Stephen Hobbs

Hobbs's photographs of
downtown Johannesburg

On Interesting Spaces 1997
Still from 17-min video

Dusk Till Dusk 1997
Stil from 24-hour
time lapse video

MS 1996
Video details

We Care 1996
Steel, chickenwire,
industrial plastic
180 x 330cm

Hobbs read this message
first on a billboard
as a South African
Police Services message
to the people


Stephen Hobbs
(December, 1998)

Modus operandi:

Stephen Hobbs is an artist whose urgent mission is to convey the ethos and pulsating life force of the downtown areas of his home town, the dreaded and maligned city of Johannesburg, in all its confusion and vigorous energy. Recording with his camera battles between vehicles and pedestrians, rundown buildings, the mystery of totally contradictory city signage, the artist draws on this source for his constructions, installations and video work. Hobbs is also the gallery manager of the Rembrandt van Rijn/Market Gallery, situated in the heart of the Newtown area and known for its commitment to promoting and encouraging young artists.

Artist's statement:

"I look at the city in a behaviourist kind of way. I'm not interested in the way cities work, but in the way they don't work, in the politics of space and abandonment. Modern cities are organised into grids, but within those grids, there's disorder. It's the phenomenon of the city I try to image."


Hobbs is working on a chapter for a book to be published in London next year under the editorship of John Picton and Jennifer Law. Entitled Visual Arts in Post-Apartheid South Africa, it will consider the concerns of artists and curators in this country at the end of the millennium. Hobbs will use his space for a photographic essay on Johannesburg. Also in progress is an interactive CD-Rom - a simulation of Johannesburg cut and pasted from Hobbs's collection of images, his personal mind map of the city, which will start with the invitation: "Today's performance of the city has already commenced, kindly take your place ..."

Before that:

Hobbs is known for his video work, for a wild, hand-held ride through the streets of Johannesburg to and up inside the 54-storey Ponte City, known as the "Coca-Cola tower", and site of numerous suicides. More recent studies in urban phenomena include Dusk Till Dusk, a time-lapse piece which records 24 hours of the street corner view from Hobbs's bedroom window. In another 1997 piece, On Interesting Spaces, Hobbs and curator Clive Kellner pay homage to the early video work Man Smoking a Cigar by Andy Warhol. Hobbs and Kellner, dressed in suits, engage in an intensive but inaudible conversation. The film, like Dusk till Dusk, observes the passing of time (time taken to finish the cigars) as the city enters into the twilight hours.

Next up:

In February next year, Hobbs will have his third solo exhibition in Cape Town at the Mark Coetzee Fine Art Cabinet.


Stephen Hobbs was born in Johannesburg in 1972. He graduated in 1993 with a BA (Fine Art) from the University of Witwatersrand. Currently, he is the Market Theatre Galleries Manager and also lectures part-time at the SA School of Film, Television and Dramatic Art.


1996 'Grey Area' The Workers' Library and Museum, Johannesburg.
1994 'M23 70' Market Theatre Galleries.


1998 'Documents II' Curated by Lizette Smits - Casco Project Space, 4 video projections in public spaces. Utrecht Netherlands.
1997 'Transversions' Curated by Yu Yeon Kim for the Second Johannesburg Biennale (Museum Africa).
1997 'Croisée des Artistes' Curated by Patricia Solini for the Fin de Siècle à Johannesburg Festival. Nantes, France. Collaboration with Christelle Familiari at Le Petit Breton.


Grey Area, edited and published by the French Institute of South Africa. Johannesburg, April 1996.
WASH #3: project pages entitled "What Makes This Day Different From Any Other". Edited by Brenda Atkinson, published by Chalkham Hill Press (Pty) Limited, March 1998.

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