Archive for November, 2018


De-hidden apartheid art?

This as a gift to the community? It’s so beautiful it’s hard to see hidden behind the beatific Gold Reef City. Once found, it sits in its cocoon like a post-industrial derelict – waiting for… the next era. Waiting for closure! This museum cannot be treated as a museum; it’s an artwork that is so beautiful it’s hard to see.
“The Museum has been assembled and organised by a multi-disciplinary team of curators, film-makers, historians and designers. An architectural consortium comprising several leading architectural firms, conceptualised the design of the museum on a seven-hectare site. The museum is a superb example of design, space and landscape offering the international community a unique South African experience”.

It forces the question of “what is art?” Art in the sense of state art! Art in terms of – where and who supports this art? This is a museum, and yet, its presentation is as shocking as a ‘confiscated’ installation. So why is the state supporting art like this and more specifically this work?

The answers are an axiom of the state of art and democracy. The work supports the dictum for the state. This is the slick art of the post-modern academy. The artwork re-invented into the machinery of the state.

The message of this artwork is of hope and survival, of reconciliation and the Hollywood dream of happiness ever after – the message of re-inventing ourselves as part of the aftermath of “bumpy thing”.

Nothing or almost nothing in the museum, artwork, is real all are simulacra. The viewer views the past through the recording devises of the past and is given no opportunity to evaluate this process. The past has been re-invented in terms of the prosthetic devices of the past. Hence, we, the viewer are merely a prosthetic revived for future understanding that doesn’t exist outside of the simulacra.

“Much of what follows inside is conventional but grimly absorbing, as giant murals, texts and old television footage chart the decades of repression and violence. It’s all there in exhaustive (and exhausting) detail from the election of the National Party in 1948, through the Sharpeville massacre and Biko’s murder, to Mandela’s ultimate victory in the first free elections eight years ago. And just when you think you’ve seen it all, there’s a small room beyond the solitary confinement cell, which is empty apart from the dozens of ropes dangling from the ceiling. Each one is a noose, representing the fate of dozens of executed freedom fighters. It’s grisly but effective symbolism”. Adrian Goldberg.

The past is a series of news items, photographs, videos, memoirs… the stench has been anesthetised. The stench is a dabbed familiar of a sterile environment. An environment cleansed by the political correctness of having such an installation that is both museum and art.

The history is fascinating, the past injustices of one government popularised because of its absurd policies, just as another government could be popularised for their corrupted ideologies. The museum/art work offers itself as a history and yet as a truth. In both cases it is correct, the work shows and explains the past and present. The work offers the viewer an understanding of present sentiment, but does it go beyond this?

The voices that speak from this work are those of the neo-corporate. The voice a self justified industrial. The story is not of the universal but rather of the ‘in’ content. The story, meaning is of a disinfected history that is within the political quota of the day, this doesn’t mean that its something to be avoided but rather in order to understand the voice of today one should experience this voice, lacking as it is. This artwork is a work that aims at medicoracy and the understanding of the uninitiated.

I say this, not glibly but rather for serious consideration. As I see this as a serious work of art that has the potential of being a great work, but due to political agendas, has lost the path, so to speak. The work becomes a survey and lacks the commentary that is necessary of such an undertaking.

When entering the museum, the initiate is given a pass. White or Black, the choice is random and purveys the seeming choice of the apartheid government, at all points the architecture compliments the contact as in no other structure in modern South Africa. Identity documents, enlarged and encaged, confront the innocent viewer in a death-defying manner.

A bleak and reflective walk is alternatively available. The viewer is left to struggle into a composite area that leads to the museum. At this point the information is cartoonised and schematic. Images of ourselves as viewer are realised and incorporated into the architecture and artwork. We are walking into… we are part of, so the work demands.

The viewer waits in a train station like foyer, for the introductory film. The film, a well-devised propaganda documentary of African history (I especially loved the part where bushman art symbolism is rationalised as “a prediction of events to come”) this ends shockened-ly, with a break at the start of apartheid… beautiful if not melodramatic.

As an artist I could only envy the amount of money available for the Museums technological equipment. The consortium of images that juxtapose time-line images, video and sound is astounding. Beautiful. Awesome.