First South African Art Tagged
On Saturday 30 November 2013, 11 third level Unisa Visual Arts and Multimedia students' artworks were put on display at the Unisa Art Gallery. Ania Krajewska, the co-ordinator for fourth level students, introduced the artists to the crowd and gave a little summary of each artist's artwork.
The exhibition was also the launch of the first pilot project of a partnership between the Unisa Gallery and TrustaTAG SystemsTM by tagging artworks electronically. Each artist has his or her own TAG which viewers can scan with their phones. When you open the TAG, it redirects you to a web page with information about the artist and his or her artwork(s).
As for the artworks: did they inspire? Did they make you sit up and take notice? It certainly piqued the curiosity levels:
Anja Visagie's Art of self-realisation comments on the crisis experienced by South Africans stuck in their religions and traditions questioning who they are and searching for and defining their identity. They find themselves in a 'liminal space' - I am the space where I am. Visagie used food colouring, ink, ash, glue and varnish on paper and an animation video of goat figures morphing into masked human figures.
Tricia Visser Cultural heroes at play uses mixed media commenting on the stereotypes of especially the Afrikaans culture and all other cultures and how we perceive them as 'strange'. The characters standing in a circle represent the stereotypes of the Afrikaans culture. The cards that they are holding resembles the 'game' that they play. The animation of the individual (in this case the artist) portrays an Afrikaans woman. Her clothing changes and she speaks, but she has no mouth. Visser explains it as such: "Afrikaans speaking women weren't always allowed to speak. Now times have changed and they are allowed to speak, but is anyone really listening?"
Stephanie Neville is a housewife that is often separated from her work-travelling husband. Her artwork entitled Confessions of a bored housewife shows colourful, handstitched 'fantasy furniture' that is 'meant to be sat on' and a video showing scenes of sexually arousing images. She wanted to encourage women to embrace their sexuality and to experience it without feeling ashamed (it is still frowned upon). The furniture is a metaphor for masturbation -'keeping her idle hands busy.' The upright figures that look like pencils are actually penises. The beanbag can be seen as an explosion of sperm.
Barry Rautenbach?s Dual Perception experimented with his surname as a perceived identity. He uses a raised table tilted on its side where the viewers can watch a video projection of words, numbers and images that describe his identity.
Maria Pienaar's Early Morning News consists of newspaper shreddings of 'bad news' in early morning newspapers. She took these newspaper shreddings and created her own compost - a living system. The glass reflects the spectator's image - this makes the viewer part of the installation. After the exhibition the compost will be placed in a garden as a continuation of the artwork.
Zelda Cloete's Basick used her inspiration - activist Ai Weiwei - by taking school desks and stacking them on top of each other in a chaotic manner. The school desks comments on current problems with the basic educational system in South Africa.
Michelle Hartslief created a "walk-in brain" showing a system of motor neurons which comments on the function of the brain during epileptic seizures. Electrical storm in the brain also shows the impact of multiple seizures over time. The LED lights shows the transmission of electrical impulses in the brain.
Do the artists have what it takes to change the South African art scene? If the goal is to create awareness of pressing social concerns by challenging preconceived ideas through their art - then yes, some were successful. The potential is there. Only through experience this question can be answered.
Sulet Linde is a freelance journalist, blogger and poet.