Archive for July, 2018

01
Jul
18

HE\ART/ISTS: SURVIVORS OR CHAMELEONS

 
A fixed view of the world or worldview can kill. One such instance is the view of an ‘African’ identity. This view of ‘African art’ or ‘art from Africa’; with its pseudo-scientific narration of identifying the ‘African’ vision has had a disastrous impact on South African art.

Most resent South African artists have been forced to see themselves in this context, a vision that has affected their subjects and meanings. This raises a common problem, the indubitable relationship that exists between the content and form of marginalized artists and how this affects their futures, an image that is produced, disseminated and consumed through the mass media and travelling exhibitions.

The problem that lies at the he/art of this debate is whether contemporary South African artists are the products or survivors of the ‘African vision’ of itself and of a worldview. It is a debate arising from the response to the dominant image of South African art offered by artists and academics and given popular authority through a wealth of museum exhibitions, documentaries and mass consumption items.

As ‘Others’, the ‘African vision’ is regarded only as significant in offering an ‘Others vision’ of the world. Many European art movements during the last century have adopted this vision. In adopting a vision of ‘Otherness’, this vision of ‘Africanness’ has become a label that has forced artists coming from Africa to similarly adopt in order to fulfil the perpetual role of ‘Otherness vision’.

‘Africanness’ or ‘otherness vision’ is best understood as a form of symbolic capital. Like all forms of capital, ‘Africanness’ is implicated in relations of power and ownership. The concept of ‘Africanness’ is a fake that is generated by material interests. The invention of this vision is not only the result of external circumstances but also the artists themselves who have adopted this vision. On the one hand, this venture of ‘Africanness’ operates indirectly, socially and ideologically to secure a framework for boundary formation and maintenance, on the other it is a cultural survival initiative.

Galleries and tourist enterprises, commodify images of ‘Africanness’ to attract an international market to South Africa. This is easy to explain and identify in curio items that offer consumers a view on an exotic world that is ‘Other’ than their own. With digital art, the move has been to offer ‘hyperreal’ encounters that promise unmediated and total experiences of this ‘Others’ world. As with Sue Williamson’s interactive CD-ROM ‘cant forget, cant remember’ that has become a commentary of historical and contemporary injustices that can be articulated through reactive ideological resource becoming a process of identity and experience.

The ‘African vision’ is a vision of the world that attempts to commodify the loss of identity.