Posts Tagged ‘Performance art’

Terms of endearment by Johan Thom

Video still 1 ‘Terms of endearment’ Johan Thom, 2007

At Iwalewahaus for a 3 day festival/ screening of ‘The film will always be you’ curated by Abrie Fourie​ and Zoe Whitley​ as of this Saturday. Then for some mischevious fun with a dark performance as part of the conference program for ‘Art of Wagnis’ dedicated to the life and work of provocateur Christoph Schlingensief.

More details about the ‘Art of Wagnis’ conference here:


and for ‘The Film will always be you’ here:



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“I am the director (we must have direction beyond the mere fact of our course, of our direction, our charter, the map and the stars we follow)”web-2014-J-Thom

Photographic still from HOUSEBOAT #1

Performance on 31 January 2014 in Antwerp as part of the exhibition ‘Nomad Bodies’ curated by Elfriede Dreyer with glass sheet, flour and honey.

This work is part of a new series of works by Johan Thom centred on exploring the notion of the ‘houseboat’. To be clear this is distinct from the more commonplace concept of the ‘boathouse’ (a boat on water that doubles as a human habitat).

In this sense the houseboat signals a rethinking of the ordinary house as being a stationary built environment inhabited by individuals, families and so forth.

In this series of artworks the notion of the house as an ordinary private dwelling is displaced in favour of a more open-ended understanding: the house become a space through-and-by which real and imagined journeys into the world are undertaken on a daily basis. The house now becomes something like a ghost ship – a simultaneously ethereal & concrete framework that accompanies and informs ones myriad interactions with the surrounding world. The houseboat is never left behind as one travels into world but an every present reality in ones daily life.

For Houseboat #1 my voice became a virtual ‘speaking of’ the houseboat and its crew as they journey into the world. For me, these multiple voices are the material embodiment of the interactive relationship between the houseboat, the various individuals that inhabit it and the world they encounter on their journey.

At the end of the performance I simply let go of the glass sheet.

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“I dislike the uncritical celebration of form that often accompanies the idea of outrageous fashion and costume as some kind of new-found freedom of identity” Johan Thom

Quoted in the article ‘Welcome to the cabaret of art’ by Sean O’ Toole and published in the Mail and Guardian.

Artists are dressing up – or undressing – to make a point about who they really are. But is the spectacle more than just cheap drag?

Full article here:

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From the archives: Entefada (2002)

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Johan Thom

becoming, binding & disappearing – a selection of video works

Apr 22nd – Sep 5th 2010

curated by Dr. Ulf Vierke

Iwalewa Haus (The Africa Center of the University of Bayreuth)

Münzgasse 9
95444 Bayreuth, Germany
Tel: +49-921-554600


Johan Thom is a South African visual artist working with the body as primary subject material. This is the first time that a comprehensive selection of his video works and video installations are shown together.

Well known for his performances, videos and video installations Thom often subjects the body to extremes in a quest to map its ongoing transformation. His works are both enigmatic and playful, subverting preconceived notions about identity, the body, politics and knowledge.

Thom is part of a generation of South Africans born in 1976, the year of the Soweto riots and the introduction of television in South Africa (a group that also coincidentally exercised for the first time their right to vote in the democratic elections of 1994). This generation of South African artists stand precariously balanced between the past and the present of South African society, its culture and history. In this regard Thom’s works do not fit comfortably into the celebratory mould of the ‘new’ South Africa but, rather, is anchored in a constant personal movement through – and exploration of – the contradictory poetics and politics of being a ‘white-male-Afrikaans-speaking-African’. His artistic position here is that of an individual perhaps somewhere between a modern day shaman and a traditional court jester. The result is a darkly humorous and provocative artistic exploration of the relationship between subjectivity, knowledge and the body.

The exhibition includes a number of large-scale video projections and installations such as Challenging mud after Kazuo Shiraga (2008), a video projection displayed on a thin layer of flour placed on the floor and showing the artist being buried alive with his body covered in gold leaf; Theory of displacement (2007/8), a massive immersive environment consisting of three video projections in which the artist lies tarred and feathered in a natural spring situated in the area known as the ‘Cradle of Humankind’, South Africa; Terms of endearment (2007) in which the artist made up in ‘skullface’ happily gargles on ordinary washing detergent and champagne. Also included on the exhibition is a new large-scale installation titled Blood Rites (2010) showing the extreme close-up movement of the artist’s face covered in gold leaf as he ritually places 50 individually engraved razor blades in his mouth, chewing and spitting them – all projected onto a number of thick rope lengths hanging from the ceiling.

This solo exhibition is supplemented by the screening of Terrorizing the concept of meaning – Conversations with Johan Thom, a 43-minute documentary film produced by Iwalewa Haus & the Federal German Research Council and made by Thorolf Lipp and Tobias Wendl following extensive interaction with the artist over the course of the past two years.

Venue: Iwalewa Haus, Münzgasse 9, Bayreuth, Germany

Vernissage: 19h00, 22 April 2010

Artist talk: 19h00, 23 April 2010

Opening Hours: Tue – Sun 14h00 – 18h00

Dates: 22 April 2010 – 05 September 2010

Contact: iwalewa@uni-bayreuth.de

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