February 3, 2013
October 7, 2011
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May 31, 2011
Opening Tuesday 14th June 2011 @ 18h30
Resolution Gallery is proud to present ‘DENCITY’, a collaborative exhibition by André Clements and Daniel Hirschmann.
Using their home cities of Johannesburg and London as inspiration and subject matter, the artists have created a series of works that are algorithmic cityscapes interpreting the ebb and flow of two rapidly growing habitats. Both cities have experienced aggressive expansion, swallowing their surroundings, leaving echoes of what came before.
Clements and Hirschmann have each programmed and built their own tools and techniques that capture and then portray these urban spaces. The images often transform elements of architecture while highlighting the fluidity of the city.
Stylistically the exhibition blends digital image manipulation technology with artistic paradigms such as cubism, painterly abstraction and post-abstract expressionism. The artists intend this as an integration, rather than mere combination, of elements and influences.
‘DENCITY’ will be opened by Professor Christo Doherty (Head of Digital Arts, Wits University) and runs from 14th June until 13th August 2011 at Resolution Gallery, Unit 4, 142 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood 2193, Johannesburg, South Africa.
For futher information contact:
Resolution Gallery, www.resolutiongallery.com, email@example.com, +27 (0)11 880 4054
André Clements, www.andresclements.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, +27 (0)82 869 0564
Daniel Hirshmann, www.danielhirschmann.com, email@example.com, +44 77 2628 7484
May 24, 2011
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May 20, 2011
May 19, 2011
Sowat 20 jaar ná die “oorlog op die grens”, ’n lang en bloedige stryd waarvan middeljarige mans steeds uiteenlopende herinneringe het, is klinkklare kennis daarvan steeds vaag.
Daar is verhale oor dié oorlog (wat selde vertel word), maar omdat inligting oor operasies tussen 1966 en 1989 so streng beheer is, is dié stories meestal anekdoties.
Dit was die tyd van nasionale diensplig, van rylooppunte vir “troepies”, van ratelende konvooie deur strate en van aankondigings op TV-nuus van manskappe wat in skermutselings gesneuwel het.
Doherty verbeeld aspekte van dié oorlog in ’n uitstalling wat hy noem Bos – Constructed Images and the Memory of the South African “Border War”, wat Donderdagaand in die US Kunsgalery in Stellenbosch open.
Pleks daarvan om “feitelik” te werk te gaan (want dit is ’n nagmerrie op sigself), is sy foto’s geskoei op modeltaferele gegrond op mediaberigte en -foto’s en hedendaagse jong mans wat poseer as troepe.
Doherty konfronteer die kyker nie met foto’s van die ware gebeure nie, maar juis met foto’s van ’n gemodelleerde werklikheid – wat nie minder skreiend as die werklikheid is nie.
Die kyker word genoop om sy/haar geheue in rat te kry om via herinnering die impak van die oorlog te beleef. Op dié manier verskerp Doherty die trefkrag van die werke in die uitstalling.
Modelle (wat dikwels gebruik word tydens die strategie-beplanning van veldslae) verbeeld in talle van die foto’s die tragiese afloop van skermutselings.
Die spanning word des te meer opgejaag omdat die Lilliput-modelle nie ’n eie wil het nie en derhalwe ontdaan is van skuld en blaam. Hulle kry betekenis slegs omdat hulle verwys na die betekende saak.
Van die foto’s is skokkend – nie op ’n sensasionele manier nie, maar juis omdat dit so resoneer met ’n mens se herinneringe.
Rand Show II is op die oog af ’n “maklike” werk. Maar die seuntjie se bewondering vir die soldaat en die pantservoertuig op die agtergrond (en die ma wat ’n foto neem van dié toneeltjie in die werk Rand Show I) vergestalt iets van die nasionale psige van die tyd.
’n Mens wonder hoe ’n geslag wat dié oorlog nie beleef het nie sou reageer, juis omdat Doherty herinnering as ’n kardinale deel van die ervaring van die uitstalling hanteer.
In sy reeks portrette Black is Beautiful gebruik Doherty 18-jariges (wat dalk net deur pa’s se skrapse verhale toegang het tot die oorlog) om te poseer in nagkamoeflering. Nie net is die titel van dié groep werke sprekend nie, maar ook die feit dat die oorlogsmasjien die mag het om van enige mens ’n vegter te maak.
Soos wat in die Bosoorlog die geval was.
first published by dieburger.com
May 17, 2011
May 16, 2011
May 15, 2011
One Sunday afternoon, when I was ten years old, I found my father’s army photographs in a box in his his wardrobe. I remember one image in particular: a Polaroid showing him bare-chested and grinning, sitting in the sand looking directly at the photographer, wearing only his khaki hat and shorts. His rifle was lying in his crotch, and a beer rested on the sand nearby. I asked him who took the picture, and the circumstances under which it was taken. To my puzzlement he spent some time just staring at the tiny photograph in silence. He said something about Rodney, his best friend, ‘the bush’, ‘bossies’, sunburn and boredom, and left it at that. I didn’t pursue it any further, until later, when I was eighteen years old, I decided, much to my father’s dismay, to sneak his box of photographs out of his bedroom in order to cut them into pieces for a matric art collage – a project that never materialised into anything that I could show to my art teacher. Until this day, my dad has said nothing about his year in the army and his stint on the border other than when, at a reunion braai of old army friends, he got drunk, hopped onto my bicycle and sped off into the wobbly darkness of the veld, ranting and swearing about God knows what. I realised then that what took place on the border was, for him, an unspeakable affair.
Doherty’s show at Resolution Gallery entitled ‘BOS’ resurrects a history that has become generally unspeakable to a generation of white South African men (generally now in their fifties and sixties). The exhibition reminded me that this history informs the experience of many men such as my father, and that, in many senses, the abolishment of conscription has ideologically separated one generation of white men from another.
At the same time, Doherty’s body of work evoked childhood memories of family excursions to Santarama, visits to so-called ‘public’ spaces that were in fact racially exclusive. The show revived that intuition I had as a child, that the white South Africa which I inhabited was nothing but a fake; an unreal society that could only be understood in miniature terms because it was so politically and ethically isolated from the rest of the world, propped up by violence, fear and ignorance.
The title ‘BOS’ makes ironic reference to that time when white men were conscripted for military service between 1967 and 1993, and establishes a number of associations with the border war between 1966 and 1989. The Afrikaans term ‘bos’ means ‘bush’ which in turn links to ‘bush war’. But bush also references racist and colonial stereotypes: ‘bushy’ (black or mixed-race person), the ‘bush’ as a signifier of the savagery of darkest Africa. At the same time the military vernacular ‘bossies’ or ‘bosbefok’ (fucked up by the bush) means ‘mad’ and evokes the notion of the unconscious. Finally, the title of the show also reads as ‘boss’ a problematic term used by blacks to designate the superiority of the white man themselves; this final association, though indelibly linked to apartheid’s worse kinds of social stratification, is still much in use. Similar to a term like ‘master’, ‘boss’ (and its Afrikaans counterpart, ‘baas’) signifies the internalisation of the dominating class’s racism by the dominated.
Doherty’s exhibition explores these complex issues through a series of ‘constructed’ photographic pieces based on the South African/Angolan border war, focussing on the theme of the military conscription of white men. The press release indicates that the show aimed to ‘explore the emotional consequences of the war for the young white conscripts who were sent to fight in a war that was never properly explained or justified to them and which many were never able to talk about subsequently’. The body of work is roughly divided into two sets: the first a series of heavily art-directed portraits of young white men posing as conscripts, their blackened faces gazing into the camera. This series is interspersed with a second set of works: a series of photographic tableaux vivant (‘living pictures’) representing, in most cases, the aftermath of violent incidents that took place in the border war. This latter series was generated partly by reconstructing well-known photographs documenting the South African border (such as those by John Liebenberg), replicating their content of live protagonists with hand-built figurines and careful lighting, capturing compositions through macro photography and editing them minimally to enhance spatial effects. The series of portraits of young men frame, break up and alternate with the more dioramic tableaux.
The portraits of the young white conscripts (Black is Beautiful 1-4, African Mask 1- 4) signify, on various levels, the witnesses of violence, the perpetrators and participants in violence, or those who are the victims of witnessing violence. The other series, Mass Grave 1-5, Civilian Incident 1-6, Rand Show 1-2, Bridge Crossing and Koevoet Picnic 1-3 find Doherty less preoccupied with representing the notion of witnessing than performing it through constructed photography. However the tableaux do not so much witness violent incidents as represent the difficulties in remembering the act of witnessing. The eye of the camera in Mass Grave, Civilian Incident and Koevoet Picnic does not so much take on the attributes of the first-person eyewitness as produce the effect of a disembodied witness. The result of this is that the viewer cannot assume the subjectivity of the camera. This sense of the disembodied eye is heightened by the fact that the various incidents of violence are not represented as a sequence of temporal events (one action following another) but as a static scene that is analysed through aspectual shifts in camera angle.
This accounts for the dreadful, barren sense of silence permeating this series of works. The first frame encountered in Civilian Incident presents an establishing shot of three young men standing in an armoured, anti-mine vehicle (or Buffel) overlooking what appears to be a dismembered black civilian body – presumably a guerrilla fighter – in the foreground. In the second frame, Civilian Incident 2, we cut to a high-angle shot of the passing soldiers which then shifts to a close-up of the victim, a bird’s eye view of the scene, a low-angle shot of a civilian in a horse-drawn cart passing by and finally, in Civilian Incident 5, the viewer sees a close-up view of the soldiers themselves surveying the scene. Similarly, in Mass Grave, Koevoet Picnic, a similar aspectual approach is adopted. Notably, Cassinga 1, and 2 are the only pieces in the tableaux series that are not aspectual or consecutively organised, and represent the moments before and after the SWAPO liberation fighters were bombarded by air assault. These two pieces cleverly puncture and disrupt the overall narrative structure of the exhibition by presenting a temporal shift (a gun waiting to attack and a scene in which battle is underway) rather than a change in camera angle. The emphasis on aspect rather than temporality seems to suggest that the exhibition is centrally preoccupied with the trauma of war, psychic stasis and fixity, melancholia and the traumatised mind’s switching between amnesia and the constant reiterative return to the scene of the repressed.
Indeed, these constructed photographic images also function to index the incapacities of a brutalised memory, in contrast to assuming the function of traditional photography, which is to commemorate, remember and re-gather. Through them the viewer is offered fragments, glimpses of the moments where the trauma of the experience of the ‘real’ impinges on waking life. The body of the tableaux registers amnesia and the failure of recuperation. It expresses, through a range of visual devices, the means by which remembering is sublimated, displaced, and condensed by the traumatised mind. Ironically, the impersonalised plastic figures in the tableaux, the miniaturisation of historical events, the extreme close-ups and narrow depth-of-field effects, and the disembodied camera eye, distance the viewer from their horrific content, and also notably from their political implications. The primary rhetorical device used in these photographs – the extremely narrow depth of field (that slice of a visual field that remains in sharp focus) in itself becomes a metaphor for the border as political and cognitive construct: an interstitial zone between the private and the public, the present and the past, the personal and political: a space where remembering and dismemberment takes place.
In an uncanny way, the exhibition reveals Barthes’s famous photographic ‘punctum’ as a myth and construction. These images do indeed ‘pierce’ in the sense that, as photographs, they index ‘that which was’ but because they are tableaux vivant they are also overtly fabrications, and in some senses hyperreal simulations of iconic historical documents. As such, they point out the complexities of remembering and by extension the assigning of historical culpability and guilt. The images problematise the notion that a generation of white men who participated in violence can be simply blamed for propping up a monstrous ideology. By repressing their memories, a purposive engagement with the act of remembering, bearing witness and trauma may be repressed. It may be worth remembering here that everyday life was militarised under Nationalist rule. Conscription highlights the extent to which the dividing line between civilian and military life was blurred under Nationalist rule. Seen in this light, Doherty is not, as Paul Wessels has argued (Mail & Guardian Feb 4-10, 2011), simply creating a ‘martyrology, turning the foot soldiers of apartheid into victims’ but perhaps offering insight into the mechanics of ideology and discourse.
That being said, I felt that the portraits of white ‘conscripts’ that were interspersed in the gallery space were perhaps too confrontational and their treatment too ironic, pathetic and brash in tone for Doherty to fully escape this criticism. The portraits Black is Beautiful and African Mask tended to undo much of what was achieved in the more dispassionate tableaux Mass Grave 1-5, Civilian Incident 1-6, Rand Show 1-2, Bridge Crossing and Koevoet Picnic 1-3. Although the portraits possibly served to contextualise the tableaux as the thoughts of the young white conscripts, the trope was perhaps too heavy-handed, which resulted in a certain status of victimhood being accorded to them.
this review first published on artthrob.co.za