Archive for November, 2017





My brother here — there  … The SAARTJIE guide to Data basement: part II

Last year we recommended that you invested in an art video for Christmas, particularly one made by the Dog Unit. The events of this year have proved that we were right. Keeping with the theme, we suggest that for Christmas you go out and get yourself an art video by some young artist of a plane crashing into a building. If you can’t get that one, then how about some bearded cretin expounding his fantasies; of cause there is always the rehash of scenes from a John Wane type movie that we’re sure are still available. Well, once you’ve got it the issue is still whether to ‘copy or not to copy’ it. We suppose you are still deliberating over last year’s video. Have you filed it with your infamous home movie collection or do you frame the box? Either way, put the data into some protective form or it is bound to perish. BUT then is it still art BUT?
These are some of the things SAARTJIE felt in 2001, as we dream-walk into 2002:


In February the problem was the viewing of artworks in a gallery. The problem we considered was that after the advent of installation type works, the individual artwork can only be seen in relation to the rest of the artworks. This leads to a change in meaning and a displacement of the context. The gallery becomes the artwork of the collective message of the curators. The viewer is thus left viewing the negative spaces between the artworks, the negative spaces that make up the installation-curator artwork, thus the artwork becomes an un-reading of the artist’s intention and a re-reading of context.

In March we offered some advice on how to approach a singular artwork. The problem we encountered here was that most of the works spoke of tales of drunkenness and cruelty without a context. We also found that we did not have the time to learn the language offered by so many desperate ‘cries’, and we realised that the gallery is the place for ‘painted’ atrocities best left to the initiate while we pack our bags and fly/flee.

In April we went to the gallery for peace and quiet and found that it’s the only place where we can be really promiscuous, and looking around it appeared as if many artists felt the same way. The reason is that it tends to be empty and a place where cultural reshaping is creatively liberal. We found that the conceptual approach of the South African art gallery needs to be re-visited and that a move away from the patriarchal scientific approach, the colonial space, is urgently needed. The gallery system in South Africa needs to decide if it is a place that offers the public knowledge or if it is a place of debate.
In May we took the investigation into the gallery scene further and we found that the gallery is a place that upholds trends of popular thinking. So it appears as if the gallery systems are not to blame for the colonial approach but rather the market related environment. The gallery becomes a place that represents the over-represented and hence the catch-22. The art objects represented in the gallery become material objects of the familiar, creating an anaesthetised meaning.
In June we looked at neglected histories, and taking the bull by the tail, we looked at the male artist. The rationale is that the male artist has been the slave of the women’s image of herself – Male-artist-slave to Female-artist-creator. Thus the history of art becomes the mirror that women evaluate themselves by; it’s the reflective surface of narcissistic vision. With the loss of figuration the male artist has been forced to loose his identity or maleness as a consequence of his price for freedom. The result has been that the Fine Arts in this century have become an inadequate form of expression of the female self-image; hence, these art forms have become as marginalised as primitive art forms in the 18th and 19th centuries.

In July we gave way to those insecurities occurring in the middle of any event. Looking at the gallery system in despair, as “a system that has, for the last century at least, offered the public images in a pristine vacuum of Neo-Colonialism”, we felt that there was no hope. Then looking at what has inspired artists through the boycott years, we found a ray of hope, an art based on misconceptions of meaning. In other words, we found an art freed from the market and commercialisation of its meaning: “What is unique to this country is that the images South African artists and historians have been exposed to over the last 30 years or more are pedantic reinterpretations of badly printed photographic magazines, such as ‘Art in America’ and ‘ArtForum’…”. The effect has been devastating in many ways. In others, it has led to a genesis in creativity – albeit a genesis based on misconceptions” but maybe it is this path that will lead to the African Renaissance.
In August we continued to look at our neglected histories and we investigated the plight of the white artist in South Africa. With the lifting of the boycotts there was more potential for the 2000’s artists on the international scene than for those 1970’s veterans who possibly needed some kind of pension from the local government due to the neglect they suffered due to government legislation. We also found that the easy option of dusting off the old pass board was not always satisfactory but worse still. At home we found the same old problems of cut budgets and the reduced Rand. Yes, unfortunately we are still in the dark ages.

In September in our continuing neglected histories series we looked at the result of the blind siding of sponsorship. One of our neglected readers initiated a debate on those post-1970 artists, the suppressed neo-apartheid artists. We quote the issue in full again: “Older artists seem to be getting their arses into gear – I sense a revival coming on here. The crucial crossover point and crisis have passed in Gauteng and although the days of mega art shows are probably not going to be around for some time to come, the smaller exhibitions and events are starting to flourish again.” But, we still find the neo-apartheid artists queuing for tit bits outside the old parliament buildings.
In October we looked at the issue of behaviour in a gallery; the debate opened up the many levels of meaning involved in these issues. We found that it was always good to prepare oneself by visiting the galleries’ website (if they got one), to attempt to understand the ambiguities of the virtual vs actual gallery spaces, the public space vs the public place and the private space vs the viewers place. We then identified a few stereotypical visitors such as those that rely on routines as opposed to those who just want information pushed at them and those who try to find a use in everything.


In November we continued with the debate but approached the issue from a behavioural approach. We found that the nature of the collection was a major determining factor coupled with the organising principles of the viewer. This led us to a few more subcategories of visitors.
In December we decided to hack the very substance of art. We approached the issue of meaning found in art on a quantum level and applied some chaotic principles to the art object and the viewer’s relationship. We concluded that “the nature of art and its meanings can be seen as possible only through a state of complimentarily:/between art\observer\artist intent”.