Peet Pienaar and
Barend de Wet at

Installation view

A gallery-goer does
some winding up



Paul Edmunds on Peet and Barend's latest performance

Following on a performance at a Durban Art Gallery 'Red Eye' event involving amplified sewing machines, the art team of Barend de Wet and Peet Pienaar have once more used sound as the essential element in a new performance.

One Saturday in November, a pristine white space in Lower Main Road, Observatory, was filled with white, wheeled tables on which sat transparent Free Play solar and clockwork powered radios, each tuned to a different station and having to be regularly rewound to maintain power. This was done by the artists in their customary ill-fitting suits with pale shoes and shaven heads with henna cornrows. Fresh juice was being sold at the back of the space.

Offset by the clean space and identical units, the resultant cacophony seemed to require a lot of maintenance. The different radio stations competing for your attention could be interpreted as the many faces and voices of contemporary South African and global cultural production. The transparent casings of the radios reveal their workings, perhaps symbolically demystifying the process and making accessible the often arcane methods of cultural production.

In theory this works, but as a spectator one feels unsure of one's status or what degree of formality one expects from such a presentation. The danger in this narrowing of the gap between "art" and "life" lies in alienating both the viewer who is comfortable with the conventional relationship between the two and the layperson who doesn't quite get the obviousness of it all. The event was nevertheless visually and intellectually engaging and enjoyable.



Steven Cohen, 1998 Vita
Art prize winner

Vita Awards: Nominate your choice online

This year, for the first time, ArtThrob gives you the opportunity to nominate online your choice for the next R20 000 Vita Art Prize for contemporary art.

The Vita is the most prestigious and coveted award in the South African art world, our very own version of Britain's Turner Prize. It is also the only big prize open to all artists - the Standard Bank Young Artist award is for under forties, and the Volkskas Atelier draws the line at 35. The competition is designed to "promote interest and debate around South African contemporary art". What an excellent idea.

The competition is now run in conjunction with the Sandton Civic Gallery, which hosts the exhibition of the finalists, and director Natasha Fuller has given the event a much needed injection of energy. Last year's winner was drag performance artist Steven Cohen, who beat William Kentridge, Lisa Brice, Sandile Zulu, Moshekwa Langa and Siemon Allen on his way to the podium.

To nominate the contemporary artist you think was the standout of the past year - nominations close January 31 1999 - click here for the nomination form.

BASA calls for 1998 nominations

Few large art projects would ever happen without sponsorship, and encouraging business to help enrich our cultural landscape by supporting the arts in this way is what Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) is all about.

Awards recognising the enormous value of such sponsorship (R50 million rand across a broad range of activities) were launched last year, and the call is now out for nominations for the 1998 Business Day/BASA Awards for Business and the Arts.

These awards will relate to sponsorships made during the calendar year January 1 to December 31 1998, including long-term or ongoing sponsorships current during that period. The awards, which highlight and acknowledge innovative and successful sponsorship of the arts by the business sector, are open to all companies sponsoring arts events, projects or organisations in South Africa, and all companies sponsoring South African arts events abroad.

Awards categories include:
. Best use of a commission of new art
. First-time sponsor
. Long-term development
. Strategic sponsorship
. Increasing access to the arts
. International sponsorship
. Single project
. Sponsorship by a small business
. Sponsorship in kind
. Youth sponsorship

A judging panel, comprising professionals from the business sector, will evaluate the success of each sponsorship in achieving the objectives of the sponsor and in bringing genuine benefits to the arts organisation. Other factors, such as the innovative nature of the sponsorship, will be taken into account.

Contact Business and Arts South Africa for more info or nomination/entry forms at telephone (011) 784 9994/5, fax (011) 784 9996 or e-mail The closing date for entries is 28th February 1999.

Cyber conference raises interesting questions - and great networking opportunities

Launched in mid-October, an online debate on the role of the internet in the international art world is gathering momentum and an increasing number of contributions as it rolls towards its original closing date of December 5. The site is hosted by the House of World Cultures in Berlin, and was intitiated by curator Gerhard Haupt. The mailing list is now over 200 strong, and so positive has the response been that there have been many calls to extend the life of the forum, to make it a permanent arena for the exchange of art related information and views, and indeed, from Haupt's response, it seems that this will happen.

In the early weeks of the forum, many of the contributions were from established curators and art historians, and were criticised by some as being too theoretical, but now more and more voices of individual artists are being raised. Anjali Arora is an artist living in India whose letter to the forum conveys her excitement at the connection to the world provided by the web. Andrey Martynov forwards an invitation from Japan to artists to take part in an exhibition in which artists are sent the materials to make a Japanese folding fan which will be sent back for exhibition. Pedro Meyer gives his site address - - in response to Birgit Haenhel, who asks "I am specially looking for contemporary art concerning the subjects of identity hybridity and migration. What does it mean in our 'global' world"?

Most contributors provide links to further websites or articles of interest, and it seems a pity that apart from one contribution from Zimbabwe from a group running a radio station, little has been heard from Southern Africa. But it's not too late.

To get more information, sign on, or receive a summary of past contributions, e-mail



Isolde Krams' installation
on 'Dreams and Clouds' in

South African artists overseas

The Rijksakademie in Amsterdam is one of the world's most prestigious centres of art learning, a place where 60 young artists from all over the globe can hone their skills in a variety of media and try out their ideas on an international body of advisers. The recent end-of-year student showings at the akademie included the best of the year's work by Johannesburg artists Moshekwa Langa and Luan Nel, and Durban's Greg Streak.

In London, the new art book on many people's Christmas list is called Cream, a thick compilation of the work of 100 international artists as selected by 10 curators, one of whom is Okwi Enwezor. South Africans who made it onto this newest hot list: William Kentridge, Kaye Hassan and Kendell Geers.

In Stockholm, the South African group show 'Dreams and Clouds' at the city's Kulturhuset has drawn an excellent critical response, with full page coverage in a number of newspapers. Photographed particularly often have been works by Isolde Krams, Alfred Munyai and Kevin Brand. The show will be up till January, after which it moves to Gothenburg.



Turner Prize winner
Chris Ofili

Detail of a painting
by Chris Ofili

Britain's Turner Prize winner announced

The winner of the world's most keenly observed art award, Britain's Turner Prize, is Chris Ofili. Ofili is British born of Nigerian parents, and becomes the first black person to win the Turner, and the first painter in 12 years. No news story ever mentions Ofili without reference to the elephant dung the artist has delivered from the London zoo to use in his work, but in fact the dung is often only a minor textural element in a rich veil of layers of brilliant flat and dotted colour, images cut from magazines, resins and varnishes.

Others on this year's shortlist were sculptor Cathy de Monchaux, whose immaculately presented pieces hover somewhere between pathology and sado-masochism - one was seen in this country this year on the British sculpture show at the Johannesburg Art Gallery and the SANG in Cape Town; video installation artist Tacita Dean and photographer Sam Taylor-Wood. It is interesting to note that in the past two years, out of eight finalists, seven have been women.



William Kentridge:
The cover

Drawing from Felix
in Exile
Charcoal on paper
120 x 150cm

Kentridge works on a model
for Il Ritorno d'Ulisse,
Brussels, 1998

Art books for Christmas

William Kentridge by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev (Société des Expositions du Palais des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles, 1998) 191 pages; R444

William Kentridge is deservedly this country's most acclaimed artist, in demand for museum shows all over the world. With this fine catalogue, produced in conjunction with the major survey of his work held at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels this year, the artist receives the sustained consideration of his creative output that is long overdue.

An introduction by the author, art critic Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, traces the themes of Kentridge's work through the early influences of his family, schooling and his life in his hometown of Johannesburg, and contextualises it on a world stage. Kentridge is known for his drawings, animated films and installations, and for his staged collaborations with the Handspring Puppet Company. Chapters deal with each major body of work, and the artist himself, writing at length, is enlighteningly frank and often amusing about his creative and technical processes.

For those who might wonder why Kentridge restricts himself to charcoal drawings with a few colour accents: "Oil painting is always, in some sense, trying to get an effect, something that looks like a nice picture. Drawing is a very different process. The speed of putting the marks down, the fact that they are dry yet changeable ... gives the work a kind of immediacy. Also, I'm very insecure about colour: I don't trust my taste. Charcoal has a range of grey scales, and there are moments of colour that can come through, but the work is not constructed around colour; it is constructed around line and tone. The drawings don't start with 'a beautiful mark'. It has to be a mark of something out there in the world. It doesn't have to be an accurate drawing, but it has to stand for an observation, not something that is abstract like an emotion."

Kentridge on Ubu and the Truth Commission (1997): "How does one deal with the weight of evidence presented to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission? How to absorb the horror stories themselves, and the implications of what one knew, half knew, and did not know of the abuses of the apartheid years. The need to work with this material came from the urgency of the questions raised by this dissection. Not that I expect a piece of theatre to provide specific answers to how one deals with private and historic memory, but that the work (or making the piece, perhaps of watching it) becomes part of the process of absorbing this legacy."

The insights into the mind of this intelligent and highly evolved artist, the flawless reproduction of his work, the exhaustive footnotes and biographical material, the clean design of the book, all go to make it an essential in any library on South African art.

Available from Exclusive Books in Cavendish Square, Cape Town, who, amazingly, do not accept e-mail orders for books. Tel: (021) 64-3030.



The cover

The Kom Ghorab project
in Cairo, Egypt (1996)

Art Criticism and Africa edited by Katy Deepwell (Saffron Books, an imprint of Eastern Art Publishing African Art and Society Series. Series Editor: Sajid Rizvi) UK price £11.95

Reviewed for ArtThrob by Andrew Putter

Running to 112 pages, Art Criticism and Africa explores its twin themes through 13 short essays, each piece just long enough to read over a generous cup of coffee and a cigarette. The book's diverse writers were asked to look at the criticism of contemporary art from Africa, and four loose thematic groupings were used to focus the writing: art criticism about Africa which takes place outside of the continent; the role of the art critic as advocate; institutional issues in the administration of culture; and the question of art criticism for whom?

Essayists come from as far afield as South Africa, Britain, Nigeria and Florida, and there's a lively balance of writing style - ranging from the carefully academic to the warmness of autobiography. Although it sometimes feels as though the book deals with its enormous subjects too superficially, this conciseness is perfect as an introduction to a largely unknown and relatively underdeveloped field.

My own favourite is a very short essay by Fatma Ismail Afifi about a public art project in Cairo. The project is a collaboration between two artists and a critic (Afifi herself) and is located in a squatter area, a place where "chaos rules". Through slowly getting to know the residents of the area, Afifi and the two artists have begun a project which "seeks to fulfil their human existence through a new relationship of art intermeshed with life." What is exciting is not only the attempt to look at art from outside art - but also the way the critic becomes integral to this linking of art to life.

Many of the essays look at some of the dichotomies and schisms which are a feature of the field: Africa vs not-Africa, first world vs third world, and academic vs popular, for example. There is a general call that these kinds of differences be reconciled, that we learn to use everything we have to develop a supportive context for the flourishing of the arts in Africa.

Perhaps, someone out there will edit a sequel to this informative teaser of a book. We could all do with some practical examples of the ways in which people from different fields and frameworks can benefit from one another. Art Criticism and Africa goes some way to beginning that dialogue by introducing us to some of the main ideas, issues and players in the field.

Available by post from Saffron Books, PO Box 13666, London, SW14 8WF, UK. Fax: 0944-181-392-1422. E-mail:



The cover

Black Art and Culture in the 20th Century by Richard J Powell (Thames & Hudson "World of Art" series 1997, reprinted 1998) Accessibly priced at R91

Although the title of this book might lead one to think all the artists featured are black, this is not the case. American academic Richard Powell has chosen to focus on black cultural themes throughout the African diaspora rather than on racial identity. His book covers everything from the use of black stereotypes in early advertising posters, through work made during the struggle for civil rights in the United States, to incisive work by contemporary artists like Sue Coe, Carrie Mae Weems, Isaac Julien and Adrian Piper.

Available from Exclusive Books, Cavendish Square, Claremont.

The cover

An example of an Ardmore teapot

Ardmore - An African Discovery by Gillian Scott (Fernwood Press, 1998) R95

The Natal midlands have produced a distinctive culture of highly decorated ceramics, and the Ardmore Studio is one of the more notable centres of this craft. This book, with its handsome illustrations of their colourful output, and a wealth of information about the traditions and talents of the craftspeople, will almost certainly boost the ceramics as extremely desirable collectors' items.

An Ardmore handpainted teapot similar to the one at left (valued at R1 000) will be won by a purchaser of the book this season.

A Publishers' Choice selection from Exclusive Books.



The cover

The District Six Public Sculpture Project edited by Crain Soudien and Renate Meyer (The District Six Museum, 1998) 57 pages. R50

In October 1997, more than 80 artists - mainly from Cape Town but also from further afield - participated in an outdoor sculpture project designed to celebrate and mourn the community which once occupied the area known as District Six. Many of the actual pieces did not survive for very long, but on the day of the opening of the project, they were carefully documented and photographed, and this well-designed catalogue is the result. In addition to the excellent photographs, a number of essays contextualise the project.

Available from the District Six Museum, 25 Buitenkant Street, Cape Town. Phone: (021) 461-8745.



The cover

Bringing Up Baby - Artists Survey the Reproductive Body curated by Terry Kurgan (1998) R25

Click through to Brenda Atkinson's review of this show on ZA@Play to see what this show is all about - the catalogue with its insightful essays is well worth having, whether you've seen the show or not. The beautiful reproductions of work by such artists as Jane Alexander, Penny Siopis and Colin Richards make the catalogue a pleasure to be able to recommend.

Available from the Mark Coetzee Fine Art Cabinet in Cape Town. Phone (021) 424-1667.



The cover, with a piece
by Jane Alexander

Art in South Africa: The Future Present by Sue Williamson and Ashraf Jamal (David Philip Publishers, Cape Town, 1996) R189

Co-authored by the editor of ArtThrob, this book is not new on the shelves, but if you want more information about the artists, their motivations, and the kind of contemporary work that has appeared on the pages of ArtThrob this year - such artists as Moshekwa Langa, William Kentridge, Wayne Barker, Penny Siopis, Lisa Brice, et al - browse through this book. Nothing else published since covers the same ground. Lots of colour pix.

Order online from the publishers at, or get it from Exclusive Books.



The cover

If there's an artist on your Christmas list looking for bucks to support a project, here are two books to help with tracking down the vital info on who gives what kind of support for which initiative - invaluable now that that inestimable regular source of information, The Cultural Weapon, is no longer being published. Both books are supported by the Arts and Culture Trust, and we reprint the review of the first book from the May issue of ArtThrob.

The South African Handbook on Arts and Culture 1998, edited by Mike van Graan and Micky du Plessis, R250

Knowledge is power, they say, and armed with The South African Handbook on Arts and Culture 1998, artists and curators will be able to see exactly where to go to generate the patronage and funds they need to get a particular project going. Completely indispensable breakdowns of who's who in governmental art structures, budgets, awards, media - excluding all electronic media like this column - it's all here. A little gap to be filled in next year's edition: a more complete listing of Cape Town galleries. But that's a minor quibble. Order from



The cover

The Arts Funding Guide, edited by Jill Ritchie (Papillon Press, sponsored by the Arts and Culture Trust and Nedbank), 142p, R105

Less comprehensive than the Handbook, The Arts Funding Guide, edited by Jill Ritchie, takes as its adage, "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail", and gives you, along with the essential lists of contacts, clear advice on how to enlist support from potential funders, how to plan your campaign, and what the steps are for the essential follow-up.

Available from Exclusive Books, Cavendish Square, Claremont. Phone: (021) 64-3030.

...ZA@PLAY   MWeb

e-mail us

contents | listings | artbio | project | exchange
news | feedback | websites | archive | home