UJ Art Gallery Moving Cube Launched with Willem Boshoff's Blind Alphabet
Posted on 5 November 2020
Willem Boshoff's The Blind Alphabet - Letter B: Babery to Bigeminate, a digital experience curated by Annali Cabano-Dempsey, Curator of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) Art Collection, and Niel Nortje, Manager of the MTN Art Collection, opened online on 4 November 2020.
This online documentary project presents a fresh approach to Boshoff's The Blind Alphabet (1993), made of wood, steel and aluminium, and more specifically forty wooden forms representing the letter B in The Blind Alphabet as part of the extensive MTN Art Collection.
The opening of this exhibition coincided with the launch of the Moving Cube, the UJ Art Gallery's newly developed online platform. This website offers content such as 3D virtual exhibitions, 2D documentation, educational programmes, online walkabouts, video interviews with artists and curators, media reports, archival material and opportunities to read and learn more about artists and their respective oeuvres.
The opening and launch event also saw the announcement to the winner of the Emerging Artist Development Programme, a well-established programme linked to the collaboration between the UJ Art Gallery and the MTN SA Foundation. This programme affords young artists the opportunity to showcase their talents and interpretations linked to a given theme relating to the MTN and UJ collaborative exhibitions.
Pretoria based artist Selwyn Steyn was announced the winner of the Emerging Artist Development Programme. Steyn completed his undergraduate degree in architecture at the University of Pretoria in 2019, ending as top design student and winner of the Pretoria Institute of Architecture design award in his year. His passion and focus however has always been conceptual art.
The Memetic Sculpture: A Speculation on Cultural Contagion (2020), scooped up the coveted first prize of R30 000, and according to Cabano-Dempsey, one of the judges, it was the prowess of the work, both conceptually and in execution, that impressed the adjudication panel. "Steyn's Memetic Sculpture, with integral digital coding, allows for 'an edition of infinite size' - an apt democratic strategy in the time of a social isolation - and resonates with Boshoff's approach to disenfranchisement," she said.
In his artist statement Steyn proposes "an artwork which if scanned redirects the viewer to all information necessary for the viewer to replicate the work in question. The artist fully relinquishes intellectual ownership of the work, hence the work is an edition of infinite size."
Steyn's work also corresponds with that of composer Jaco Meyer who wrote a set of accompanying music for Boshoff's forty wooden forms, drawing on and inventing a tonal vocabulary to translate The Blind Alphabet into music. Meyer's addition to The Blind Alphabet can be accessed through a QR code added to each of the forty physical sculptures in this collection - to be accessed by the visually impaired through cell phone technology.
As a first since the inception of the Emerging Artist Development Programme the judges decided to introduce a runner-up and Pretoria based artist Frans Lucky Phooko was awarded this prize for his painting Braille Word Search Puzzles. Phooko is a graduate of the Capricorn FET College in Polokwane where he obtained his Diploma in Art and Design.
"Phooko developed a challenging and engaging Braille puzzle for the visually impaired to encourage vocabulary and tactile skills," says Cabano-Dempsey. Phooko will receive a Samsung Galaxy A6 tablet courtesy of MTN in addition to the R3 500 prize money as one of the ten finalists.
Apart from the online exhibition the artworks by the ten finalists will be exhibited in 2021 alongside the Willem Boshoff artworks as part of an envisaged actual space and time exhibition in the UJ Art Gallery.
The ten finalists in alphabetical order are Lana Combrinck, Neo Diseko, Xanthe Jackson, Mine Kleynhans, Tre Mkhabela, Oratile "Papi" Konopi, Franz Phooko, Alexa Pienaar, Tristin Roland and Selwyn Steyn.
The judges - Niel Nortje (MTN), Katlego Lefine (MTN), Annali Cabano-Dempsey (UJ), Mia van Schalkwyk (UJ), and Mpho Mazibuko, Angelique Bougaard and Ndaya Kim Ilunga (three mentees in the current MTN & UJ Mentorship Programme) - were applying the use of innovative and creative ways of multi-disciplinary approaches as a dominant consideration in determining the list of finalists.
This project in its online form and the exhibition, to be hosted by the UJ Art Gallery in real space and time during 2021, was made possible by a generous sponsorship by the MTN SA Foundation and a supporting grant from Business and Arts South Africa (BASA).
For more information, visit the Moving Cube website.
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