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Diary

Michael Stevenson, Toni Tollman, Walter Oltmann

Diary

Nicholas Hlobo, Hazel Friedman, Zanele Muholi

Diary

Layer 30
Parcel for Tokyo

Diary

Layer 26
Parcel for Tokyo
 


May

Wednesday, May 3

At João Ferreira's this evening, opening her show, 'Crossings and Monuments Too', is Deborah Bell. Bell's calm, large scale monotypes and mixed media works draw on the mythical figures and legends that inhabit a universal unconscious. Three elongated bronzes of ancestral figures gaze over the heads of the crowd, and Linda Givon, who has flown down from Johannesburg for the event, gives the opening speech.

Thursday, May 4

What more could a struggling young artist want than R100 000 to spend on the latest Mac laptop/video projector/materials/studio rent/assistant to do all the dreary stuff/travel/whatever? This year's lucky winner of the Tollman Award is Nicholas Hlobo, and his achievement is being celebrated today with a lunch hosted at the Twelve Apostles Hotel by owners and patrons Vicky and Toni Tollman.

It's a beautiful enough autumn day to sit out on the hotel balcony before lunch, sipping Camparis and breathing in ozone from the sparkling Atlantic. Also being honoured today is last year's Tollman winner, photographer Zanele Muholi. Advisers and judges Michael Stevenson, Rochelle Keane and Walter Oltmann are here too, and other assorted media and museum people including Cobus van Bosch, Hazel Friedman and Emma Bedford.

Monday, May 8

I have to come up with an idea for a piece for a show opening simultaneously with 'Africa Remix' in Tokyo. The show's called 'Off the Record' and each artist will make something to be placed in a storage locker in the Shibuya station complex. The locker is accessed by a cellphone number - so curator Eric van Hove's idea is that the first viewer of each will set off a chain - punching in the cellphone number of a friend to lock the locker, and then texting the friend to come and have a look.

My intern, Jasmin, has made a cardboard mockup of the locker, which is 30 x 30 x 60cm, and I keep peering into it, wondering what direction to take. Since viewers will have to make a special trip to the station just to see this one locker, I would like to give them something to take away. But what?

Weight will also be a factor, as I will have to airfreight the piece, and we all know how much that costs.

Tuesday, May 9

Judgement in the Jacob Zuma case was delivered last night. Not guilty of raping a young family friend who had come over for advice and asked to stay the night. The case has gripped the nation for months, with all its ramifications, and with cultural commentators of every shade of opinion.

Zulu culture and what it is and isn't has been fiercely debated, and the fact that the accuser was the daughter of a close comrade of Zuma's has also made his behaviour inexcusable.

Although the case has been shocking in the way Zuma's supporters have vilified the accuser, it has also been a prime example of a case which has revealed so much about current debates in this country, and the way we take on issues. A web of information, a cultural map. A bit like the OJ case in the US.

In the middle of the night, I wake up and start thinking again about the piece for Tokyo, and suddenly I've got the idea. I often have my most usable ideas at 3am. It's as if one feeds all the information into one's brain, and during sleep the brain acts as a computer and sorts it out. In the quiet of the night, with no phones ringing, solutions have a chance to emerge.

The piece will be a cross between a press cutting book on the Zuma case, and the children's game of 'Pass the parcel'.

Some object will be in a small gift box in the centre of the piece, and then there will be layers and layers of wrappings, each with a different press cutting on the Zuma case. A small instruction inside the locker will invite viewers to remove one layer of wrapping which they may keep, and then to replace the box in the locker.

The last person will get to keep the box and its contents.

Wednesday, May 10

Luckily, the newspapers have not been thrown out for months, and are stacked in a storeroom. This is partly because it is such a drag to take them to the recycling bin and partly that as an artist who works a lot with media, I might suddenly decide that I need old press cuttings about something or other.

So this morning I take the first pile of newspapers into the studio, and Jasmin and I start going through them for Zuma stories and photos.

Thursday, May 11

An email from the Havana Bienal people: a selection of work from the Bienal will go to three museums in Caracas, Venezuela. The Better Lives series of prints and videos will be included in the show, which will open in August. Great!

The 'Trans Cape' people have invited me to a 'mini session' at UWC at which a group of curators sponsored by the Mondriaan Foundation in Holland will be filled in on the September event, 'conceived as a journey that uses public spaces and locates new site-specific and outdoor locations along a route that traverses Cape Town's diverse communities and challenges the hierarchical division between the city centre and its peripheral townships and suburbs'.

Don't really get to talk to the curators, as they arrive late and immediately afterwards are herded back on to a bus to be driven through Khayelitsha, but there is more time to relax and talk in the evening, at a braai at Willie Bester's extraordinary house, which is an ever expanding artwork.

Monday, May 15

The more I get into the old cuttings of the Zuma case, the more fascinated I get. And whatever one thinks of him, he has an incredibly expressive face. I haven't found quite the right paper for the wrappings - I wanted something like a superior newsprint, but I have to finish now. So having sorted and selected the cuttings, it's time to start pasting and numbering, with little pink stenciled numbers.

As each layer is wrapped, we take a photograph. The top layer is an open letter to Zuma from activist Nomboniso Gasa, headed 'Dear Jacob, I feel pain.'

That will be the name of the piece - Dear Jacob.

Writes Gasa in the Mail & Guardian on March 17, almost two months before the trial ended:
'Watching the unfolding court saga, my eyes have been fixed on you. My ears have been pinned to the radio, and I have scanned the papers for a sign that you are aware of the power you command. I have waited, in vain for an indication that you understand the burden of that power, and that you will exercise it wisely and judiciously'.

Gasa goes on later to discuss the Nguni game of stick fighting, and how the first person to throw the stick to the ground is the stronger party.

The analogy is clear.

Wednesday, May 17

Phone the couriers. The Dear Jacob piece has to go. The quote is R912. Help! Sending it ordinary airmail will cost R236, but will take two weeks.

Driving home, I remember about 'Africa Remix' and call Jane Alexander. She agrees to take the box, and will leave for Tokyo this weekend.

Friday, May 19

Post-finishing-a-piece euphoria sets in, making it difficult to start on the next task. Which is finishing new material for Comfort Zones, part of the 'Fabricated Harmonies' show which opens in Atlanta on June 3.

Tuesday, May 23

Do an interview with a new subject for Comfort Zones, the piece American artist Pat Ward Williams and I have done as an investigation on differing racial experiences and attitudes on our respective sides of the Atlantic. She is a great interviewee, very articulate and funny, and I am really pleased with the session.

Saturday, May 25

In the calmness of Saturday, I sit down to begin a concentrated editing of the new material for Comfort Zones, but the external hard drive on which I have stored all the rough cuts of the tracks plus all my other images is not showing up on the desktop.

Where are you hiding, you miserable piece of tacky technology? You were there only yesterday. Why are you ruining my life and my artistic reputation like this? Don't you know I have to finish this new material and get it off to Atlanta by Tuesday latest? The show opens Friday.

Monday, May 29

So here I am on a sunny Monday morning hanging out at Repairs.com while Dennis Laubscher pokes around on the motherboard of my external hard drive. 'Looks like a fuse has gone', he says, 'And even if I fix it I don't know what it was connected to before. Your external has had it.'

Sometimes it's no fun being an artist.
 


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