28.11.00 Save the Johannesburg Biennale/Sao Paulo and the Africans|
21.11.00 No room at the SANG for Steve McQueen
21.11.00 Mudzunga in new "performance"
14.11.00 Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner announced
14.11.00 Jose Ferreira to Buenos Aires for another R.A.I.N. project
07.11.00 Turner prize finalists announced in London
01.11.00 Thupelo 2000
24.10.00 Arlene Amaler-Raviv and Dale Yudelman win prize in Commonwealth Photographic Awards
24.10.00 Jeff Chandler 1947-2000
24.10.00 The 34th AICA Conference in London
17.10.00 Winners of 'New Signatures' announced
17.10.00 Willem Boshoff wins Aartvark Award
17.10.00 S A Crafters for Ougadougou
10.10.00 Artist battles failed gallery for payment due.
03.10.00 UBS Art Award 2000 national winners announced at Camouflage.
03.10.00 Paris Conference on the State of Visual Arts in Africa and the Diaspora.
03.10.00 Student work gets a first internet showing in 'New on the Block'.
Okwui Enwezor at the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale
The Electric Workshop
where the flagship show Alternating Currents was held.
Photo : Ronnie Levetan
Shown on 'Alternating Currents' in the Electric Workshop
The Electric Workshop
where the flagship show Alternating Currents was held.
Photo : Ronnie Levetan
Shown on 'Alternating Currents' in the Electric Workshop
Save the Johannesburg Biennale/Sao Paulo and the Africans|
- an opinion piece by Rasheed Araeen
These two campaigns were launched some time ago, and I don't really know what has been their outcome. I was unable to respond to these campaigns and express my support at the time because I felt that although these campaigns were well-intended, they were misconceived and misguided. They showed no critical understanding of what actually was and is at stake in terms of the issues, and ended up making appeals to liberalism of the power-to-be, whether in the West or South Africa. The aim of my intervention now, which deals with both the appeals together, is to highlight the actual issues underlying both the appeals and their interconnectedness: 1) to show that the closing down of the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale, despite its supposed "personal politics and hidden agendas", was not entirely without justified reasons; 2) and to argue, as a response to Olu Oguibe, that the mere representation of African artists by Africans themselves does not necessarily represent a radical position. White faces can easily be replaced with black, brown or yellow faces in order to serve and reinforce the institutional structures of the prevailing system.
I speak here as who was somewhat involved in both the Biennales from the very beginning: 1) as an advisor to the first; and 2) as a member of the Biennale Committee which was responsible for the appointment of Okwui Enwezor as the artistic Director of the 2nd. I've also been conducting, for more then 20 years, a campaign for the representation and recognition of artists from Third World as part of the mainstream discourse and history of 20th century art. I'm therefore well aware of the issues and I sympathise with the spirit behind both the appeals. However, the issues underlying these appeals are too complex to be left to the self-serving sentiments and wishful thinking of those who waste no time in presenting themselves as the true supporters and representatives of the interest of 'other' artists.
What exactly is the issue here? Is it just about the re-statement of the Biennale or is there something important which is to do with the nature of the Biennale? Shouldn't we first ask why should there be a biennale, and of an international nature, in South Africa? This is the question which I in fact asked the organisers of the Biennale in 1992 when I was first approached for an advice. But, even with the two biennales in Johannesburg, this question has not been answered satisfactorily. It has not been answered because it could not have been answered without a profound concern and understanding of the specificity of South Africa, both in terms of its specific history and its prevailing socio-economic conditions and its aspirations for the future based on human equality. The importance of this question today lies not only for South Africa but for humanity at large, and this question should not be covered up by praising the success of the Biennale with exaggerated claims:
The fascination and enthusiasm now of "the international art community" - which really is the art establishment of Western Europe and North America, with its liberal but eurocentric perceptions and charitable agendas, is understandable. The Biennale has perhaps "changed the lives and careers of so many South African artists, both black and white", but my own contact with many people in South Africa - artists, art historians, cultural workers - gives me an entirely different picture.
There is no doubt that both the Biennals were well organised, managed and were of international standards, and they had indeed achieved exactly what other biennals around the world do and achieve. In this respect, the Johannesburg Biennale represents a successful achievement. But is it right to assess the success of Johannesburg on the basis of what other biennals do, and without any consideration of the specific historical conditions of South Africa and its post-apartheid needs? The purpose of a biennale anywhere in the world is first to address the needs of its own local or national constituency, its own art community, and if this constituency is not taken into consideration whatever one does will fail. This was particularly essential in the case of South Africa. But most of the work presented in both the Biennales, given the deprivation the black population suffered during apartheid, could not and did not address its own needs. As for the international art community there, it was so small that it could neither justify the kind of biennales we had nor their continuation. However, there was no public interest or enthusiasm for the 2nd Biennale, and one should not be surprised if the 2nd Biennale was closed down before the scheduled date. I'm not saying that this action of the Johannesburg Council was right and should be condoned, but it's important to see the nature of the specific problems public institutions faced in post-apartheid South Africa and the priorities they had to attend to. We cannot and should not therefore judge Johannesburg Biennale or assess its achievement only on the basis of what "the international art community" desires and wants. Art community in the West is now fascinated with art from South Africa, but we should not forget that it is the same community which showed little concern about apartheid and seldom raised its voice against racism within its own ranks and institutions. This is not meant to be a reproach to make the international art community feel guilty, but I wonder what lesson it has learnt from the struggle in South Africa.
Given the specific historical condition of South Africa, a country which had emerged not very long ago out of a long struggle against the most brutal form of white racism, and which is still struggling against its persistent legacies, how could we justify any biennale there on the basis on which other biennials such as Venice, Sao Paulo, and Kwangju are organised and justified? The perception behind both the Biennials was that its immediate priority after the end of apartheid was to open itself up to the world, so that it could have a dialogue with "the international community". But how could there have been a dialogue if the voice of the host community was over-ruled or suppressed on the basis that this voice belonged to the past and that even its echo was no longer necessary?
South Africa, with its struggle and achievement against the tyranny of white supremacist ideology, had something historically very special to offer to the world; so that the world could learn from its achievement. When Mr Enwezor was appointed it was hoped that he as an African would understand this and would pay special attention to South Africa's achievements, and would provide a platform for South Africa to have a dialogue with "the international art community" on this basis. But what he actually presented turned out to be the opposite. Instead of bringing "the international art community" to South Africa so that it could listen to what South Africa had to say and offer, Enwezor presumed that it was South Africa which needed to listen to the West. It was South Africa which needed to learn from what was going on around the world. It was also this presumption which brought "the international art community" to Johannesburg, particularly during the 1st Biennale when curators from western world arrived there to help "ignorant" South Africans know what was happening outside their country. The paternalism of white/European curators during the first Biennale was appallingly abundant everywhere [during the 3rd Kwangju Biennale in 1997, the participating European curators openly said that they were there so that Koreans could learn something from them] - and the way Enwezor treated South Africans was not much different.
Enwezor's own curated show, along with other shows particularly in Johannesburg, were the kind of shows which could have taken place anywhere in the world. What was the point of gathering all those artists in Johannesburg most of whom were already being shown around the world through international exhibitions and biennales? Instead of developing and asserting its unique identity, different from other biennials, formed by the dynamic of its own historical conditions, Johannesburg Biennale ended up mimicking what was happening in other parts of the western world. The Johannesburg Biennale, in my view, was a failure. It was a case of a missed opportunity for which South Africa had to pay a heavy price, in terms of its intellectual energy, efforts and economic resources which could have been used for much more useful purposes.
The issue is not whether we should have a biennale in South Africa or not, but what kind of biennale it should be. In fact I would support the idea of a biennale in South Africa, even the re-statement of the Johannesburg Biennale, but only if it can define its own terms which are linked with the dynamic of the historical struggle it waged and is still waging. This struggle was not just against white bigotry but also against an unjust system whose extreme brutality was although directed against blacks in South Africa, its ideology is part of what has now become global system. What is more important here to recognise that this struggle does not end, or that one should withdraw from it, when white faces are replaced with black faces. This brings me to the issue which Olu Oguibe has raised in his assertion that only Africans should represent Africa.
Sao Paulo & the Africans
Although Olu Oguibe's appeal specifically concerns Sao Paulo Bienal, the issue he has raised is of wider historical importance. The question of representation is not a recent issue; it goes back to the colonial times when the colonised was deprived of self-representation; it was only the coloniser then who could define and represent the colonial subject. The demand for self-representation is now based on a recognition that colonialism has ended, and those who were once colonial subjects are now independent citizens of the world. They should therefore represent themselves; Africa should therefore represent itself through its own people. In this respect I fully support Oguibe's appeal.
However the issue is not just about who represent who but how one is represented. If the nature of African, Asian or Latin American representation today is not much different from the way they were - or would have been - represented by the colonial discourse, what difference does it make who represents who? This is in fact the real issue today, and Oguibe does not take into consideration the context and framework within which Africa is seen and represented today by the dominant institutions in their international exhibitions and biennales.
Oguibe does not tell us what is wrong with the representation of African artists by non-Africans, and how he intends to correct the situation. Instead he indulges in the fantasy of his own and his friends self-importance based on what they all together have recently achieved. The examples he gives of their achievements are so disturbing that one would be inclined to consider them, on this basis, no more than the achievements of neocolonial functionaries. However, I know Olu well and I am also aware of his commitment to the continuing struggle of Africa against neocolonial forces; it would therefore be unfair to call him a neocolonial functionary. What has happened is probably due to his not thinking hard enough and allowing himself to slip into a state of naivety which blocks one's critical faculty. It's sad that a person of Oguibe intelligence, who possesses considerable critical grasp of things, should end up not only looking at the prevailing situation sentimentally and superficially but also self-aggrandising himself and his friends:
How childish and, at the same time, pompous! What has got into your head Olu? Sycophancy should be a private affair, so that one can avoid public humiliation. How could you use words such as "unarguably" and "undoubtedly"? Well, I'm going to argue against and doubt what you have said. Your story about the appointment of Enwezor as artistic director of Documenta X1 is not only factually untrue but total humbug; it betrays not only your naivety but also a total lack of understanding of what lead him on the path to Documenta. Without his job as artistic director of Johannesburg Biennale and what he did with it, Enwezor would have never (I repeat, never) reached the Documenta; and that may also explain the failure of the 2nd Biennale.
Who was mainly responsible for his appointment as artistic director of Johannesburg and with what expectation is a story I must tell some other time. What I find necessary to say now is that it's my personal disappointment that Mr Enwezor did not fulfil the responsibility which was given to him as an African to represent the true aspirations of South Africa - if not of Africa as a whole - at that particular historical moment. Enwezor's failure cannot be attributed to his lack of competence as a curator but his own aspirations and personal ambitions. It seems he was not concerned much with how the Biennale would be taken or received by its main audience (which could not be other than South Africans themselves) but the West. He knew very well what his next move would be, his next field of operation after the Biennale. After Johannesburg, there was nothing more South Africa - or Africa - could offer him. Realising that his future was in the West, he had but to address the West or the so-called "international art community". It was a golden opportunity for him to use the Biennale as a launching paid to secure his future career in the West. One should therefore not be surprised that "the international community" was very pleased with his performance. He proved himself to be a good boy, the prize of which was indeed the Documenta X1.
There is nothing wrong for an African or Asian being successful in the West, and one should not hesitate to celebrate it. But a successful career alone cannot be the measure of one's achievement, particularly when one claims to be involved in a radical struggle, to change things so that we may achieved a more equal and humane society. It would be stupid to speculate what Enwezor is going to do with Documenta X1, but if one can judge from what one has so far seen than the signs are not very good.
However, the situation Enwezor faces today is not of his making, and it would take a great courage on his part to deal with it in a radical manner. The situation today is no longer the same as it was some ten or so years ago. Before the "Magiciens de la terre" exhibition in Paris in 1989, there was hardly any African or Asian artist seen around in international exhibitions or Biennales. It would perhaps be news to Olu Oguibe that it was not African curators who introduced African artists to the international art circuit, where some of them are now well recognised, but the European curators such as Jean Hubert Martin, Andre Magnin and Mark Fisher.
The issue today is not that African or Asian artists are not being represented in international exhibitions or biennales, or who represent them, but what kind of work from Africa or Asia is being institutionally promoted and legitimised by and in the West. This is the question neither Oguibi nor Enwezor ask, because to ask this question would be to put themselves on the line, in confrontation with the system from which they seek employment. If the issue is only of employment, that is, if there are competent African curators around who cannot find employment because of racism, why does Oguibe not say so. I would in fact fully support him in this respect, without any hesitation or argument. But, instead, he is going around the bush to say how marvellous it would be if European and African curators could collaborate together; and the examples he puts forward of such a collaboration do nothing but totally discredit his position.
Oguibe cites, besides the Johanneburg Biennale, "Cities on the Move" as a successful example of a collaboration between a European curator (Hans Ulrich Obrist) and a non-European curator (Hou Hanru). This 'mega-exhibit' (Oguibe's phrase) travelled worldwide to about a dozen venues and was extremely popular with white/European audiences. It was a sort of 'Oriental' spectacle in which Asian cities were presented as a phenomenon of postmodernity, an exotica in which individual voices (including of artists) were submerged in its unending communal chaos. It was an example of neo-Primitivism or neo-Orientalism which is today the hallmark of the work of many African and Asian artists promoted by the West, but the 'Orientalism of 'Cities of the Move' was so explicit in defining the 'other', almost to the point of being a manifestation of racism, that it was denounced even by many Europeans. Here is what Richard Hylton says:
But Oguibe is full of praise for Hou Hanru, co-curator of this 'mega-exhibit':
Sorry, Olu, Hou Hanru was never a member of the board of Third Text. He did contribute, like yourself, to the journal. He is a perceptive writer on Chinese art, and there was a time when I felt he needed to be encouraged and supported. But now as a curator he does whatever is available without much consideration for ideological issues or commitment to what we at Third Text stand for. As a Chinese immigrant in France he faces the problem of survival, to which I sympathise. After all he has to earn his living, to support his family in Paris. But should this prevent us, just because he is not a white curator, from looking critically at what he practices. His contribution to the Johannesburg Biennale was the worst of the whole Biennale. It was the most stupid show I had ever seen, a silly joke, a mini version of what subsequently became "Cities on the Move".
The issue today is not just of representation, of the lack of presence and visibility of African or Asian artists, but about the nature of their presence and visibility within the western institutional structures. These structures still carry colonial ideas about 'others', which cannot therefore recognise the fact that we have contributed - and are contributing - to the mainstream of 20th century art not as Africans or Asians with cultural identity tags around our necks but as modernists who, by being liberated from colonialism and becoming subjects of history, have thus redefined modernism beyond its eurocentric framework. Instead of recognising this historical change, the dominant ideas are still persistent in their colonial view of 'others', which have now been given benevolent framework of multiculturalism so that 'others' could be accommodated as artists in such a way that these structures are not questioned or challenged by them.
What do African or Asian (for that matter Latin American) curators do when they are allowed into this dominant system with its colonial institutional structures still intact? Do they challenge or reinforce them? We must ask these questions because without asking these question we would fall into the kind of anti-establishment rhetorics whose only purpose is to gain an entry into the system without a new vision and radical agenda to change it.
I believe the questions I have raised are of historical importance, not only for Third World artists but for the future of art, how it is institutionally (re)presented and legitimised, and they should be publicly debated. It is hoped that you would respond to this intervention and help push the debate beyond the self-interest of some individuals.
- Rasheed Araeen is a practising artist and the founding editor of Third Text, the journal of third world perspectives on contemporary art and culture, published in Britain
No room at the SANG for Steve McQueen|
by Sue Williamson
One would imagine when a curator came knocking on the door of the SA National Gallery with the offer of an exhibition of video works by an artist of the calibre of Steve McQueen, winner of Britain's top award, the Turner Prize, for 1999, the Gallery would jump at the chance of taking the show on board. After all, with the demise of the Johannesburg Biennale, it is not often that the really big names in international contemporary art are available for a show in South Africa, and the proposed works, which have been seen in such venues as the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, and the Museum of Modern Art in Sao Paulo are powerful and resonant pieces and proven crowd pleasers. The requirement, said curator Tom Mulcaire to the National Gallery, was one room, suitable for video projection.
To the astonishment of many in the art world, including SANG curator Emma Bedford, who has publicly disassociated herself from the decision, the Gallery turned the proposal down, on the grounds that the room most appropriate for the installation had already been earmarked as one of three for the current exhibition on images based on Table Mountain, curated by Nikolaas Vergunst. One can understand that galleries plan their space requirements well in advance, but there certainly seems a regrettable rigidity in this decision. To the argument that the Table Mountain show would prove a major tourist attraction, Mulcaire responded this week, "I think the South African National Gallery should service the local community as well - it's not a great compromise to give up one room."
The Steve McQueen show will now take place in the Michaelis Gallery, on the fine arts campus of UCT, a much more out of the way and less visited venue. Mulcaire says that McQueen does not feel slighted by being turned down by the National Gallery, and is looking forward to interacting with the students and local artists. "All he's interested in is a good context", says Mulcaire.
The show marks the inaugural exhibition for Mulcaire's organisation, the Institute of Contemporary Art. Mulcaire, who worked on the production side of the 1st Johannesburg Biennale, went on to assist director Catherine David on the last Documenta in Kassel, and worked with Lorna Ferguson on an African Reading Room project for the last Sao Paulo Biennale, anticipates bringing three shows a year to this country in a circuit which includes Latin America and Europe. Visiting guest lecturers are also a part of McQueen's plan to build up a context for a new museum space for contemporary art in the city. The eventual objective will be to build or locate a physical space in Cape Town for the Insititute.
McQueen's show will run in the Michaelis Gallery from November 29 to December 22. For more about McQueen and the work to be shown, see Listings.
You are invited to
collaborate in a new performance by Samson Mudzunga at the Dopeni/Shanzha
Villages in the Northern Province|
by by Susan Glanville
"The first person to be buried alive Samson Mudzunga extends an invitation to the public and press: Come one, come all to witness the unveiling of Mr. S. Mudzunga's tombstone and museum." - Press Release.
Ratshilumela Samson Mudzunga, whose performances earlier this year when he was "buried alive" attracted considerable publicity, is once more inviting visitors to a public event. This one funded by the National Arts Council, will be held in Dopeni/Shanzha Villages in the Northern Province, starting at 10 a.m. on November 25.
Mudzunga is well known for his large-scale iron wood drums, embellished with figurative carvings and more controversially for his own brand of performance art, which incorporates both tradition and innovation. These performances enacted near his home in the Makhado valley in a rural area of the Northern Province, are essentially 'artistic statements' or 'interventions'; which bridge two worlds - the urban and rural, the traditional and contemporary - through site specific, re-invented traditional rituals.
As an artist working out of a diametrically different and relatively isolated context, Mudzunga is increasingly being recognized as an important artist whose art and life have combined into a real-life drama which has attracted media attention over the past few years. Mudzunga was again the focus of media attention and controversy on July 30, 2000 when his plan to be buried alive as both performance and protest went ahead despite police intimidation and various setbacks. Enacted in front a small group of witnesses, most of whom had travelled five hours or more to be there; the complex gravity of this ritual and the complicity of the audience provided a unique and challenging experience which evoked many questions and issues for all involved.
These were played out to some extent through the media and will be explored as part of a comprehensive monograph on Mudzunga which is currently in production as part of a series published by IFAS, MTN and Prohelvetia and edited by Brenda Atkinson. Mudzunga's monograph is co-written by Stephen Hobbs and Kathy Coates.
The performances and artist's comments are also being documented as part of 'seeing ourselves' project. A 10 minute artist profile and a 26 minute documentary on his work will hopefully be available early in 2001. Mudzunga's planned unveiling of his tombstone and opening of the museum in memory of his mother, a highly respected healer, marks yet another rite of passage for the artist and perhaps the end of a feud allegedly born out of a jealous rivalry instigated by the local headman Samuel Netshiavha. This feud has affected every aspect of the 66 year-old artist's life and production in the past few years and led to his repeated incarceration without trial.
Since 1997 Mudzunga has spent nearly 20 months in jail - and although the motivations for Samson's performance are clearly not entirely innocent - and often provocative (since his first exhibition in1989 confrontation and media attention have become an integral part of his work and strategy) - he has intensely personal and ritual motivations - and has perhaps paid a high price for his belief in artistic freedom.
Given the fact that nothing that Samson does lacks the element of surprise and funding is available for him to choreograph his vision it is certain that the effort and time to travel to this often neglected but remarkable part of South Africa to attend the performances will be more than worthwhile.
For further information contact:
Media and media exposure is an integral part of Samson's work and bringing it to the public forum. 'the project room' hopes that a few journalists out there will rise to the challenge and play a significant and integral role in collaboration with the artist.
Directions from Johannesburg to Dopeni / Shanza Village
Option one ( scenic and slightly longer)
Accommodation in this area is rather limited:
Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner announced|
by Sue Williamson
Johannesburg artist Walter Oltmann is the winner of the 2001 Standard Bank Young Artist Award. His award show will appear on the main programme of the forthcoming Standard Bank National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, and receive substantial financial backing for his Festival participation in addition to a cash prize.
Says Mannie Manim, Chairman of the Standard Bank National Arts Festival Committee, "The committee was unanimous in its decision that Walter would be worthy recipient of this year's Young Artist Award for visual art. His unique creativity as a sculptor has established him as a leading artist in his field."
Oltmann is known particularly for his large scale sulptures in wire, but also uses a variety of other elements like thin tubing or rope. "I manipulate these industrial materials in a way that contradicts their prefabricated nature by emphasizing hand-made processes," he explains. "Hence I use the linear qualities of these materials to create various forms and surfaces through techniques that parallel handcrafts."
Cross-referencing at every turn, he moves fluidly between Western and African trends. Where his skills evoke bygone colonial days or leisurely rural pastimes, the sheer size of many artefacts is at once modern and startling. The scale shifts to monumental proportions, magnifying the minuscule. A single piece often takes a couple of months to complete, and he has accepted a number of commissions for large scale projects.
It is interesting to note that this is the second in a row white male sculptor working with industrial materials - though in a very different way - to win the Standard Bank Young Artist Award. The present incumbent is Alan Alborough, currently showing at the Durban Art Gallery (see listings).
Oltmann's award show will premier at the Standard Bank National Arts Festival, running from 28 June to 7 July 2001.
Jose Ferreira to Buenos Aires for another R.A.I.N. project|
by Kathryn Smith
There is currently a hive of activity surrounding the Rijksakademie's outreach - or 'international network' project, R.A.I.N. Pulse, co-ordinated by Greg Streak, recently took place in Durban. Now, it's time for trama in Argentina. Billed as a ' programme of co-operation and confrontation for artists', the Spanish word translates as "link", "weft", and "plot" at the same time. It refers to a horizontal structure, where connections are equal and where the figure that is drawn by it appears only in the weaving of the whole.
The project-in-progress is a five-year flexible and mobile programme conceived by a group of artists in Buenos Aires, Argentina, coming from a wide range of backgrounds who wish to create a platform for the visual arts that can function as an interface between individual artistic production and society. It has already been up and running for a month. It intends to render transparent, fluid and accessible the natural net of interrelationships amongst artists and theorists in the Argentine cultural scene, relating it to the regional and international art world. Simultaneously, promotion of different international exchange channels, which flow in axes south-south, south-north and north-south, as opposed to the east-west domination of the global art scene, is key. To do so, a series of activities operating through co-operation and confrontation, are planned to strengthen the reference links into the local artists' community, to make visible the mechanisms that articulate the production and sense of art in a peripheral context, and to legitimize artistic thought into social and political spheres.
Argentina's rich and fraught history of political dictatorships, which ruled the cultural scene during forty years all over the continent, have caused a deterioration of co-operative relationships between individuals, while also censoring intellectual activity. Tolerance of the other's ideas, discussion on the role of culture and specifically of artists in this peripheral context, confrontation on the basis of research and cooperation for development of common projects are not legitimized concepts in the current art scene in the country. The introduction of a South African artist into this context can only make for a much-needed exchange across artistic and personal experience.
Trama has set up various affiliations and partnerships through institutions that can provide structural support and facilities; partners in Argentina's provinces (San Miguel de Tucumán, Bah�a Blanca, Rosario and Córdoba) and the wider region (Bolivia, Guatemala, Brazil and Ecuador) who are able to diffuse and continue the work of trama beyond the scope of the initial workshops; and international partners, through the other zones of R.A.I.N. and beyond.
Johannesburg-based Ferreira was invited through an exchange programme in the Netherlands where he met Claudia Fontes, who along with fellow artists Leonel Luna and Pablo Ziccarello are the organisers of the workshop. Ferreira is currently involved in a self-initiated project called South, that aims to encourage South-South exchange across Portuguese influenced countries in the Southern hemisphere, so his inclusion in the workshop is timeous and invaluable.
He will participate in a two week-long 'confrontation' workshop along with 10 young local artists and two established international invited guest artists, speaking and debating about personal working methods and processes. The invited guests are Richard Deacon (UK) and Jaroslaw Kozlowski (Poland). In addition to the 'confrontation' workshop, a multidisciplinary will also take place, with research, virtual net and publication opportunities underpinning the activities. Ferreira will be presenting a formal paper at the Museum of Modern Art, Buenos Aires and making a "pseudo-documentary" of his time there as part of his contribution to the R.A.I.N. network.
Turner prize finalists announced in London|
by Paul Majendie
Elephant dung (Chris Ofili), pickled sheep (Damien Hirst) and now a load of old rubbish from Japan - Britain's most controversial art prize ran true to form with the recent announcement of this year's finalists. The Turner prize, condemned by critics as "an ongoing national joke", generally manages to get traditionalists spluttering with rage and the Millennium short-list will not disappoint. Japanese artist Tomoko Takahashi has collected a load of old rubbish - from twisted steering wheels to discarded hubcaps - to relive the trauma of taking her driving test.
German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans offers shots of shaved genitalia and a naked man bending over, legs akimbo, under the title Wanna Party In My Hole?
But at least painters do get a look in this time with Britain's Glenn Brown vying for the $20 000 prize along with Dutch landscape artist Michael Raedecker, whose canvases are covered in cotton threads and twisted wool. The winner will be announced, live on Britain's Channel Four television, on November 28.
Turner baiters accuse the judges of staging heavily hyped publicity stunts - but the short-list exhibition attracts 120 000 visitors a year and British art is now an undoubted star in the art galleries of the world.
In 1998, the prize was won by avant-garde artist Chris Ofili whose elephant dung-marked Virgin Mary painting sparked outrage when shown in New York. In 1995, Damien Hirst won with a sheep pickled in formaldehyde.
Conceptual artist Tracey Emin made last year's shortlist with an unmade bed surrounded by soiled underpants, condoms and champagne corks, though the prize was won by video artist Steve McQueen, who is reportedly going to be showing soon in Cape Town.
Tate spokesman Simon Wilson agreed: "The prize always generates controversy but it does bring together young artists who are doing fresh innovative work." But what of the shocking photographs by Tillmans that leave absolutely nothing to the imagination? "The modern artist is increasingly frank. Social attitudes to the nude have changed," Wilson said.
He also springs to the defence of Takahashi's cluttered room full of detritus. "At first you think 'what is all this rubbish?' But then it looks like an Aladdin's cave, a Santa's grotto that starts to add up to a meditation about life."
The Turner prize is open to artists who live and work in Britain and Wilson argued that this year's four-nation short-list was a real bonus, mirroring the rude health of Britain's latest generation of avant-garde artists who stir sensation from Berlin to New York.
"London is one of the absolute art capitals of the world. It has the buzz. It is a compliment that artists live here," Wilson said. (Reuters)
by Sue Williamson
Ten days in the country, fooling around with new materials, making work that does not have an exhibition deadline attached to it and might be right outside one's normal concerns, one's companions fellow artists both known, and visiting from other countries - does that sound like an artist's dream? That was the setup for 18 artists at the annual Thupelo Workshop, held on a farm on the flanks of the Kasteelberg near Malmesbury in the Western Cape from October 19 to 30.
The artists included South Africans Lionel Davis, Garth Erasmus. Pat Mautloa, Sarah Tabane and Andrew Porter, and Michael Minnis from Ireland, Lutanda Mwamba from Zambia, and Amean Mohammed from Pakistan.
There is no particular agenda to each workshop - Thupelo's mission statement says it "exists to encourage personal artistic growth in the visual arts in a mutually supportive workshop environment that encourages freedom to experiment through a sharing of ideas, experiences, techniques and disciplines."
Each workshop ends with an Open Day, and members of the public are invited to come and view the work made during the period of the workshop. In the past, Thupelo workshop Open Days have quite often evoked criticism for putting on display an inordinate amount of weak abstract paintings, but the organisers are quick to point out that the emphasis is not on product, but on process. Although this year's workshop was well outside Cape Town, a crowd of about 100 people accepted the invitation to the Open Day last Sunday, and took the pleasant one hour drive out to the farmlands beyond Malmesbury. Work on the walls included paintings and assemblages, and some artists had gatherered local vines to use as sculptural material. In the evenings during the workshop period, artists had been invited to show slides of their work to their colleagues. Andrew Porter had not brought any, and a highlight of the Open Day was the kind of magic lantern show which Porter had produced over a few days in order to give fellow artists an evening performance. Entitled Sometimes There are Shadows, poetic text was interspersed with images created by the projection light shining through masks of cardboard and coloured cellophane.
It is this kind of innovative solution which can lead a workshop artist on a new path, and points to the true value of the Thupelo workshop system.
The Din of Daily Life
Arlene Amaler-Raviv and Dale Yudelman win prize in Commonwealth Photographic Awards|
by Sandra Brewster
South African regional winners of the Commonwealth Photographic Awards are Dale Yudelman and Arlene Amaler-Raviv, both from Cape Town. Yudelman, a professional photographer, and Amaler-Raviv, an artist, have been collaborating, combining painting, photography and digital imaging, and exhibiting together for the past three years. Born in Johannesburg, Yudelman has a lot of experience in photojournalism, covering South Africa's social and political issues from 1979 until 1985. He has worked in London and Los Angeles and now lives in Cape Town. Amaler-Raviv has taught and lectured at the University of Pretoria, Fuba and Vaca in Katlehong. After living and working in the Netherlands she moved to Cape Town where she now lives and paints images of modern city life. Although recently being misquoted in the Cape Argus as having won R32 000 rather than the actual R3 000 which was their prize, they are very proud of their win and excited about the exhibition coming up on January 30, 2001 in London.
Utilising the theme of 'communication', the photograph chosen is part of a short animation film entitled The Din of Daily Life, recently shown in the Association of Visual Arts in Cape Town - one of 200 works shown in this exhibition. Amahler-Raviv and Yudelman, taking the risk of being rejected from the competition, used four images as one - a series of scenes of the city with a newspaper billboard attached to a street pole in each, and a passer by. In one a homeless child is wearing a mask of Madiba, the billboard reads 'Mandela's last session'. Other billboards read 'Baby's amazing bus stop birth', 'Take a walk through the city' and 'Life after dark on city's streets'. "The piece is about the information gathered as one walks through the streets... about communication between people and the communication between a photographer and an artist", stated Amaler-Raviv.
Two other South Africans received Highly Commended awards - Brenton Maart and Guy Tillim. Maart's image shows verbal and body language in the inner-city of Johannesburg - men and women in discussion. Tillim's, a temporary school at a displacement camp in Eritrea, May 2000. A teacher is working under a tree in the hot Eritrean lowlands, communicating under extremely difficult conditions.
The event was sponsored by The Commonwealth Press Union (CPU), the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association (CBA) and the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO). The overall winners are Jamaican-born Clay Davidson from Toronto, Canada, and Anjan Sarkar from Calcutta, India.
Work was chosen from 600 entries from over 20 commonwealth countries and judges included World Press Photographer of the Year Award winner Tim Page, Malaysian born photographer, Cat de Rham, and former British Telecom Managing Director, Sir Michael Bett.
The winning photographs will be displayed in London from 30 January 2001 for two months and can be viewed on the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association website at http://www.cba.org.uk/1awards.htm
Jeff Chandler 1947-2000|
by Virginia MacKenny
Jeff Chandler was a reassuringly constant presence on the Natal arts scene for the last twenty years or so. Born 1947, in Molteno, in the Karoo, he continued to refer to himself as 'just a simple boy from the Karoo', and retained an earthy straightforwardness that actively eschewed the artifice of city sophistication. His humble claim, however, belied the diversity of his engagement and activity within the South African arts arena.
Gaining his MAFA at Rhodes in 1975 he moved to Natal in 1977 to lecture in drawing and painting at Technikon Natal. Passionate about his disciplines, eager to instill a similar enthusiasm in his students, Jeff's drawing classes were often challenging for both students and models alike as demanding poses with rope and suspension devices filled the drawing studio. His enjoyment of the female form was legendary and the model's budget was often overtaxed as more and more female figures filled the studios. Frequently challenged by feminist critics he held unswervingly to his enthusiasm, undeterred by theoretical constraints or the restrictions of political correctness.
It was a similar undaunted devotion which kept him constantly attempting to find a vehicle for the voices of artists in a country where arenas for cultural discourse are limited Jeff was involved in a number of initiatives to create an arts magazine. Editor of GDUNK, inspiration behind the single edition of 'Ventilator' and finally man at the helm for Newsart, the mouthpiece for the Natal Society of Arts, he successfully bullied and cajoled contributors to give up their time and energy to write and thus help stimulate debate in the service of the arts.
Seeing himself able to contribute on other fronts, Jeff's unstinting involvement at both provincial and national level meant he spent innumerable hours on numerous committees. President of the Natal Society of Arts for many years and later the national president for the South African Association of Arts, because he believed it needed to address the damage of apartheid, he applied himself to the needs of disadvantaged communities. This saw him spearheading the development of the 'Outreach Programme' at the NSA and successfully setting up art programmes for street children at Mariannhill, children's hospital wards and girls at Wylie House.
His belief in the NSA itself, a place that artists could call their own, saw him as the driving force, along with Mike McMeekan, in the establishment of one of the finest non-profit galleries in the country which continues to supply a diverse calendar of local, national and international exhibitions to the Natal public.
Jeff's commitment to the arts was self-evident. His persona epitomised that of the romantic artist: sensual, engaging, poetic, passionate and embattled. He spoke, wrote and lived art and will be remembered more than fondly by those that knew him or who benefited from his energy, his acute eye or philosophical view on the world.
The 34th AICA Conference in London: Virginia MacKenny reports back.
The International Association of Art Critics in conjunction with the Department of Visual Arts, Goldsmiths College and the Tate Modern held its 34 th Conference in London in September. The conference brief was to 'examine the relationship between art and the wider visual culture, with particular reference to the living and evolving model of the metropolis and its institutions'. To this end, the programme was divided into 11 sessions with the key topics:
i) Art and Representation of Visual Culture
Charles Jencks' inaugural address in the Sainsbury wing at the National Gallery set some of the parameters for the broad categories of discussion for the conference. His topic 'Museum: Between Cathedral and Shopping Mall' attempted to examine the role of the museum in contemporary society. He gave the museum seven basic functions:
i) preserve artifacts
Jencks, presumably aiming to set up some controversy, criticised what he termed the 'Monty Pythonesque' thematic hanging at the Tate Modern and the plague of large art museums across the world, coining a term derived from the Guggenheim in Bilbao - 'bilbaoism'. Much energy was expended on the first day discussing the functions, both practical and symbolic of such museums and Jencks, himself reinforced the traditional distinction between artist as experiencer and curator as interpreter. He did not, however, engage in what was to become a central theme of the next day's programme - the rise of artist-curators.
Throughout the conference the breakdown of traditional distinctions or hierarchies formed a central focus of discussion. Alexander Jakimovich, Visiting Professor from Russia at the Free University, Berlin, spoke convincingly of the art and literature of the twentieth century as one of collapse and breakdown - a failure of civilization. Citing Walter Benjamin's version of modernity as a catastrophic process which encapsulated downfall, crepuscule and disintegration and the modernist artist as one who saw the cultural landscape as one of ruin, he described the Western cultural paradigm as a degenerate, but grandiose one where the artist needs to be meta-human, extra-human or super-human in order to meet such denial of meaning and absence of value. Ironically he noted that the success of institutions, such as Tate Modern, is built on the very artifacts that signal such collapse.
Many of the papers analysed, reassessed and provided alternative readings to our tendency to polarise the world into traditional binaries. Papers dealing with post-feminism and the post-human (Michael Jackson being used as an exemplar of such a condition) abounded. The hierarchies though often remained - parallel sessions which ran for many of the topics were assigned to a room which was not equipped as well as the Starr Auditorium where the main sessions ran. Ironically, for instance, it failed to provide translation for speakers where it was most needed. Often coming from developing countries, speakers battled their way through their papers in an English that at times was almost incomprehensible and which would have been far better served by being read in their primary languages and translated.
Some papers such as Annie Paul's 'The Enigma of Survival: Travelling Beyond the Expat Gaze in Caribbean Art' had a particular relevance to South Africa. She questioned her own politics of location and practice as an art critic from India living in the Caribbean. She noted that in the Caribbean, much as in South Africa, most critics come from an expatriate community and therefore a white dominance in cultural visibility continues. Speaking from a position both inside and outside her cultural context her observations highlighted the problem of 'external' eyes on the cultural production of any country. Many of the speakers, particularly those coming from peripheral countries outside the core of the US or central Europe, felt that visiting curators come to such countries with a fixed and marketable idea that would 'sell back home'. In this way stereotypes tend to be proliferated and there was an increasing sense of frustration that visiting curators were insensitive to the complexities or nuanced readings of a situation. Such a position it was generally felt could be avoided with greater consultation.
Answering some of these issues, Professor Sarat Maharaj's paper 'Dislocations: On Cultural Translation' was one of the highlights of the conference. Delivering it fluently, he gave a nuanced and insightful view into ways of thinking about cultural transfer. Since cultural transfer has to fit into a 'mega-circulatory' system that necessitates exchange many difficulties spring from translating 'self' to 'other' and vice versa. Using the metaphor of the mythical island of Serendip where the sand from one side is continually blown over to the other in a process of constant self-transformation, he spoke of cultural translation as one of dynamic 'double production'. Attempting to translate any 'original' is virtually impossible as it is already in a process of transmutation. Whilst national stereotypes are, on the one hand, being endorsed and underlined, at the same time there is dissent against such national cliches. Such 'double production' is evident in the 'McDonaldisation' of the world. McDonalds establishes itself everywhere; on one level instantly recognisable, it, at the same time, is changed by its different contexts. In India, for instance, it becomes Indian - Indians resist the use of beef (at the heart of the MacDonald's self-image) in their burgers so soya is used instead. Thus whilst a global system appears to homogenise the world, dissent and resistance produce and maintain difference.
Ever prone to digging up and revivifying arcane vocabulary, Maharaj used the medieval word 'stochacity', which means 'speculative', to describe the process of cultural transfer or translation. Instead of attempting to fix meaning one is involved in a conjectural process - a process not necessarily concerned with the finding of truth, but the play of probabilities. Such an approach avoids the delegitimisation of traditional and indigenous forms of knowledge in colonised countries and is a counter to the 'homicidal nature' of Modernism with its goal of the erasure of difference in the search for the universal. Seeing cultural identity as a state of continual constitution or 'becoming' a translator's job is to engage with the process of continuing difference. To avoid 'readymade consciousness' we need to approach the world with a xenophilic response - where the love of the other allows for more positive possibilities of exchange.
Winners announced in MWeb 'New Signatures' Competition
'New Signatures' is an exhibition of work selected from submissions by artists who have not yet had a solo show, and the idea is to encourage emerging talent. This year's exhibition opened on October 11 at the Association of Arts Gallery in Bellville, and the winners in various categories were announced.
The prize of R1 000 for best overall work went to Huntley Reid, with winners in other categories each receiving R500. These were: Kilmany-Jo Hunt, Jeanette Blignaut, Kirby van der Merwe, Taryn Cohen and Jacki McInnes-Graham.
Also on exhibition is work by four established artists chosen to each produce an art work in their individual studios. M-Web relayed the progress of their work from inception to completion by means of specially installed webcams. These works can be viewed and bids placed online at http://www.thelot.co.za
Visit the exhibition at www.signatures.mweb.co.za
Exhibition closes November 2
More info: Debbie Odendaal (021) 918-2287
Willem Boshoff wins Aartvark Award in Potchefstroom
An installation entitled (B)Reachings in which Willem Boshoff investigates different divination practices in Africa and Europe has won the artist the Aartvark Award at this year's Aardklop National Arts Festival in Potchefstroom.
The Aartvark Award, presented on the last evening of the festival, Saturday September 30, rewards the most innovative contribution in any medium to the festival and was instituted last year by Plus, arts and entertainment supplement to Beeld. "My work is much less popular than theatre productions and it is incredible even to have been considered. I feel happy to have won," the artist said.
Boshoff not only got a unique trophy for his efforts, but also R5000. Neil le Roux, convenor of the panel of judges, said that Boshoff's work did indeed push the envelope at the festival - the primary criterium for the award.
For more info, call Dirk Jordaan at (011) 713-9695
South African Crafters to Ouagadougou - SA Cultural industry launches itself in West Africa
South Africans will soon be raising the dust at the Salon Internationale de l'Artisanat de Ouagadougou in a threefold participation: a high profile national stand at the salon's main pavilion; representation at an All African craft exhibition/competition and a series of performances by the Victory Sanqoba Theatre Company from Alexandra Township, Gauteng.
In the Pavillon de la Creativite's exhibition/competition, eight South Africans have been selected to honour Panafrican excellence. In total, 80 crafters' work from all over the African continent will represent six different categories: jewelry, ceramic, furniture, decorative objects, leather and textile.
South African finalists are: Simon Masilo (Katlehong), Madoda Fani (Cape Town), Charmaine Haines (East London), Majolandile Dyalvani (Cape Town), Sibongile Nkomo (Durban), the Ndwandwe Family (Hlabisa), Charles Norman (Wilderness) and Justin Richardson (Johannesburg) representing the categories of ceramics, basket weaving and decorative objects. Substantial cash prizes are on offer with winners in each category receiving 10 000 French Francs. Runners up will either receive cash prizes or bursary awards. South African Richard Sparks of the well known design retail chain, Bright House has been invited by exhibition curator, Cristophe de Contensen of Fondation Olorun, an art centre in Ouagadougou, to join a bench of eminent jurors who will select the prize winners for SIAO 2000.
On the national stand, fifteen craftworkers from all over South Africa have been selected to travel to Ouagadougou to represent the country at this its inaugural exhibition of craft promotion. The salon, arguably Africa's most prominent platform for arts and craft, offers an opportunity for professional buyers, collectors and art lovers from Europe, the United States and Africa to interact with Africa's craft community and related industries. The fifteen craftworkers that have been selected to represent South Africa will be part of a 'living exhibit' stand demonstrating their skills during the Salon. In addition, the mission aims to export to the Salon a library of information about the South Africa craft industry and asks those who would like to take advantage of this unique opportunity, to send, to the Mission Co-ordinator, information in the form of pamphlets, posters and catalogues that they wish to be included in the stand.
SIAO 2000 is in its twelfth year and takes place in a spacious fairground on the outskirts of Ougadougou. Funding is provided by the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, the National Arts Council, the SIAO Administration and the European Commission.
SIAO 2000 runs from October 27 - November 5, 2000. For further information or if you would like to travel to Burkina Faso, please call Rachel Browne (Badia Trading) Tel: 011 487 1458, Fax: 011 487 1406, Email: email@example.com or Joseph Mathe (DACST) Tel: 012 337 8073, Fax: 012 328 7530.
Artist battles failed gallery for payment due
When Artsupermart was sold in summer 1998 to Michael Willemse and Grant Griffiths, the goal of the new owners was to promote younger or marginalized artists in Cape Town by allowing them access to the market. This goal failed to materialise when the gallery ran into financial trouble and had to close down in March this year after falling into debt. These problems included the pulling out of a Cape Town company that agreed to partially sponsor the rental of the premises as of November 1, 1999. After making this agreement in March the company pulled out in October. Willemse stated that "this proved to be a devastating blow from which we attempted, through to lease-end of March this year, to recover."
Artist Sean Slemon is presently trying to retrieve money for his two works that were sold by Artsupermart in November, 1999. It appears that Slemon's and other artists' works were sold without any money going to the artists. Slemon wrote to ArtThrob's feedback column, and later spoke to the press. In the August 23 and 24 issues of the Cape Times, reports suggested that the pair had absconded with money due to artists, and could not be traced. A letter to the press was subsequently written by the gallery owners, aiming to present an accurate picture as they believe that media reports were not based totally on fact. This was never published. Griffiths writes that Willemse was hijacked by a notorious Cape Flats gang. Because of this and other financial reasons, the gallery had to close down and artists were contacted to pick up their work. "Of a total of around 400 works, only 10% remained uncollected by closure." The letter denied media claims that they (Willemse and Griffiths) "fooled" and "destroyed" artists, and "defrauded the industry". Willemse writes that efforts were made to contact the artists to the extent that other galleries were contacted where they have also exhibited. The remaining works in the gallery, after closure, were being stored at a friend's flat.
The Artsupermart system had been to issue each artist a receipt with the artist agreeing to make monthly rental payments on art stored at the gallery. This brings to light another reason why the gallery fell into debt. Apparently some artists were not making their payments. Rather than chasing them down, it seems Artsupermart was simply losing more money.
Taking everything into consideration, Slemon is still very angry. After trying to get in touch with Willemse and Griffiths for quite some time, Willemse finally called Slemon with what the artist described as a "sob story" about not having any funds at all. In a recent correspondence, Slemon informed Willemse that "he is not willing to wait much longer before he goes to a solicitor. Others are keen on going also." Slemon is in touch with approximately 25 artists who haven't been given any payment for their work. And quite a few artists haven't been given their work back. An approximate range of how much is owed to each artist is R8 000 to R10 000.
People are still phoning Slemon about this issue and some artists have retrieved their work. Although Slemon respects the fact that Willemse and Griffiths may have had prolems with business, he believes they did not take responsibility for their actions and simply took advantage of the artists. Slemon can be reached at 083 340 7381.
Presently a list of artists who still have work stored with Artsupermart is published on www.artsupermart.com. Michael Willemse and Grant Griffiths can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Artwork/s not claimed by September 30, 2000 are incuring storage costs of R50 per month effective from October 1. Work that is not collected by December 31, 2000 will be sold to defray costs.
UBS Art Award 2000 national winners announced at Camouflage
The UBS Art Award is a brand new international prize for painting. Instigated by the eponymous Swiss bank, entries are solicited through prestigious art schools, of which two in each of the ten eligible countries are invited to submit work by senior or postgraduate students. The University of the Witwatersrand and Michaelis Art School at the University of Cape Town are the two local 'hot spots', and between them, managed to scrape together fourteen entries (Japan's two selected art schools had a combined total of some 250 entries!), most of which are medium to large-scale. The national winners and overall winners are selected at an exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in London in December this year. Of the entries submitted, the three chosen artists were clearly deserving. Mandla Mabila's Behind the Shadow In Front of the Light; Dorothee Kreutzfeldt's When I Was a Boy I; and Kevin McCauley's Great Big Portrait were the three paintings selected for round two. All artists travel to London for the final show. The winner receives 30 000 Swiss francs, the remaining nine national winners receive 10 000 Swiss francs, and the remaining twenty finalists receive a commemorative gift of 2 000 Swiss francs.
September 30 - October 7
Camouflage Art.Culture.Politics nucleus johannesburg africa, 140 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood, 2193
Paris Conference on the State of Visual Arts in Africa and the Diaspora|
by Sue Williamson
To what extent are the artists of Africa and the African diaspora marginalised on the world art scene? Can long term goals for increasing the visibility of these artists be set? How can the consciousness of the rest of the world towards Africa be shifted? These were some of the issues debated at a three-day conference held at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris last month.
The conference was organised under the coordination of Florence Alexis by the AFAA, Afrique en Creation, a Paris-based organisation dedicated to showcasing the culture of Africa in Europe, and supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation. A number of the big name speakers originally scheduled did not arrive - including Olu Oguibe, Okwui Enwezor, who called in from Chicago to apologise, and Jean Hubert Martin, curator of the current Biennale de Lyons, but perhaps this gave a greater opportunity for lesser known speakers to make their voices heard. under the overall direction of Salah Hassan of Cornell University, editor of NKA magazine.
The major topics set out for discussion were theoretical and philosophical issues related to contemporary African art, artists workshops and residencies; festivals and biennales; museums and galleries, public and private funding; documentation, publishing and archiving; art criticism, and the market for African production. An interesting mix of topics - and as is so often the case with conferences, perhaps too far reaching. No sooner had one panel completed its papers and a few questions been raised, than the next speakers took their place on the podium.
Certain points were made in different ways by a number of speakers - one of these being the importance of developing a discourse based in Africa and the diaspora. As Pieter Tjabbes, director of the Sao Paulo Biennale said, "... the involvement of local art critics and academics is essential for gaining a more profound vision of African art, instead of always relying on foreign critics who judge Africa from a Western point of view." Filmmaker Mbye Cham warned against the buzzword, globalisation, asking, "What options and strategies are available for people, Africans, in general, and African filmmakers and artists in particular, in the face of a seemingly triumphant globalisation shot through with large dose of Americanisms? Capitulation? Engagement? Rejection? At what costs and benefits?"
African American artist Emma Amos asked, "Will we artists, the multi-national multi-racial descendants of the African diaspora, ever find ourselves in the blithe art world of the purely conceptual, expressive and minimal? As a black artist, I continually question my content-centred work, and despair that it is not 'serene' and 'cool'. The old question, 'What is black art? Is never settled, nor is the larger question, 'Who's looking?' "
On the publications panel, Barbara Murray of Zimbabwe called for each country in Africa to try and produce at least one magazine to document the art of that country, and I delivered a paper called Art and Documention: how cyberspace can fill in the gaps - an attempt to evaluate the important contribution a site like ArtThrob can make in this area, while pointing out that the web is still available only to a relatively small and privileged group.
An extremely useful panel was one from representatives of funding agencies, Els van der Plaas of the Netherlands based Prince Claus Fund, established in 1996 to support cultural activity in Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean, and Damien Pwono of the Ford Foundation. A highlight of the second day was the showing by Brit artist Keith Piper of his video on the subject of slavery and an irony of the conference was that though Piper was on a panel looking at new media in a city which is a centre of the art world, no computer was available to allow his interactive CDRom to be projected.
On the final morning of the conference, the proceedings and main points made by the speakers of the previous two days were summarised by Hassan and Ivoirean curator/critic Yacouba Konate. A great deal of valuable and thought-provoking information and commentary came out in this way, but the proposing and evaluating of long term goals did not take place.
However, the second major goal of the conference was to facilitate networking amongst the delegates, who represented many of the countries of Africa, some of the Caribbean and Latin American countries, and black artworld people from Britain and the United States. On this score, at least, many new and potentially fruitful connections were made. And as a book of the conference papers is planned, doubtless some of the points made will find their way into shaping the thinking on art in Africa in the future.
New on the Block|
by Sue Williamson
Who are the future up and comers of the art world? For this story, final year students at the Michaelis School of Fine Art in Cape Town were invited to submit images and statements on their current work. ArtThrob made a selection, using freshness of approach as a guideline. In a few years time, these students may be young art stars, gaining a foothold on the international circuit. Or you may never hear of them again. See what you think.
Statement: "The reality of the landscape has changed. We are no longer invited to savour the true perspective of our lives. We live as outcasts of our own consciousness. Stilled in the oncoming headlights we have acquired an artificialized sensitivity. Lingering in a plasticized dream."
ArtThrob comment: The stills look interesting. In spite of the copy.Look forward to seeing the video.
Edward Young: performance documented with photographs
Greg Smith conducts an interview:
GS: In one of your recent projects you have been noticed brandishing a tape-measure in various social situations. Could you tell me more about this project?
EY: Yes Greg, I label this project Shooting from the hip'. What I was doing basically was walk around in public spaces, measuring the respective distances between myself and randomly chosen individuals. I then added up the distances of my study, which came to be a total of 16,574 metres. I now know exactly how much I have been distancing myself from other people lately and I can start working on my
GS: You have stated in the past that your work deals in part with ' intimacy'. Do these empirical gestures have a personal or emotional dimension?
EY: I suppose that people have problems. I don't know what they are really. But, I think it has something to do with love and guilt and forgiveness.
GS: If you could dip into your statistics, could you tell me in what situations your smallest and largest measurements were obtained.
EY: My smallest distance was 71.4 cm. It was a girl called Carla. I don't think that she had a lot of problems with love at that stage. She seemed very happy and eager. She even held the other end of the measuring-tape for me.
My largest distance was 131 cm. It was a security officer standing next to a traffic officer. He was a very angry man. I had to convince him that it was not for any newspaper.
ArtThrob comment: Nice performance, but get a better photographer, Edward.
Statement: "Optical-candy. Fleeting, delicious, elusive, aesthetic pleasures. Blissful sentiments."
ArtThrob comment: For those with a sweet tooth.
Statement: "I prefer not to describe my work - letting it speak on my behalf."
ArtThrob comment: The concept behind the 'Returning the Gaze' project was to examine racism - making an anagram of the word 'race' and turning it into 'care' was a sharp idea.