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Fucking Hell | An Interview with Cameron Platter

by Linda Stupart / 16.01.2012

Durban-based artist Cameron Platter is (in)famous within the South African contemporary art community for his biting satire of contemporary popular culture. Featuring trademark Afro-bling styling and politically incorrect struggle-art appropriation, Platter’s painstaking pencil-crayon drawings, jagged flash animations, wooden sculptures and ceramics feature secret lairs, zebras-from-space, pornography, penis enlargements, Rorke’s Drift and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Linda Stupart talks to him about his new show, John Muafengejo, being a Michaelis Graduate and the future.

Mahala: Some time ago I referred to you as “the delinquent love child of Quentin Tarantino and Dr. Seuss”, a phrase that is definitely more quoted than any other I have written…

Cameron Platter: The bastard son of Glenn Agliotti and Georgia O’Keefe doesn’t quite have the same ring to it?

I think we can definitely use it in future… But, of course, what I left out then, and what is even more apparent now, is your relationship to Africa, and specifically to John Muafangejo. How would you define this relationship to Muafengejo, not only formally, but historically, to his particular position in the art world?

Cameron Platter - John Muafangejo An Interview of Cape Town University in 1971 Linocut On Paper
John Muafangejo, An interview of Cape Town University in 1971

The Muafangejo relationship is a complex one. Not Black and White. It feels like a marriage of sorts, a lot of ins, a lot of outs. I don’t think I could ever do it justice, analyze it analytically, and unravel it simply, in couple of sentences. I have new thoughts, and a shifting perspective on it every day.

I am obviously a very different person to who Muafangejo was. And I don’t think I’d be working with his work the way I am, or possibly at all, had he been alive today. In some ways, because he is dead, buried, and canonized, I am more able to collaborate with him. On the other hand it is very sad that he isn’t around.

Can you imagine where he’d be at with his work had he been alive?

How do you feel that you as a Michaelis graduate and a white South African man working in 2012 relate to the context of this artist, and why do you think it is important to be referencing him today?

How do I feel as a Michaelis graduate, a white man, working today?

I’m very happy that I’m able to work today, and that my work gets some attention. I’m grateful bigtime about that.

As far as being a Michaelis gradate is concerned, I consider myself handicapped to have gone to the academy. It taught me very little. The professors were almost solely interested in keeping their paychecks and pensions. There was very little want, need, or desire to translate and pass on information.

The plus was that I met a tight knit, competitive, freethinking group of people who became my friends and peers. We taught each other

On being a white man. Yes, I am.

A white man fucking with Muafangejo’s oeuvre? Deeply politically incorrect. Yet it feels so right. Sort of.

I didn’t start working with Muafangejo for shock value (look at me, a white dude fucking with Muafangejo’s work). It started out as an homage, and has developed into an extended homage/ affair/ marriage.

Is it important to reference Muafangejo today, in 2012? Who knows, probably not? I certainly don’t know whether it is important or not.

My relationship to Africa? It is very important to me that work has a place, and speaks of that time and place.

Cameron Platter - John Muafangejo The Battle of Rorke's Drift. 1981
John Muafangejo, The Battle of Rorke’s Drift, 1981

Is your work political?

Everything, for me, is political. From driving a car, to eating, to falling asleep.

In your press release you quote Consola’s assertion that “the tele-stupefied country has lost all awareness of culture and language”, do you think that South Africa is in danger of forgetting our recent history? And how do you think that your work addresses this?

South Africa is definitely on the fast track to forgetting about itself. But this is possibly a normal reaction?

My work should, hopefully, serve as some sort of document of this. It also revels in all the affiliations to forgetting. Without this fast track descent I would have very little material to work with.

You go on to quote “In a society where the majority wants to be a celeb and even leaders act like shallow celebrities, what we lack is a counter culture. Money and cool are worshipped, developing from the chaps who kill for cellphones so that they achieve cool by being feared and ability to buy lots of booze incrementally succeeding to cool by having the flashiest cars, apparel, women and booze” How do you think the ‘Good Life’ has come to be figured in South Africa, and how do you think this ideal differs in South Africa to how it is in the Western World?

Silvio Berlusconi, Jackie Selebi, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Lolly Jackson, Jeffrey Skilling… The “Good Life” seems like a pretty global standard. Everyone wants more, more, more! Right now! At a discount! With Free Penis Enlargement.

Cameron Platter - Votela

Have you ever phoned or visited one of those amazing cure-all doctors advertised on the flyers you reference?

I have got them to bestow good luck charms onto my works.

How do you think people from outside of South Africa relate to your work? Do they recognize your references or just think you’re inventing an entirely new, magical, wonderful, torturous place?

I am a fan of letting people take what they want from works, not prescribing a single way of reading.

I do let people know, however, that I’m just documenting what I see around me. A conduit.

Reality far outstrips fiction.

The Apocalypse Project, your new big drawings, have been proposed as a ‘ten year project’, which forces the viewer to imagine a future moving forward from the fairly dystopic present that you imagine. Imagining South Africa in ten years time, who do you think you will be satirizing? Can you imagine new realities, identities, new conflicts, new dichotomies, new work?

That’s quite a question…

The aim of the Apocalypse project would be to collect all the drawings after the ten-year period (hopefully it’ll be over by then) and have them displayed in one large installation like “The Tapestries of the Apocalypse” at Angers, which served as a genus for this project.

If the present is dystopic, the future is pretty unimaginable.

I couldn’t, or wouldn’t want to imagine who the targets/ players might be.

A tableau that instantly springs to mind: a cloned, three-headed Radovan Krejcir and Pastor Chris cavorting in a hot tub filled with pre-pubescent boys and brimming with Fifth Avenue Cold Duck, while a Days of Our Lives episode plays on repeat in the background.

I think one of the great advantages about living in SA is that your sources won’t run dry.

Cameron Platter - Cyclone Express

Cameron Platter - 24 Hours Services

Cameron Platter - Power Of Happiness

 

*Cameron Platter’s current show, Fucking Hell, is on at Whatiftheworld / Gallery till January 28.

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RESPONSES (4)
  1. michaelis lover says:

    silly billy, that naughty cameron saying such nasty things about his alma mater, especially to a fellow graduate, ms stupart.

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  2. seeweed says:

    Of course,he is spot on about Michaelis – a dismal failure of an art academy if ever there was one.. the rest of it is a great big yawn.The work says nothing new and neither does he…

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  3. evan says:

    Hey animate Muafangejo’s work that would be amazing

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  4. andy says:

    @seeweed Muafangejo was rejected by Michaelis when he applied to study there in 1971. http://www.artthrob.co.za/04apr/gallery_choice.html

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