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Iwalewa-Haus

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

http://www.iwalewa.uni-bayreuth.de/

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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Preview for a longer film by Thorolf Lipp and Tobias Wendl from Germany about the work of South African Media Artist Johan Thom

Terrorizing the Concept of Meaning
Documentary about South African media artist Johan Thom
Directors: Thorolf Lipp & Tobias Wendl
Camera, Editing & Postproduction: Thorolf Lipp
English, 45 minutes
Produced by: Thorolf Lipp
Produced for: IWALEWA-Haus & DFG (Federal German Research Council)

Weblinks:

Arcadia Film: http://www.youtube.com/user/arcadiafilm

Thorolf Lipp, Cultural Anthropologist and filmmaker: http://www.thorolf-lipp.de/

Tobias Wendl, director of the Iwalewa-Haus, the Africa Centre of Bayreuth University: http://www.tobiaswendl.com

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