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Art On The TV

by Hugh Upsher / 24.04.2014

Top tier art galleries pride themselves on being the sort of places where real art happens. This usually means that only a niche (read: exclusive) crowd of art-people will ever know about them and be exposed to what has been decided to be the most important and therefore, most valuable, contemporary art. When I was invited to the ‘commute with intuitive instinct’ video exhibition preview at Brundyn+ , I saw a chance to enter this world and be a first year art student again. Only this time around I would be reviewing artworks with the benefit of a press pack, free booze and a fine dining experience thrown in.

I arrived painfully on time to a tall desolate room. After 120 seconds I was greeted by one of the gallerists who was offering a personalized walkabout of the exhibition. I was guided through the show and wrote down notes for each work we stood in front of. Mostly because the one other journalist was doing it and I didn’t want seem like a phoney.

Here is a concise summery of the seven artists on show:

Removal to Radium by Michelle Monareng
A historical account of dispossession based on family archives displayed with still projections. A brooding video projection and a television displaying VHS footage of an old dude praying to the ground.
Conceptual Merit: 7/10
Visual appeal/execution: 6/10
Could also be applied to: a novel

The Days of The Family of the Bell by Gilad Ratman
A video’d performance piece that relies on the illusions of film a la Robin Rhode (filming downward to give the illusion that people are standing when in fact they are lying flat on the floor). The artist uses this technique to pull off incredibly impossible feats of balance  that look ridiculous in all the best ways. Apparently there is a subtext of ‘don’t believe what the media tells you’, but you’d only know this if someone told you so.
Conceptual Merit: 6/10
Visual appeal/execution: 9/10
Could also be applied to: a photo series

The Days of the Family of the Bell from Asi Oren on Vimeo.

Inhabitant by Sello Pesa & Vaughn Sadie
This video was essentially a documentation of an elaborately choreographed, multifaceted street performance. The artists take all their ingredients from the very streets they perform in but rewire these happenings to confusing and comical effect. The strength of the piece lies in seamless integration where no one can tell where the performance ends, and the city starts.
Conceptual Merit: 7/10
Visual appeal/execution: 8/10
Could also be applied to: any city street anywhere

02faso

My African Mind and My European Mind: Rebranding Europe by collective Bofa da Cara
This slickly animated collage work draws visuals from archival content relating to African history and in doing so highlights the dominant European gaze. The artists punctuate the Eurocentric perspective embedded in African representation.
Conceptual Merit: 8/10
Visual appeal/execution: 9/10
Could also be applied to: the opening sequence to a television series

MY EUROPEAN MIND_TEASER from BOFADACARA on Vimeo.

Le Tchad: True Heart by Thenjiwe Nkosi
This video flitted from static shot to static shot with occasional drabs of narrative from the artist mentioning how tough it is fitting in being an American in Chad. My initial impression was that of a half-baked documentary, but the lack of gripping imagery or assertive narrative made it little more than the sum of its parts.
Conceptual Merit: 5/10
Visual appeal/execution: 4/10
Could also be applied to: an arty diary entry, shot on film

Minutes: time/bodies/rhythm/Johannesburg by Mocke J van Veuren and Theresa Collins
Multiple screens beam time lapse footage of a taxi rank (in 3D!), a public swimming pool, a cemetery and various other public spaces. This surveillance slowly reveals ideas of frequencies in behaviour and the existence of complex rhythms.
Conceptual Merit: 7/10
Visual appeal/execution: 8/10
Could also be applied to: a screensaver

03cave

Gestalt by Nick Cave (The American artist. Not the Australian singer/songwriter/novelist etc.)
A group of three performers wearing Yoruba masquerade-inspired costumes made of buttons, glass and abacuses muck about in a photographic studio. The suits are designed to make sounds with each different movement. It could have translated well as a gallery performance.
Conceptual Merit: 5/10
Visual appeal/execution: 8/10
Could also be applied to: a Red Hot Chilli Peppers music video

04interest

The walkabout ended and I was rewarded for my good behaviour with a cold beer and a neat press pack. It contained brochures, cheat codes for the review, a Lindt bunny, a digital catalogue and of course there would be a cotton tote bag inside the bag. All that was left was an awkward three course meal with a bunch of art industry strangers forcing out intellectual babble about the recently viewed art. At least that’s what I thought would happen.

Turns out Mahala contributors can smell a free meal from a kilometer away and I was in good company discussing failed laugh therapy sessions and the depressing fact that Nick Cave is in fact not The Nick Cave and how even if it was, the original Nick Cave wouldn’t be available for an impromptu interview.

After guzzling four beers and four courses (double starter thanks to Jon Monsoon the vegetarian) I wrapped things up by doing that classic Cape Town asshole thing when you say you’ll totally come back tomorrow for the actual opening and then don’t. I jogged down to Long Street to catch a stand-up comedy show with some friends where I ate the Lindt bunny. On my walk home I emptied the contents of my press pack bag into the tote bag so i could scoop a dead rat into the original press pack bag made of card. I continued walking homeward wondering how I was going to make art with my two bags of vastly differing contents.

05glasses

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RESPONSES (3)
  1. Philistine says:

    You go to an art exhibition, and instead of writing about your impressions and interpretations of it, or what the art intends to say, you write verbatim the brochure from the gallery and also you choose to write about beer. Pity.

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  2. Philip Stine says:

    @philistine

    Nah, dude. That’s precisely the kind of casual approach we need to dethrone the pretentions of this kind of artwork. This is a super self-aware piece of writing and I don’t think you’re giving it enough credit.

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  3. Visvinger of stinkvinger says:

    Man, but dont you write well.
    Could also be applied to: a story you’d tell one of your boitjies

    Great article man. I went to this exhibition. The brundyn space is magnificent and the art in context with the space was a great pleasure. (Because its so, like er, industrial-white-cube-insert-other-art-babble-here). Also it should be mentioned that i live in a hole.

    I agree with both comments above. Such a pleasure to read but it does drag into the realm of hipster narcissism. A great facet of our self obsessed social media generation.
    Drawings are fantastic.
    Once again. Great article. Heres some props: props

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