Thursday, 26 March 2015

Love The Way You Lie #2 #Hollywood #Lies

Love The Way You Lie #2 #Hollywood #Lies

To my surprise, when I tell people I am doing a sculpture at Afrikaburn, some of these people's immediate reaction is that they do not agree with Afrikaburn's ethos. I get the sense that my fellow people do not believe that Afrikaburn is a place where 'real' art should be showcased. Fine Art, with 'real' meaning, does not belong at a festival like this.

This Artwork comments on the particular popular culture happening in an environment, such as Afrikaburn.
''JUST GONNA STAND THERE AND WATCH ME BURN?'' challenges the viewers to disregard their preconceptions regarding Fine Art, Art placement and environmental influences on the perception and definition of Fine Art. This landscape and this festival, are both a very particular canvas.

Do the exhibiting Artists aim to showcase an unusual aspect of Fine Art, or is it simply the creation and display of large psychedelic figures blown out of proportion with the intent to burn something?

Some BIG psychedelic inspired structures at the festival in 2014:

Some BIG psychedelic inspired structures at the festival in 2014:

I believe this artwork uses the landscape, and the festival as subject matter in a conceptually clever way.
This artwork will have no meaning taken out of the Afrikaburn context.

The title of the artwork: ''Love The Way You Lie'' should be the first thing to consider when conceptualising the piece, drawing namesake from Rihanna's song- “Love The Way You Lie”. The work draws inspiration from the psychedelic, drugged, neon- hippie culture associated with such events and design inspiration from the Hollywood sign.

Lit up and flawless from the front, it tells a different story from behind. The letters look industrial, constructed and covered in graffiti. Love The Way You Lie is the same, perfect from far, but far from perfect - with exposed planks keeping the structure intact. The artwork is only appealing from the front: like a room constructed in a movie set, like the 'empty promise’ of an American dream, places like Hollywood and the idea of 'making it big’.

Perhaps this artwork aims to be meaningful, but like so many others believe, is conceptually shallow in reality?

The Hollywood sign lit up at night

The Hollywood sign from the back

My artwork aims to comment on the psychedelic “hippie culture” - playing itself off on this landscape of the festival through the burning of “meaningless Art”. Does the viewer at this festival know what they are burning? Why are these structures being burnt? Is there even any meaning in these structures burning?

Hippie culture at Afrikaburn

A structure pre and during burn

What was quite revealing to me is that this is obviously not only an issue that lends itself to the type of 'art' created in the Afrikaburn context, but that there is a problem with the general idea of what art is, or should be. Here, the viewers are placing art in a confined box of sorts, categorising 'art' as something that should and could only be considered valid if it is showcased in a 'serious' setting. I am not sure what these 'serious' settings involve, but I am sure it involves galleries and society where it is surrounded by 'serious' art and 'serious' issues such as poverty etc.

I then came to the realisation that society places the entire modern day practice of art, into this confined box. There are perceived and pre conceived 'rules' about what art is and should be, followed to such an extent that it blinding parts of the art familiar society. These viewers cannot see or appreciate anything as art outside of these pre conceived rules. ''Love The Way You Lie'' could not be a title more truthful in revealing these pre conceptions or rules as false by commenting both on the miss-practice of art on the Afrikaburn platform, yet also on these pre conceived ideas of what Fine Art is - and should be. This artwork would loose all it's meaning if it was created out of the Afrikaburn context for both personal and artistic reasons.

I get asked the question - What are you going to build next year?

The answer is - Nothing.

I will not be building anything at Afrikaburn. again. This artwork was created as a comment on Afrikaburn, and art in this sphere. I am creating it from a once off personal experience at the festival. I obviously experienced an array of things at this festival, and as an artist, the ''art'' I experienced here, the burning of it and everything that revolves around it inspired me to create an artwork that comments on this.

I learnt that art is not something that should, or could be confined to a “box”. I hope I proved that art displayed at something as refined as Afrikaburn, could break these boundaries down. No matter how educated the viewer is on art, their views could be equally as ’wrong’ as the not so educated viewer. When it comes to art, after all, there are no boundaries.


Thursday, 19 March 2015

#tbt #CCV #2

My #throwbackthursday for this week is a work I did in my third year of study at WITS School of the arts.
This was one of my favourite artworks I produced during my studies.
Funny enough CCV could only be produced during my studies, and is a direct comment of my view and experience of art and art criticism.

Here is a piece of writing explaining the artwork from an old catalogue:


This work was produced during an art crit (assessment) of the artist’s own work while the artist was studying at the Wits School of Arts. The artist set up a secret camera hidden in an alarm sensor. The lecturers and students partaking in criticizing the work were secretly recorded from outside the building. After the crit/assessment was conducted the participants were told about the recording, and it was played back to the audience, while yet another recording was made of this ordeal. The lecturers were now forced to view the recording as an independent work and offer their criticism. Thus involving them in a critique of their own crit, and a consequent viewing thereof when the new recording was played back to them (the recordings kept being rotated). In this work the artist questions the validity of art criticism, particularly in an ‘art-institution’, and to what extent art allows of being assessed in such a formal manner. It further explores how a work might be perceived originally as compared to mediately. 

The Camera was hidden in this alarm sensor

The recorder set-up outside the back of the office with Marcel Waldeck (amazing artist) doing the recording for me.

Stills extracted from the recorded footage

I played the recordings back to the audience inside the office space on this television VHS set up inside. I had to plan carefully and had a looped recording of a performance I did earlier the year in the VHS player initially. I removed it as the lecturers thought the crit/assessment was over, and Marcel brought inside the newly recorded crit/assessment. 

Back to my experience and reason for creating this work:
A large part of studying involves getting one's work 'critted' (criticised) by your lecturers.
In your first and second year of study the lecturers do it with you one on one.
In your third year of study your lecturers involve the entire class, and all the students are required to move from one piers' work to the next to view their quarterly or annual progress in the form of an exhibition of all the works the particular student created over this time.
This whole exercise is what I just could not stand.
It was not so much me not enjoying my work being criticised, as I just did not like being told what to do. Walking around and looking at every artwork every student in the class has done over a quarter or more of his/her year was not my idea of fun.
I really could also not see how I was going to 'learn' how to make 'better' art through this or any University instructed/constructed experience of art.What bothered me most about these crits/assesments was that I had no choice in my work being critted/assessed.
I had no choice in who I wanted to crit it.
I had no choice whether I  wanted to have it critted/assessed or what selection of work in real life I would be wanting to share with everyone.
I did not even have a choice in who everyone was that was going to see it.
It all was decided for me.
The fact that I was not allowed speaking about my intentions in creating a particular artwork also was shocking to me.
More shocking was the fact that other people were allowed speaking their minds over my artwork!
An artwork I would maybe never even have made if we were not given 'themes' or 'instructions' as to what should be conceptualised and in what medium.

I realised that art should not be created in such a formal manner in the first place.
That art criticism within an art institution where an art student has limited control over what the concept is that HAS to be explored and what medium HAS to be used has little to no validity.
I realised in that moment that the medium to make this statement would have to be art itself.
In fact, I thought of an artwork to express the above just after leaving the university after a bad crit, waiting for a traffic light to turn green..

The artwork to me is quite  Magritte in a way.. Like the painting of a landscape in front front of a window, blocking the view of the very same landscape (critiquing one's own criticism).
Magritte's: The Human Condition

The set-up and planning of the entire ordeal was quite interesting too.
I found Eddy's Surveillance in Edenvale (the only company willing to do this for me).
I had to drive there, and meet with them.
We agreed that they would set up everything with me and the recorder outside at 4am the morning before the crit/assesment.
I told Eddy to please be discreet.
Despite this four huge men looking like bouncers arrived.
They drove a van with the company name and logo on it!
They carried a ladder and a HUGE drill.
They had to drill a hole through the office wall, and open the alarm sensor.
I am still amazed that it all happened, unseen.. no one suspected a thing.
I guess there is something very not obvious in being obvious.
Like Banksy's Gorilla with a pink mask show us.

Banksy: Gorilla With a Pink Mask:

I learned that art itself is the real teacher.
That art can not be confined.
That art can not be boxed/constructed within given boundaries.
That to make meaningful art, the practice thereof has to be free.

P.S: I will be loading a video of this onto YouTube as soon as I have WiFi again.. I will post the link here!


Thursday, 12 March 2015

#tbt #1 #namechange

I have decided that it might be a good idea to introduce one of my older artworks to the public every now and again.
What better day to do it than #throwbackthursdays!
Please keep a look out for these posts on Thursdays every week.

The artwork  I chose to introduce is one where I changed my name legally to that of a very well known South African artist.
Just after graduating university with an Honours BA Fine Arts degree (I have to say Honours- cause I absolutely hated studying, and would never have done an honours degree if it was not part of the degree).
I studied at WITS University.
Under #tbt, there will be quite a few works made during my studies.
I mentioned that I hated studying, I think this says quite a lot about my character.
I am someone that does not like to be told what to do, when and in what order.
As a result, quite a bit of art was made to 'rebel' against the system, regime or institution.

Photo: Merwelene v.d Merwe For De Kat:

The idea of changing my name came in my 3rd year of study.
All of a sudden students started worrying about what they were going to do with their degrees.
Names of artists that have ''made'' it was often spoken of with great admiration, and a hope of achieving the same success.
Strangely mostly the names of local artists.
Almost as to make the 'dream' more reachable.
It struck me that the class was mostly woman, the same as at school, yet in society I found that men artists are more dominant and there seems to be more men artists that has ''made'' it than woman artists.
After becoming a mother myself, I can clearly see why. #feministstatements.
The students were getting anxious.. it was almost time to cut the umbilical cords.
Males particularly worried about earnings.
Some saw the only way out, a future in lecturing.
Gone were the dreams of making endless art, in big open studios, travelling the globe.
Students were talking about who will be doing which masters programme.
A few even changed direction to major in other BA subjects.

Dreaming of a studio like....

Check out
A few reasons I have not given up on my art dreams! 

For me, well I could not wait to get out of University.
Right throughout my studies I tried to familiarise myself with other artists including artists older than me.
I knew their studios and often went to studio parties and always went to exhibitions.
I would lie if I say that I had no fear at all.
Of course I also worried about what the future holds, but I definitely was not going to change direction.
It was more a fear that challenged.
Something I want to prove.
Something I guess I will forever try prove to myself.
I really appreciated one of the lecturers, David Andrew.. I really valued David's insight.. He interviewed me the day I applied at WITS.
He told me that day to never ever lose the passion I have for art. He told me that it was rare, and sacred and should be valued.
His words stuck.

Btw.. I have short and very academic like writing about older works, but that defeats the purpose of this blog.. I want to share something more personal here. For my own record too. I would not want to lose the reasons I have made an artwork to how it is interpreted.
That is the beauty of art.
In some ways  an artworkit is made, then dissected, and then made into many different artworks once out there.
I also find that the older I get the more honest I become about why I created particular things.
Instead of all the meaning an artwork has and to all the ways it relates to the world around it, I find that there is always a very personal reason too.. the real reason one created an artwork.
I believe great artworks are born from personal experiences and relate to the world in more ways than one.

So back to why I changed my name when I did.
All the talk of rich and famous artworks and art school kids worrying over how they will make names like the already established art gods we were told about at school annoyed me (even made me feel angry in ways).
It was like these students came to art school after high school with a plan.
That plan was to go to school and be taught how to finish it a William Kentridge.

Kentridge's name kept coming up.. We were taught everything about the man from High School.
I sat and pondered why his art has made him so famous.
Was it really his art.
He started out drawing charcoal flowers.. beautifully, but then I can also draw beautifully..
I wondered if my drawings would ever earn me ''William Kentridge'' status.
If it was really about the art, then I feel like my art is just as good.
It was in ways better- anyway to me- cause it was personal.
If I had my very first solo exhibition, why won't all his followers come view it.
How could I get them to view my exhibition..
That was when it struck me..
Change your name!

Now the fine tuning started.
If I choose the name of an artist, should it be a man or a woman?
I decided on male, because of the woman/man divide I found there is within the 'artworld' (haha my favourite term.. not!).
If I prove I am a good artist, I might just as well prove I am just as good as a male artist.
Secondly, was I going to choose a local or international artist.
Here I decided on local, and William Kentridge specifically as we were force fed with his art. We were taught he embodied what it means to be a 'successful' artist.

Don't get me wrong.
I have no problem with Kentridge or his art.
I think he is a great artist, and good at what he does.
My comment and aim was never to target his work.
Rather I wanted to challenge stereotypes around art/artist.
The value of an artwork.
How meaning of a work is lost in translation.
The role of the man/woman artist.
Artist as celebrity.

An insert out an old catalogue:

''The artist formerly known as Roelien Brink legally changed her name to that of the acclaimed male artist William Kentridge.

Through her name change the artist raised issues around fame, and cultural capital generally, particularly exploring the ‘value’ which attaches to symbols (abstract, i.e. names, brands) inflated by ideas of fame and celebrity, but as mere symbols really the value conferral becomes void and unsubstantiated.

Therefore the artist explores issues such as art and the value of art. The idea of artist as brand is explored and issues such as originality and authenticity is challenged.

Furthermore the artist also explores identity and gender issues.

The male vs. female role is explored both in art as well as capitalist society.''

This artwork challenged me in every way.
In some ways it really made me mature as an artist. It was like challenging my own Identity.
Fresh out of art school, thinking I will go to London and conquer.. I was bombarded with interviews.
I lived in London for a very short time..
I changed my name just before, and my I.D document was ready only just before I left.
Upon fetching it from home affairs my surname was changed, but not my first name.
I had interviews scheduled already, and had to make a plan.
The very first few interviews that was done all required a picture of my I.D document.
I had to take my very Afrikaans uncle named William's I.D and copy and paste William onto a fake document next to the very English surname Kentridge..
On my return back to South Africa they corrected the mistake, as I was already William on the system.

I got given VIP tickets to the London Art Fair through Deutche Bank during my time there.. Some fancy car picked me up from wherever in London and dropped me back wherever I wanted to be (every day!).. There were free champagne and a 3 course breakfast/lunch/dinner every day. (Back in the day when free wine made all the difference to going to an exhibition or not-the day before Art Fairs in SA ;). Needless to say.. I felt like I was royalty.. (on that note our cab driver apparently choppered the Royal Family around..) #longlivethequeen ;)

London was big! It made me realise I am a 21 year old  in a very large world, and that I have to start where everyone else starts from.
The interviews were nothing short of intimidating.
I even had one or two live radio interviews whilst in London.
With a bottle of red wine, kicking all the commune guys out, I ground through the interviews.
I shudder if I think about how my Afrikaans upbringing combined with my 21 year old ass and my bad writing and wording must have gone down..
I have the recordings, but will never ever listen to them (as mentioned before).
You are welcome to Google some articles.
This artwork taught me that every artwork will always be both liked and disliked, loved and hated.
This made it clear to me that it is important art comes from personal place.. That if anything it is the most important to be connected to your artworks. That they should come from within.
It forced me to choose to always stay true to my art.

I am glad I made this artwork so early on in my career.
It shaped me in a big way.