Archive: Issue No. 25, September 1999

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News

Kendell Geers

Kendell Geers Vitas submission 'White Man's Burden'



Kendell Geers

Graffitti sprayed by Geers



Kendell Geers withdraws work from Vita
Kathryn Smith

Friday morning September 3 saw the Sandton Civic Gallery transformed when Kendell Geers, after a dispute about audio levels in the gallery, decided to remove his video installation 'White Man's Burden' from the 1999 FNB Vita Art Prize exhibition, and spraypaint a couple of hard-hitting slogans on a wall and the screen used for his video projection. In the week after the announcement of the winner, the press (who I'm sure always longed for something more ill-mannered) marvelled at the politeness and genteel quality of this year's event. But where Geers and the Vita are concerned, controversy is somewhat predictable.

A judge for several years, Geers had to step down when nominated and found himself in the awkward position of being judged. During the installation of the show, Geers' and Jo Ractliffe's video pieces were placed in the main space and although Geers' was in a screened-off room, the sound travelled. Ractliffe, as well as people viewing the show expressed a concern that the soundtracks clashed. Given that Geers had left for overseas a few days after the show opened, Vita, in consultation with the gallery and the remaining artists, put up notices stating that if visitors wished to spend time with each piece (including Minnette Vari's) individually, they should consult the gallery staff.

Arriving for a walkabout and seeing the sign, Geers took exception, saying that Ractliffe's sound was as intrusive to his work as his was to hers, which is within his rights to maintain. But he made two comments at the walkabout which put a slightly different spin on things. Firstly, he expressed an intention for his work to transgress the boundaries of the gallery - for it to be audible at all times and all areas - creating an enforced ambient noise for visitors. Fine. But doesn't this mean the other works on the show then become 'raw material' for his experiment and no more? Secondly, he mentioned that he'd like to "ban" his works from being shown in this country as they are unappreciated. This lack of appreciation is apparently a result of our attitudes as spectators, the ineptitude of critics and writers and a gallery system which is exclusive and elitist. So be it. I'm tempted to say 'do us a favour' but that is unfair. For all his contradictions he is capable of producing compelling and challenging work. But his prima-donna posturing and desire for 'conceptual integrity' (can he have both?) disregards any feelings other exhibiting artists may have on the matter. And yes, we do understand the conceptual weight his 'noise pollution' has on the reading of the piece. He consciously sets it up for contamination and domination.

Although I am reluctant to do so, I am forced to draw comparisons between this intention and performance work by Steven Cohen. Cohen's transgressions are less invasive in that they occupy their own space and time. He doesn't attack us physically (or hasn't yet) and although on the far left of rudeness, his pieces operate on so many levels that they are as celebratory as they are defamatory, providing a level of access that is deceptively friendly. Granted, he will and does upset, but there exists a level of integrity which I find lacking in Geers' work.

Negotiations were attempted between Vita and the artist, with Geers eventually threatening to take legal action against them. Not prepared to back down for reasons that include the amicable participation of the other artists in negotiations and a "loyalty" to the winning artist (?), Vita requested he either compromise and appreciate the position of other artists on the show, or consider himself free to remove the work. He chose the latter. Given that Vita had contracted with Geers not to censor his work in any way, a strange privileging of artists seems to have gone on from the beginning.

What is unfortunate that it has become something of an ego-battle instead of a valuable and potentially educative debate concerning the rights of artists in competition environments, how corporate sponsors deal with contemporary modes of practice and gallery practice in general. Seemingly desperate for controversy, Geers' slogans like "Your Prize Salieri" and "The Silence of Ractliffe is Overrated", appear trite and predictable. Let him have his cake, but he can't expect to eat it too.

Invited to send his side of the story, Geers sent the following email

"i am really sad that winning was not enough for ractliffe and that she would not allow me the right to properly exhibit my work until the end of the exhibition. perhaps she does not understand the difference between a solo and a group exhibition and where her rights as an artist begin and end. her demands on my work were unreasonable and unprofessional and left me with no other option but to withdraw my work.

i shall write a press release this weekend and email it to you as soon as I have done so."

To date, no press release has been received.

Why do I suddenly recall the 1995 Biennale with Steven Cohen's installation 'Let Them Eat Cock' and Geers' empty gallery in 'Title Withheld (Boycott)? History does tend to repeat itself.

Emails from readers on their views on this dispute would be welcome.

14.09.99 Kendell Geers replies

I cannot begin to express my sadness and disappointment at your report on my withdrawal from Vita. It seems to me that your writer Kathryn Smith has her own axes to grind and is abusing this forum as her vehicle. Apart from anything else her report is full of errors and twists of the truth that belie not only her personal allegiances and insecurities, but also her lack of experience as a journalist. As the editor surely you would understand that a writer cannot simply make character assassinations like "there exists a level of integrity which I find lacking in Geers' work" without then going on to articulate exactly where the integrity is lacking. I find such an accusation very alarming, particularly given that you have gone on to reproduce the work of art that now comprises my Vita contribution without any copyright permission having ever been granted to do so. What a tragic day it has become when artists have stopped respecting the basic rights of other artists!

As the editor of ArtThrob surely it is your responsibility to check that the facts being reported are correct and prevent statements like that which said I had been a Vita "judge for several years" when in fact I was a judge for one year only and withdrew sometime ago on the grounds that there was a conflict of interest in my being an artist. I do find it very curious that you would allow this sort of irrational criticism to be taken seriously when you yourself write articles about your own work and exhibitions for "ArtThrob" and invite artists like Smith to write about the work of other artists. I think that this is definitely a case of the "Rot calling the Kendell black!!!!!"

The reason why I decided not to send Smith a press-release, as I had promised, was due to the fact that I did not trust her, based on her preceding article concerning the Vita exhibition. More to the point however I decided not to issue any statements whatsoever for I was trying to avoid any controversy. I did not want this to end up as a mudslinging match in the style of Smith's predecessor Candice Breitz but rather remain confined to the artists on the Vita exhibition and the organisers.

Since Smith arrived very late for the walkabout I gave she is hardly qualified to comment on the content of that discussion. I never publically mentioned this issue on that day, nor was it then that I saw the notices that had been put up. Quite the contrary, on that day and for some days before, the notices had been removed. I had expressed my objection to the notices on the grounds that they completely disrespected the artists intentions as well as the integrity of the work on show. In the past few years I have participated in countless video exhibitions all around the world and in every single one there was sound leakage between the different works as such is the nature of any group exhibition with more than one video or sound based work.

On the day that I was invited to participate in the Vita exhibition I asked the organisers if they would extend their own contract to include the following clause:

"The organisers will not interfere with, change, censor or adjust either the form or the contents produced by Kendell Geers and on exhibit as part of the FNB Vita Award. The artist has the right to withdraw his work of art with immediate effect in the event the work of art has been interfered with in any way whatsoever."

The reasons why I added this clause were in part on the basis that the last time I had participated in Vita my works were censored and in part due to the fact that I anticipated this very problem. Each of the artist's were selected on the basis of the work they had produced in 1998/9, a year in which I had made some extremely loud video based works of art. The piece I finally decided to exhibit is amongst the quietest video installations I have ever produced. At the request of Michelle Kriek the Sandton Civic Gallery's acting curator I turned the volume down to its barest minimum. Any less and the work would have been mute.

A video based work of art is no different from any other. The volume, scale, proportions, dimensions, composition, luminosity and so forth are all integral parts of the work and contribute to its overall meaning. When a gallery or museum invites an artist who works in such a medium they should understand that the artist sets the volume for instance at a specific level for a specific reason and that asking the artist to adjust it, up or down, is like asking a painter to change the hue of their painting. I refused to allow any member of the public to have the right to in any way effect the volume or nature of my work on the grounds that they would for instance never be allowed to remove or screen off a painting because its bright yellow paint was interfering with their experience of the blue painting beside it. Furthermore continually adjusting the equipment I was using would have resulted in either the amplifier or the projector or both breaking down at great cost to myself and my gallery.

Of course I understand that Ractliffe would have liked her work to be experienced at its best possible advantage and that the sounds emanating from my own work may have, in her head at least, negatively influenced that experience. On the other hand such an understanding underestimates the viewers ability to cut out what they don't want to hear in the same way that Smith is able to cut out that which she does not want to understand. It is curious too that Ractliffe only made her ridiculous demand that she would withdraw her work from Vita (as I was led to understand from the organisers) if she did not get her own way, only after she had won the prize. Her sad demand, in the style of Salieri, is simply an abuse of power.

As for my so-called "hard-hitting" slogans, any educated member of the public would realise that they are in fact quotations. It is sad that a master's student from Wits University should not notice the tongue-in-cheek reference to Joseph Beuys' slogan that "The silence of Duchamp is over rated," which can hardly be considered an insult.

Of course I understand that this exhibition and award represents the pinnacle of Ractliffe's art and career and thus I was happy to withdraw my work from the exhibition and allow her two final weeks of "silence." Smith is beating a broken drum in attempting to put words into my mouth or assume that my position is anything but professional. I am seriously considering not exhibiting my work in the country on the grounds that every time I do it seems to break out into controversy whenever I attempt to stand up for my rights as an artist, rights that everywhere else in the world would be considered basic. I am tired of being the scapegoat for every Wits student, lecturer and groupie critic to blame when their careers do not run according to plan or whenever their knowledge of art runs out. I have already stopped writing about art and withdrawn from the art world in person and under the present aesthetic climate it is only a matter of time before I withdraw as an artist too.

Yours
kendell geers

Editor's Comment: ArtThrob stands corrected: Geers saw the notices the day before the walkabout, not on the day itself. They were then removed until the issue had been resolved with Vita. Apologies.

Regarding the question of the length of time Geers served as a judge: according to Vita's records and Natasha Fuller, Kendell Geers served as a judge for two years: 1997 and 1998, which were the first two years of the Vita Art Prize after the changeover from Vita Art Now. Thus he was a judge in the years that Willem Boshoff and Steven Cohen won the prize respectively. A judge's term is normally three years, but Geers stepped down of his own accord, and it was only subsequently that he was nominated as an artist for the 1999 prize. Thus, ArtThrob apologises for saying Geers "had to step down when nominated".

Regarding the use of Geer's spraypainted slogan on ArtThrob without applying to Geers for copyright: ArtThrob assumes that all work put up in a public space like a gallery is available for reproduction for the purposes of review and discussion.

Robert Weinek

45tones of balled waste paper to be built into a pyramid outside of SANG



Festival Roundup

A visitor to Cape Town would be forgiven for thinking that the upcoming public holiday - Heritage Day- was no ordinary public holiday. The city is busying itself with preparations for the "One City, Many Cultures" festival. The initiative, the first of what is set to become an annual event, aims to explore the diverse cultures and modes of cultural expression which characterise the city. It is heavily weighted towards the arts, with the intention of creating a relaxed and recreational context for this interaction to take place. Music concerts with local and international performers, a comedy festival, a buskers' festival, inter-religious events and the opening of new cultural venues and initiatives are all set to take place over the weekend.

The festival begins in earnest, especially in terms of the visual arts, on the evening of Thursday September 23rd. Art Night, in its second incarnation, is an event co-ordinated by art galleries and artists across the city, whereby a free bus travels a circuitous route linking the city's galleries and special venues. This in turn coincides with the beginning of "The Month of Photography", for which many of the city's galleries, nightspots and other venues are hosting photographic shows. Many of the participating venues are laying on entertainment to complement their shows. The Jazz Profiles will be playing at Jo�o Ferreira Fine Art and there will be an as yet unpublicised band playing in Church Street outside the AVA. Many walls and vacant shops are being claimed by established and aspirant artists alike for projections, graffiti and posters.

The Public Eye events look to be exciting, and evidence of some of them is beginning to appear in various places throughout the city. It is with a little apprehension that residents must be awaiting their first sight of their local monument or heritage site. The PTO project seems set to leave no stone unturned and no sacred cows unslaughtered with its proposed interventions. Monuments, heritage sites and public art are all fair game in these proceedings. City officials have given just enough permission and disclaimed just enough responsibility for some pretty radical revisiting of the past. Of course, details of these are not to be revealed just yet, as surprise is their greatest weapon.

A new exhibition venue, The Granary, is to be opened too and will be hosting a number of exhibitions. The building is quite extraordinary from the outside and apparently houses some amazing exhibition space. It seems set to become an important venue in the future of Cape Town's visual arts scene, and the festival seems an appropriate event with which to launch itself. More news and reviews of this event follow next week.

For programme, see listings.

View from my window

View from my bedroom window



Un-Private House

Sketch for ground floor interior
of Kramlich Residence and Media Collection
by Herzog & de Meuron
From The Un-Private House
at the MOMA



Sandile Zulu

Sandile Zulu discusses his piece
at the guide's tour of "Liberated Voices"
at the Museum for African Art



New York Journal

Sunday, September 12

Back in New York, my second favourite city in the world after Cape Town, for the opening of "Liberated Voices, Contemporary Art from South Africa" at the Museum for African Art on September 16. I lived in the city for five years in my twenties, and first went to art school here, and I think of New York as my second home. I am staying in a sublet apartment, a fifth floor walk up in a Hispanic neighbourhood on the Lower East Side, and from my bedroom window I can see the tallest buildings in Manhattan, the twin towers of the World Trade Centre.

Pumped by the adrenaline rush of the city, I forget that I have hardly slept on the 24 hour trip from Cape Town, and head for the Museum, located in the heart of Soho, to see how the show looks. Sunday is a great gallery going/shopping day for New Yorkers, and the area is packed. Inside the museum, I find Penny Siopis still in the throes of putting up her installation - a vast assemblage of personal objects collected over the years. What a relief - the show looks great, and even the Museum looks bigger and more spacious than I remembered it.

Monday, September 13

After the rush of Sunday, most museums are closed on Monday, but the Museum of Modern Art stays open, giving us an opportunity to take in an extraordinary architectural exhibition - "The Un-Private House" - homes designed in a very particular way for contemporary living. A home designed for a couple who collect video art allows for the projection of pieces from their collection on various walls and surfaces through the house; a double storey house in downtown Tokyo has enormous white curtains which can be pulled across the exterior to duplicate the soft white interior light of Japanese rice paper shutters, or opened to allow the outside in.

The most fascinating part of the exhibition is a round table for visitors, at which picking up a small 'coaster' with an image of one of the houses on the exhibition and placing it on a designated spot at your place at the table in front of you allows for the calling up on the translucent interactive surface of the table of all kinds of additional information about the house - the client, the architect, the special needs and concept of the home.

Tuesday, September 14

Today there is a tour of the exhibition for the volunteer gallery guides - a large group, mainly African American. Gallery director Frank Herremans introduces the show, and the artists who are here for the opening, Penny Siopis, Bridget Baker, Sandile Zulu and I, each take our turn in talking about our work as the tour proceeds. The group seems deeply interested, and positive, and the discussions go on for two hours.

Afterwards, we had been invited to a cocktail party in Jeff Koons' studio, so we catch the tail end of that, and have the chance to wander through his vast studio spaces on the corner of Broadway and East Houston. All is bright with highly charged colour - toyland on an enormous and perfectionist scale.

More next week.

Design Indaba

Design Indaba
at the V&A Waterfront



World design gurus for Cape Town

Designers universally recognised as the world's best are headed for Cape Town to participate in the 3rd International Design Indaba to be held on the 28th and 29th of October this year at the Sasani Studios, V & A Waterfront, Cape Town.

Key speakers include Oliviero Toscani of Benetton fame, David Carson, the Californian multimedia guru, who single-handedly defined the look of magazines during the graphic revolution of the early nineties, including launching Ray Gun, magazine, writer and creative director Lewis Blackwell, Terry Jones, founder of i-D magazine, Australian Ken Cato, chairman of Cato and Partners, the largest design outfit in the southern hemisphere, and Thomas M�ller (Creative Director of Razorfish).

The theme of the conference is Design in the Service of Communication, and aim of the International Design Indaba is to address the public indifference to the value of good design. With a focus on design as good business while covering all new trends, delegates are promised an unparalleled feast of design served up by the industry masters. Subject matter to be covered includes: product development, building brands, new media and the internet, promotional packaging, design for advertising and managing design for profit.

International Design Indaba also serves as a showcase for the South African design industry, presenting the perfect opportunity for delegates to raise their corporate and individual industry profile, by way of direct contact with international and national design heavyweights.

The conference is directed at designers, advertisers, marketers, printers, publishers, media press, DTP operators, photographers, film and video directors, artists and students.

On the night of Thursday October 28, the 3rd. International Design Indaba, will host the 21st Century Party at which the presentation of the SPADA Young Designer Award will take place. This award is specifically aimed at design students and new designers and fulfils one of the key objectives of the International Design Indaba: to create a platform where knowledge and design techniques can be shared with young industry talent.

There's a website at www.designindaba.com, and for any additional info on the Design Indaba or the 21C party, contact: Simon Grant (P.R), or Joshin Raghubar (Event Director) Cape Town Major Events Company, Tel 021-418 6666 Fax 021-418 6333.

Ross Bening

Ross Bening
Air from Tai Wan



New "museum" for Cape Town

The most institutional and official looking part of Cape Town's new Museum of Contemporary Art is the classic metal lettering that proclaims the name on a white lintel. The space is actually a few square metres behind diamond mesh on Trill Road in Observatory, just around the corner from the trendy Lower Main Road. The Museum is the brainchild of Peet Pienaar, who a few years ago ran the mini space of the Planet Contemporary Art Space about one block away, and Barend de Wet, whose artists' hotel Rooms is not more than fifty paces away.

The space is currently hosting its second exhibition - a minimalist installation by Ross Bening - a red plastic beach ball hung on the wall with the title, Air from Tai Wan. The first was an installation by the curators - Peet and Barend wrote a what's in and what's out list in chalk on torn pieces of black paper and Presticced those up.

Although this sounds rather unlikely, de Wet and Pienaar have announced that the next artist to be shown is American/German superstar Rebecca Horn. September 17 - 24.

The curators are inviting exhibition proposals from artists, and can be contacted at barend123@mweb.co.za.



World's Largest Canvas for Civic

In conjunction with Global Images, Australia, the Johannesburg Civic Gallery is currently involved with a project to produce the "World's Largest Canvas". Twenty four artists in each of a number of cities around the world, including Los Angeles, Dublin & Johannesburg, will be working on a canvas 3m x 2m, depicting their vision of the future. All the canvases will be combined to form the "World's Largest Canvas", which will then be exhibited in Sydney, Australia, for the duration of the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Following the Olympics, the work will travel to, and be exhibited in, all the various cities that contributed a segment.

Artists in each participating city will simultaneously paint a huge canvas divided into twenty-four frames, with the entire event broadcast live on the Internet where possible. Finished pieces will then be exhibited throughout the host cities. An online cyber gallery will also be created to allow a wider audience to view the works.

In Johannesburg, artists will gather at the Civic Gallery from 9:00am on Saturday October 2 1999. Each artist will be given one hour to paint his or her vision of the future on a section of a massive canvas erected at the venue. Some of the artists participating include Kathryn Smith, Stephan Erasmus, Mandla Mabila, Melissa Goba and Kendall Petersen.

The public is invited to watch the artists in action at the Civic Gallery from 9:00am on Saturday 2 October. The completed canvas will be exhibited at the Gallery for three weeks in October. During the exhibition period, October 5 to 26, the public (school groups, creative groups, individuals etc.) will be invited to spend an hour in the gallery, creating their own vision of the future. Please phone Justine Lipson at (011) 403 3408 to book a time.

JHB Civic Gallery, JHB Civic Theatre, Loveday Street, JHB
ph: (011) 403-3408 or fax (011) 403-3412
Box 31900, Braamfontein, 2017
email: civic@theatrekom.co.za / Website: www.artslink.co.za/civic

Kay Hassan

Kay Hassan
Untitled (1999)
Torn paper collage



Kay Hassan

Kay Hassan
Installation detail



Pippa Skotness

Pippa Skotness
Installation detail
Horse bones, ink, gold leaf, and other media



Winner of new DaimlerChrysler art prize

On Saturday, August 28, Johannesburg artist Kay Hassan was announced the first winner of the DaimlerChrysler Art Award at a plush dinner in Cape Town's Table Bay Hotel. The award is worth, say the sponsors, a cool R300 000 in all. At a press conference, German Marketing Director Uli Kostenbader described the new initiative as "a love story to South Africa". The award has been established "to further the careers of innovative young contemporary artists, and raise the profile of South African art culture both at home and abroad."

The prize consists of a cash award amounting to R35 000, a bursary for a study visit to Germany or the United States, an exhibition at the Wurttembergischer Kunstverien in Stuttgart in May, 2000, a possible exhibition in the US, followed by a tour of venues in South Africa. A substantial catalogue will accompany the show.

The ten nominees were each nominated by one international artist or critic, who then all met in Cape Town to view the work on show at the Castle, and in a two day jury conference, came to a final decision. The participating artists were Jane Alexander, Gavin Younge, Patience Ngcobo, Wilson Mgobhozi, Pippa Skotnes, Marc Edwards, nigel Mullins, Berni Searle, Vusi Khumalo and Kay Hassan.

Invited to be judges were South Africans Marilyn Martin, artists David Koloane, Zwelethu Mthethwa and Bongi Dhlomo-Mautloa, ex-ambassadress Lindiwe Mabuza, academic Lallitha Jawahirilal from the University of Durban Westville and Fanyana Shiburi of DaimlerChrysler South Africa. Most glittering luminary was Okwui Enwezor, director of the next Documenta. From Germany, there were DaimlerChrysler people Hansjorg Baumgart, and Dr Uli Kostenbader, gallery directors Dr Martin Henschel and based-in-South-Africa journalist Robert van Lucius. The press was invited to see the work before the jury conference.

In an unusual gesture of transparency, Daimler/Chrysler marked each entrant's piece with the names of the nominees, and since Hassan was the only artist to receive three nominations - Enwezor, Koloane and Hentschel - he seemed an early favourite.

The work he showed was his bicycle installation surrounded by broken loaves or bread, slides from his Shebeen installation, one of the most popular pieces on the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale, and two new large collage pieces, made from torn up posters.

Berni Searle seemed a strong contender - having made the breakthrough from her early ponderous resin pieces she seems increasingly able to mine the well of identity-based installations combining photography and found objects. Pippa Skotnes, always an obsessive worker, presented the skeleton of a horse in which every bone surface is covered with notations of religious information, written in black script, and gold leaf. More bones laid on the floor and wooden crossed surrounded the skeleton, and a purple cardinal's robe surmounted by a monkey's skull hung on the wall.

One might have thought that Jane Alexander, too, would be well up in the running - though the Bom Boys shown recently at the Irma Stern were not available for viewing and had been shipped off elsewhere. But all in all, Hassan seemed a worthy winner - and it will be extremely interesting to see what work emerges from this remarkable opportunity.

Willian Scarbrough

William Scarbrough
Prosthetic 1999
Installation detail



Willian Scarbrough

William Scarbrough
Prosthetic 1999
Installation detail



"Artists in Art Therapy" conference at Wits

In a unique 6-week workshop series, facilitators Merryn Singer and Kathryn Smith and art therapist Hayley Berman assembled an eclectic group of artists to explore conditions around/allowing creative production. This 'opening' on the 6 September 1999 at 18h30 at the Wedge, Wits University, will function more as an informal discussion led by the group, laying open the process of art therapy. Artists include Ryan Arenson, Steven Cohen, Berenice Garb, Melissa Goba, Justine Lipson, Mandla Mabila, Stompie Selepe and Kathryn Smith. The Forum Theatre's participatory theatre piece Entitled will be performed after the discussion.

This event forms part of the 5th Annual South Africa Qualitative Methods Conference (6 - 8 September 1999), a 3-day conference that promotes cross-disciplinary practices and alternative forms of knowledge production. As a result, video presentations, performance art, multimedia, visual art and theatre occupy equal status as the more traditional presentation of academic papers. This year's theme is Normality and Pathology in the Late 20th Century/South Africa and will touch on such issues as queer and ethno-psychiatry, monsters, witches, psychotechnics, gender issues and the relationship between aesthetics & pathology, amongst many others.

The conference programme includes the launch of the second independent publication by Histories of the Present Press - a CD-ROM called From Method to Madness: Five Years of Qualitative Enquiry, which includes film and video, art, music, academic papers and articles; the first South African presentation of New York artist William Scarbrough's interactive CD-ROM piece Prosthetic (copies of this will be on sale); and a performance piece exploring Breyten Breytenbach and Philip Glass by Petrus de Kock. For more information on the programme and registration, please contact Derek Hook at 018HOD@muse.wits.ac.za.

Brett Murray

Wrapped in plastic, drawing in the background, Brett Murray's sculpture awaits the next stage - making the mould for the final bronze piece.



Brett Murray Sculpture: decision

After months of indecision and a last minute attempt to get five additional expert opinions on a piece of public sculpture it deemed culturally sensitive, (August ArtThrob) The Cape Town City Council has withdrawn all previous demands. Brett Murray's sculpture, winner of an international competition sponsored by the Gross Trust, may go forward to completion and stand in the originally allocated site in St Georges Mall, a pedestrian walkway in the centre of the city.

The objections of the Council centred around the fact that the sculpture, which will be a representation of a West African fetish figure with erupting Bart Simpson heads, might offend those sections of the community to whom the fetish figure had some spiritual significance. Well known Nigerian academic, Prof. Kole Omotoso, wrote a support statement for the sculpture negating this view, but last month, the Council still asked the lawyer for the Trust to provide a further five opinions. A flat refusal to do this from the lawyer seems to have done the trick. Or perhaps it was the cutting letter John Skotnes wrote to the Cape Times. ArtThrob readers expressed their views in this month's feedback.

Artist Murray is now free to complete the clay figure from which the mould will be made to cast the figure in bronze. The Bart Simpson head will be enameled bright yellow.

Open letter from Turkish artist

From: Vasif Kortun

Friends, I am sure you all know about the earthquake that devastated Northwestern Turkey last week. We are expecting something like 40,000+ people dead, and many left behind who have lost mothers, fathers, children, relatives and friends. The international community, including the so-called "arch enemies" of Turkey, was extremely generous, kind and ready to help, and I thank you all for many kind messages I have received last week. The Turkish state, was as usual, slow to organize, and coordinate the relief effort. The earthquake was not a natural disaster. The havoc was caused by poor quality construction, and building on faulty sites. I leave you to guess how building permits were given out and what they have to do with the political system in Turkey.

Some artists have worked for the rescue teams, others helped with the organization of the relief assistance, and this seems to be the most one can do these days, but I am looking forward to your suggestions as to what we can do professionally. What are the possible roles that contemporary visual culture play in a time like this? One thing to keep in mind that there are several constituencies: the people who have been directly effected, some 200,000 people left homeless; people related to people who have been directly effected; and those who have followed it in the media.

This is a critical time in Turkey's history when it suddenly dawned on to a lot of people that civilian action is more kind, quick, and not-so-loud; that neighboring countries, peoples, and even "Europeans" are just as human, loving and compassionate. The whole propagandist structure, the nationalist paranoia, and the isolationism collapsed in a week. Everything that used to be so cherished became meaningless, and blank. A correction was inevitable, and I am so saddened that it had to happen this way.

If you have tents you can send, please let me know. But at least, as important, I look forward to your ideas about healing in whichever form it may come.

Vasif Kortun
Istanbul Contemporary Art Project
MBE 230, Tarlabasi Bulvari No: 60
Taksim 80080 Istanbul, TURKEY
tel/fax +90.212.245.5652
cellular:+90.542.243.5810
E-mail: kortun@netone.com.tr

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