zero, Outlet Gallery, Pretoria: group show.
Absolut Moment, AVA, Cape Town: group show.
Negotiate, Johannesburg Art Gallery: group show.

Works in Wax & Plastic, João Ferreira Fine Art, Cape Town: solo show.
SASOL Wax in Art competition exhibition, WAM festival, Sasolburg: group show (cat).

Confectionary, Columbia Road flower market (Marcos & Trump), London: public intervention.

ABSA L'Atellier Exhibition, Bellville Arts Centre, Cape Town, ABSA Gallery, Johannesburg: group show (cat).


Three month residency at the iaab international exchange program, Basel. Sponsored by Pro Helvetia.

Six month residency at the Cit� Internationale des Arts, Paris. Sponsored by the Absa L'Atelier competition.


Cape Town Co-ordinator for the Trienal de Luanda, Angola

2004 - 2005
Part time lecturer at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town and at the Ruth Prowse School of Fine Art.

2003 - 2004
Project Administrator for Iziko Museums of Cape Town's Democracy X exhibition at the Castle of Good Hope.


Currently enrolled in the Masters in Fine Art program at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, SA.


Sindika Dokolo African Collection of Contemporary Art Pierre Lombard Collection of Contemporary South African Art Johannesburg Art Gallery


Sanell Aggenbach
(Sept 2005)

Alan Alborough
(July 2000)

Jane Alexander
(July 1999)

Siemon Allen
(June 2001)

Bridget Baker
(March 2006)

Willie Bester
(Aug 1999)

Ralph Borland
(Jan 2006)

Willem Boshoff
(Aug 2001)

Conrad Botes
(Dec 2001)

Andries Botha
(April 2000)

Wim Botha
(April 2003)

Kevin Brand
(June 1998)

Candice Breitz
(Oct 1998)

Lisa Brice
(Jan 1999)

Jean Brundrit
(March 2004)

Angela Buckland
(Mar 2003)

Pitso Chinzima
(Oct 2001)

Marco Cianfanelli
(Aug 2002)

Julia Rosa Clark
(July 2005)

Peter Clarke
(Sept 2003)

Steven Cohen
(May 1998)

Keith Deitrich
(July 2004)

Paul Edmunds
(Feb 2004)

Leora Farber
(May 2002)

Bronwen Findlay
(April 2002)

Bronwen Findlay
(Sept 2006)

Tracy Lindner Gander
(April 2004)

Kendell Geers
(June 2002)

Linda Givon
(Dec 1999)

David Goldblatt
(Dec 2002)

Thembinkosi Goniwe
(Oct 2002)

Frances Goodman
(Aug 2006)

Brad Hammond
(Jan 2001)

Randolph Hartzenberg
(Aug 1998)

Kay Hassan
(Oct 2000)

Matthew Hindley
(Sept 2004)

Nicholas Hlobo
(June 2006)

Stephen Hobbs
(Dec 1998)

Robert Hodgins
(June 2000)

Pieter Hugo
(April 2006)

William Kentridge
(May 1999)

Isaac Khanyile
(Nov 2001)

David Koloane
(July 2003)

Dorothee Kreutzfeld
(Jan 2000)

Terry Kurgan
(Aug 2000)

Moshekwa Langa
(Feb 1999)

Chris Ledochowski
(June 2003)

Kim Lieberman
(May 2003)

Mandla Mabila
(Aug 2001)

Churchill Madikida
(May 2004)

Veronique Malherbe
(June 1999)

Mustafa Maluka
(July 1998)

Thando Mama
(June 2004)

Senzeni Marasela
(Feb 2000)

Colbert Mashile
(May 2006)

Brent Meistre
(May 2005)

Santu Mofokeng
(July 2002)

Zwelethu Mthethwa
(April 1999)

Samson Mudzunga
(Oct 2004)

Thomas Mulcaire
(April 2001)

Brett Murray
(Sept 1998)

Hylton Nel
(Feb 2002)

Sam Nhlengethwa
(Oct 2003)

Walter Oltmann
(July 2001)

Jay Pather
(Dec 2004)

Malcolm Payne
(Nov 2002)

Tracy Payne
(March 1998)

Peet Pienaar
(Dec 2000)

Jo Ractliffe
(Mar 1999)

Robin Rhode
(Nov 1999)

Colin Richards
(Aug 2003)

Tracey Rose
(March 2001)

Claudette Schreuders
(Sept 2000)

Berni Searle
(May 2000)

Berni Searle
(Jan 2003)

Usha Seejarim
(May 2001)

Penny Siopis
(Sept 1999)

Cecil Skotnes
(July 2006)

Kathryn Smith
(Dec 2003)

Dave Southwood
(March 2002)

Doreen Southwood
(Sept 2002)

Nathaniel Stern
(Feb 20006)

Greg Streak
(Feb 2001)

Guy Tillim
(Jan 2005)

Clive van den Berg
(Nov 1998)

Hentie van der Merwe
(Mar 2000)

Strijdom van der Merwe
(Jan 2002)

Storm Janse van Rensburg
(June 2005)

Minnette Vári
(Feb 1998)

Diane Victor
(Feb 2003)

Vuyile Voyiya
(Aug 2005)

Jeremy Wafer
(Nov 2000)

James Webb
(Aug 2004)

Sue Williamson
(Nov 2003)

Ed Young
(Nov 2005)