Paradox Security Systemsby Sean O'Toole / 31.10.2009
The old neighbourhood, Pretoria, down a dusty road in the very new ‘burbs out east. A stop sign. Below it, attached to the slanted pole that holds the stop sign falteringly in place, two advertising banners. “TAR SURFACE 072 150 9616” reads the one, its crummy hand lettering now almost a generic species of type that one day soon will appear in your MS Word font list as “Africa New Bold”.
But it is not this banner that catches my eye. It’s the other one, a monochromatic banner that read “Two White Guys Life Protection Systems”. Bullet point declarations aside, the banner includes a name, a telephone number, a website reference and a cryptic logo that reads “Paradox Security Systems”. Mindful of Terry Eagleton’s not entirely unfunny warning about cultural theory’s decline into banality and triviality, this in his 2003 book After Theory, I am not going to exercise too much effort on decoding the significance of the advertising banner way out east and north of everywhere.
But, and I suppose this is important, would that hoarding strike you as more or less strange were it not plastic cable tied to stop sign along an untarred road in an area where bushveld is tenuously holding out against suburban kikuyu? How would it look staple gunned to a tree along William Nicol Drive? Tied to a palisade fence in Greenside? Attached to a lamppost in Claremont? And what if the “two white guys” decided to become “two Indian gentlemen”, “four Coloured women”, “eight Tsonga teenagers”, “thirteen lucky Zimbabweans”, “lots of Chinese”, or simply “one angry Samoan”, how would that change things?
Later, at home, I ask the internet to tell me more. I type in www.twowhiteguys.co.za. “As a young, Pretoria-based start-up company, and operating in a highly competitive environment, we must differentiate ourselves.” I click through to another page. “We are independent Security Solution providers. Not being affiliated to any given armed response means that we can offer a bespoke security solution to match your exact requirements, circumstances and risk profile. We will not push you into ‘whatever system we happen to be selling this month.’ You have the freedom to negotiate your own armed response contract, should you so desire.”
Desire? I desire an answer. When did a security solution become a proper noun? Security Solution. The only other “solution” I know that is routinely transcribed in capital letters is prefixed by the word “final” and narrated through place names like Belsen. To my mind, there is no equivalence between the insecurity of living in a criminally hazardous country and inhabiting a state that has criminalised your very life because of your religious persuasions. None.
Which is an over-long tap-dance show on my part. We should be at 52 7th Avenue, Parktown North. Gallery Momo. Host venue for artist Gabrielle Goliath’s intriguing exhibition, ‘Murder on Seventh’. This is an exhibition you ought to experience rather than read about. Hell, that’s probably true of all exhibitions, but Goliath’s show really asks you to step up, to stand on the carpet and linoleum blocks she has placed beneath her ceiling mounted photographs of suburbanites preoccupied by murder.
Murder as it happens in Cluedo. Murder as it is imagined by a crime novelist. Murder as it exists in fiction, an agent of disharmony. ‘Murder on Seventh’, which comes down this weekend – be quick! – includes a slickly produced projection that splices together murder scenes from film and television. Some of the borrowed sequences will be familiar to CSI and Murder She Wrote aficionados, others exclusively the preserve of TCM fans. What retrieves this Wits graduate’s video work from pure cut ‘n’ paste banality are the vaguely sinister bits of static and noise static she introduces between edits.
While the Goliath’s show might not answer my question about suburban paranoia being dragged into upper case, in opposition to that song by Elliot Smith, where things get dragged down into lowercase, it does suggest that there are more than just “two white guys” thinking creatively about our life of crime.