Archive: Issue No. 51, November 2001

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Jo O'Connor

Jo O'Connor
Flyer for Gardenism at the Spier Outdoor Sculpture Biennial

Spier Outdoor Sculpture Biennial set to bloom
by Tracy Murinik

The Cape Town Triennial was retired. The Johannesburg Biennale disturbingly went bust. But the South African visual arts zone currently has something new and inviting burbling promisingly in the proverbial pipeline.

The burble referred to is taking form as the first Spier Outdoor Sculpture Biennial, set to run from January to March next year in collaboration with arts organisation Public Eye. The project will constitute the first visual arts component ever to be included as part of the annual Spier Arts Festival programme (which has previously only incorporated the performing arts and music). The project will also intersect with the third One City Festival which will be in swing from March 16 to 24. The Spier Arts Trust, under the directorship of Delecia Forbes, has made a firm, long-term commitment to supporting the biennial as part of its ongoing vision for the Spier Arts Festival.

Although there is no specific theme that has been prescribed for the first Spier Outdoor Sculpture Biennial, said artist Kevin Brand, wearing the hat of Member of Public Eye at the launch of the project, he went on to elaborate, rather esoterically, that there is however an overarching ethos, which he describes as "humble", that defines the project as a whole. "Humble," he said "is the central issue ... It's like a used car sales lot where you put things together."

Cryptic as this may sound, it does (along its own lateral tangent) manage to describe the curious and rather organic way in which art projects in South Africa often tend to develop. That is, projects often evolve around the synergies mutually recognised by a number of other projects in the making ... and they all get it together, sharing resources and some common ground - viz, the "used car sales lot". An exercise in humility in and of itself. And this sculpture biennial is not entirely different in this regard.

The project, which was initially conceived of by Public Eye and destined for Kirstenbosch, has subsequently found a perfectly pleasing new home in the luscious grounds of the Spier wine estate in Stellenbosch and, in turn, brings to Spier a very credible profile to launch their visual arts programme. In addition, a land art project destined for the Jan Marais Nature Reserve and organised by Strijdom van der Merwe will join in as a satellite exhibition which is site specific.

The artists chosen (from a host of submissions) to produce work for this first Spier Outdoor Sculpture Biennial are: Susan Reid, Jacques Dhont, Deborah Bell, Willie Bester, David Brown, Jo O'Connor, Randy Hartzenberg, Sean Slemon, Bruce Arnott, Nicole Meyer and Swiss artist Urs Twellman, who is being sponsored by Pro Helvetia.

The artists who will produce work for the Jan Marais Nature Reserve project are Sanelle Aggenbach, Elmarie van der Merwe, Terry de Vries, Marco Franzoso, Hettie de Klerk, Jacobus Kloppers, Dannie Carstens and David Jones.

Public Eye will also be hosting an international symposium on public art from March 15-17 at Spier with linked presentations on public art taking place at the Centre for the Book during the week of the One City Festival. International artists will include Swiss contemporary arts couple L/B and US media artist Lyn Lukkas.

The biennial is set to open during the second week of January.