Decoy: Incorporated (detail)
VAR Inc. logo

Decoy: Incorporated 1997
Lightbox with logo

Corine C Minnie (51)

Dr Tamlin Ameer (45)

Tim Irvine (29)


(February, 1998)

Modus operandi:

Minnette Vári is an artist who plays with the world as we know it, waging a cool intellectual war on aspects of contemporary society which we take for granted, and turning them inside out. By simulating familiar structures and situations, then contextualising her simulations (or 'decoys') in 'every day' ways, she forces us to call into question our own attitudes and responses.

Artist's statement:

"I am interested in exposing strategies of representation by which systematic misreadings and fragmentations of identities occur. Not wishing to create new myths of homogeneity, I display slippages between truth and error in our dealings in and with culture."

Most recent project:

Decoy: Incorporated

As part of 'Taking Stock', a group show held on the trading floor of the old Johannesburg Stock Exchange in December 1997, Vári launched a new company, VAR Incorporated. Two identical lightboxes with the bright yellow and black VAR Inc. logo were displayed on granite plinths, and VAR Inc. prospectus folders placed in the stockbrokers booths. Each folder contained a 'mission statement', a list of underwriters and sponsors, and short notes and pix of the 'board of directors', (Vári, in a variety of guises) plus a business-speak version of her art practice, construed as the usual information given to entice members of the public to invest money in a company.

In fact, the company's products were Vári's own artistic projects. 'By presenting this new company', says Vári, 'I have created a parallel between the sphere in which business and commerce operate, and that within which art is said to function, simultaneously examining the vast differences in their position, function and significance perceived purpose in the world. At the centre of this analogy, lie some fundamental questions about value and cultural currency.'

Vári aimed to re-inscribe the iconograpies of corporate business and global economy with the familiar vernacular of autobiography. 'In VAR Inc., I am re-configured as a 'virtual' corporeality and able to function beyond the confines of my physical and gender-inscribed body.'

Advertising material for
Decoy: Perfume

At the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale:

Decoy: Perfume

Vári was part of the Yu Yeon Kim-curated show, 'Transversions', in the MuseumAfrica. Visitors to her installation found themselves at an elegant perfume counter complete with advertising material about a new perfume called Faith - subverting the idiom of 'a 'First World' commodity in a 'Third World' context', says Vári. 'For all the slick Western aesthetics employed in its presentation, Faith was created with ingredients that have no place in Western perfume making, including processed snake venom, cannabis and a variety of skin tinctures. It has been described as a fashion item, 'the stuff of exotic spirituality sanitised and bottled for sale.' Decoy: Perfume makes reference to the question of art as a consumable commodity, at the same time commenting on colonialist fantasies about all things 'exotic'.

Souvenir 1996
A series of identical colour laser-printed
stickers placed randomly on a wall.
Here, Vári critiqued hegemonic
cultural and economic relations - evident in
the mass production of 'traditional'
wooden carvings for the tourist trade
by digitally grafting her body onto
one such figure.



Minnette Vári lives and works in Pretoria and Johannesburg

Selected Exhibitions

'Taking Stock' - Johannesburg Stock Exchange
'Transversions' - 2nd Johannesburg Biennale, MuseumAfrica
'Purity and Danger' - Getrude Posel Gallery, University of Witwatersrand

'Hitch-Hiker' - Generator Art Space, Africus Institute of Contemporary Art, Johannesburg'
'Colours' - Haus der Kulturen Welt, Berlin
'Groundswell: An Exhibition of Contemporary South African Art' - Mermaid Theatre, London

'The Laager' - 1st Johannesburg Biennale Fringe, Newtown precinct
'Primavera en Chile' - Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Santiago, Chile

'FNB Vita Art Now Award Exhibition' - Johannesburg Art Gallery

Minnette Vári's e-mail address is

...ZA@PLAY   MWeb

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