It’s the wind and the sun that occupies a blade of grass wholly. Like a coat of arms that defends nothing but, instead, invades it in session of wanting and of making. The touch of a million long fingers that wills its way across a threadbare back, bending and folding, cantankerously clicking and distorting the spine from the outside in. That’s where it wants to be.
To give this moment something like a lasting form is to accept this invasion from the outside in. To listen and to see from the diffused plateau of all light and to accept in that moment the infinite width of all that breathes – the very lived experience that always has you in its grasp while you can only ever have it in your sights. Like a lone sniper on a hill that occupies and defends their territory always in the singular: I/you have you/me in my/your sight.
This attempt to defend oneself against the inevitable invasion of the outside is sustained by the illusion that one may come to know something wholly without becoming wholly immersed in it. And to find that despite our best efforts to the contrary, tomorrow will be as yesterday. (J. Thom 2003)
Bind/Ontbind 2, 2003
Performance at the Venice Biennale 2003 as part of the group exhibition ‘Recycling the future:viveravenezia2’ curated by Angela Vetesse, Duration approx 30 minutes
All the works of the ‘bind/ontbind’ Series attempt to collapse the dichotomy inherent in their title… In Afrikaans to ‘bind’ means “to tie up; to fasten; cement; hold; trammel; bind…bound by; commit (to the conditions)…linkage; fixation; weave (patterns)…to connect”. Conversely, the word ‘ontbind’ means to “untie; undo; break up; disband; dissolve; decompose; decay; putrify; disintegrate; analyze; decompound; resolve (forces); dissociate; disconnect; …disintegration; disestablishment; dissolution; …annulment”.
This series of work could also be seen as a n attempt to critically engage the obsession with the politics of representation that dominated in the South African artworld during the early years of post-apartheid South Africa. For me the problem with its critique of the binary modes of representation that dominated in apartheid South Africa was not that it was not deeply needed, but rather, that this post-apartheid critique did not go far enough to de-stabilize the very system that allowed and empowered such binary distinctions as self/ other, white/black, male/female, human/animal to function in the first place.
The works in this series are all metaphors for the complex interrelationship between these two seemingly oppositional forces – everything we are and we everything we know is subject to their constant re-vision, re-articulation and re-formation. Albert Einstein said that the only constant force in the universe is change. However, I would add that, for me change is in itself chaotic. It has no substance and cannot be objectively known.
Bind/Ontbind Series 3, 2003
Public performance, Venice (Italy), Duration approx 30 minutes
Thus everything is subject to change including our (re) interpretations of its meaning. In fact, there is the paradox: as with all things, we can only speak about it in metaphors – in order to render it knowledgeable we have to position words/concepts ‘in its stead’, to ‘represent’ it i.e. ‘bind/ontbind’. For me, things are not either in the process of ‘binding’ or of ‘un-binding’ alone, they are simultaneously doing both.
“We may attempt to contain this ongoing process of transformation (or of expansion and retraction) within complex systems of knowledge – as various historical epistemologies, ontologies and cosmologies have attempted to do before – but we cannot ever hope to contain it. If this is the ‘grand narrative’ that defines human existence, it is not grand at all: neither its cause nor its effect will ever be ours for the taking. As an artist, all I wish to do is to draw attention to this fact”. (Interview with the artist/curator Alex Zika for the show “Agora” held in London at the Transition Gallery, 2004).