Posts Tagged ‘wunderkamer’

I am exhibiting works as par of FNB Art Joburg Fair (https://artjoburg.com) in South Africa with Kalashnikovv Gallery (https://kalashnikovv.com/). A large-scale installation, ‘Houseboat #2’ (shown below) and a single related bronze work ‘Masked’ (also shown below).

In Houseboat#2 the form of the boat/ vessel is synonym for an expanded definition of the home. Here the home is understood as a space of dwelling that, other than a permanent brick and mortar built structure, moves through the world as a provisional, ever-changing form. This construction is as much a physical extension of my body as it is a site and a vessel through which I traverse the world even as I negotiate my sense of belonging as part thereof.  Houseboat #2 is made from pine wood, a widely available and non-permanent means of sculptural construction. Materially speaking pinewood is light and easily shaped or joined together. It is typically used for building applications such as roof trusses, fences, decks and other non – or – semi-permanent structures. As such it is an ideal means to materially expand the self (the body, the psyche) into a number of aesthetic forms that are always only provisional even though they appear fixed or permanent.  

For Houseboat #2 I have mounted a small museum-style display cabinet near the stern of the vessel. The cabinet is filled with a found collection of 35mm photographic slides comprising visuals materials (such as examples of artworks, architecture, design) all related to the teaching of undergraduate modules in Art History and Visual Studies at the University of Pretoria. Questions of belonging, of changing technology and of decolonial thoughts about art and art education in our current context are all brought to bear upon one another.    


This piece simply called ‘Masked’ (2020) also showing with Kalashnikovv Gallery as part of FNB Art Joburg. In plain terms a portrait of Nelson Mandela cast in bronze and patinaed, standing slightly larger than life-size at 30 x 20 x 16cm. A work in dialogue with the artwork Houseboat #2.

The mask may be understood as a discarded object found as part of the journey into the archive of our collective memories. The piece was made by modeling the face in clay, casting it in wax form and then partially covering the wax with South African newspaper clippings dating from 1994 & a sisal rope netting. During the process the wax and final bronze cast slowly became distorted. This is a normal part of the casting process but here I think it closely analogous to the way in the archive becomes distorted, deteriorating materially and taking on new, often unintended meanings as we engage with it.

Most importantly for me the net is actually the mask here (i.e the tools by which we interact with archival items), a form of layering that simultaneously obscures and enables meaning. The more straightforward reading of the recognizable face as mask (Mandela) refers to an artwork by Kendell Geers, ‘Portrait of the artist as a young man’ (1993) that, in keeping with questions raised in Houseboat 2, formed a part of my art education. Despite such readings on my part, I do think that today for many South Africans the legacy of Nelson Mandela is an immensely complex matter. More to the point, his image, the face and the surface of the thing, may function as a means of masking, of ritually hiding behind as people advance their particular agendas in the nasty carnival that is contemporary South African politics. And I choose my words carefully here to invoke the writings of Achille Mbembe, in particular his thoughts on the role and function of ritual in the postcolony, the intimacy of tyranny that form part of our daily lives.

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