Friday, November 26, 2010

Developmental Commissions

In addition to the main projects that VANSA has selected for Two Thousand and Ten Reasons to Live in a Small Town, there were a number of proposals that the curatorial team felt showed substantial potential but would benefit from a small commission to further their research and to further develop their proposed projects.

This commission is designed to give them the resources and the opportunity to find additional funding for realization in the future. Below are the projects selected and brief bios of the artists involved.

Natal Patria – Margate, Kwa-Zulu Natal
Bianca Baldi

In 1922, there were reports of a sea monster that washed up on the beach in the Margate Ramsgate area. The monster, named Trunko, is well documented in the annals of crypto-zoology and is listed alongside others such us the Loch Ness Monster and the Yeti. Baldi proposes to use the historical documented accounts and the town’s archive to enact a public event that will be formulated by the community members. The culminating event will be modeled on processions similar to those held for sporting events.

Bianca Baldi was born in Johannesburg in 1985 and lives and works between Frankfurt and Cape Town. Baldi completed her BA(FA) in Studio Practice and Theory at UCT and is currently studying at The Staatliche Hochschule fur Bildende Kunste Stadelschule in Frankfurt. Baldi has exhibited widely in Cape Town at Blank Projects, the AVA and serialworks amongst others.

Up and Down – Bekkersdal, Gauteng and Masiphumelele, Western Cape
Steve Bandoma and Maurice Mbikayi

Up and Down aims to create an experience of participation somewhere between sport and artistic site-specific interventions. Bandoma and Mbikayi aim to build two soccer pitches, one in Gauteng and one in the Western Cape. Playing with the metaphor of the ‘level playing field’, they will be traditional soccer fields with a difference: one will be built on a hill and the other in a valley with the fields conforming to the shape of the landscape. The project intends to foster dialogue between foreign nationals living in the town and local residents through soccer matches on these pitches.

Steve Bandoma was born in Kinshasa, DRC in 1982 and graduated with a degree in Fine Art from the Academies des Beaux-Arts. He subsequently moved to South Africa in 2005 and has participated in several group exhibitions both locally and internationally.

Maurice Mbikayi was also born in Kinshasa, DRC and completed his education in sculpture at a Polytechnic Academy and in 2000 graduated from the Academies des Beaux-Arts with a diploma in Graphic Design and Visual Communication. Mbikayi was selected for the Spier Contemporary 2010 and was nominated to participate in the 2010 Hollard Exchange Programme facilitated by the Spier Arts Academy in Cape Town.

Mighty Tiny – Naledi Rural, Free State
Meghan Judge

Mighty Tiny plans to engage the town with a series of workshops the artist calls “inventive realisation”. These workshops will explore the notion of transport as an integral part of peoples daily lives by investigating different modes of transport and recreating/reimagining these using scrap metals and recyclable material. Judge aims to use the opportunity to continue the research needed by engaging in complex series of workshops using photography and narrative techniques to explore their immediate environment. This is designed to introduce ideas of sequential art forms and process.

Meghan Judge graduated from the Michael Mount Waldorf School in 2001 and subsequently won a scholarship to Boston Media House to study animation, the only institution to offer a full comprehensive course in animation in South Africa at the time. Following this Judge, began travelling and studying and exploring the various forms of sequential art, frequently collaborating with artists, musicians and film makers.

Secret (Agent of Change) – Coffee Bay, Eastern Cape
Heath Nash

Heath Nash has proposed to work quite closely with the Masizane Womens’s Group, a weaving collective in the town in productive development and skills transfer while retaining and reinvigorating the heritage of weaving and beading in the area. The end result envisioned involves drawing in younger community members to learn and propose a permanent structure using traditional techniques that would be of use to the community as a whole.

Heath Nash is a contemporary designer with a growing national and international profile. He graduated with a BA(FA) from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, and runs his own company, Poise and maintains a studio space called “its beautiful here.” Nash’s design work focuses on process and each piece is informed by the material used to fabricate it. Ideas, around traditional methods, recycling, sustainability, process and the materiality of the object are fore grounded.

MADE IN MUSINA is making friends in Musina!

During our first week of research and networking we met a lot of cool kids doing some awesome work: The Musina Community Theatre Group, The Musina Arts Council, Field Band Foundation, Renaissance Band, Musina Theatre Youth Development, Musina FM and a variety of poets, actors, musicians and visual artists.

On October 28th, together with these groups and members of the Musina Municipality, we held a meeting to talk about what’s happening in the Musina arts scene. We talked about how Musina’s creative people are making art, but they’re not doing it as a community. We learned a lot about how there have been efforts to create forums about the arts and to work with the municipality to organise festivals, but none of these efforts have been sustainable in the long term.

We also talked about the idea that this border town has a lot of energy, talent and activity, but that it is also somewhat isolated and unknown to potential audiences. There is also an element of competitiveness between groups, fuelled by the mindset that the “pie isn’t big enough” (a real anxiety based on the idea that opportunities are limited.) However, in our first discussion about networking, we began to explore the idea that working together can yield greater visibility. We talked about how a collective voice could be more powerful in articulating to the powers that be what the arts community of Musina needs to build itself. This view was echoed by the Arts, Culture, Sports and Education councillor, Hlaulane Mlati who attended this meeting and pledged support for not only MADE IN MUSINA but the creation of Musina arts network.

The second MADE IN MUSINA meeting was held on November 13th (and carried through to the 14th). At this second meeting we agreed that the network is indeed something that people are interested in building and we held a mini-workshop to explore the notion of a “network” with the participants. We started to talk about what would kind of network would be useful to the Musina arts community and what kind of workshops would be useful in to the process of building the framework for a network.

Our third session is planned for December after exams are over for school kids. We have agreed to hold a networking workshop that will generate both artistic products as well as facilitate skills transfers. We want to build the network through workshops based on collaboration, organisational development and artistic practise. So, we are currently planning a t-shirt making workshop that will both advertise the MADE IN MUSINA project and get our first collaboration off the ground. The t-shirts will have the MADE IN MUSINA logo on them and will be “personalised” with the name and logo of each of the participating groups on their own series of t-shirts. The idea is to hype MADE IN MUSINA and encourage wider participation in the project. We’ll be back with an update on the December T-SHIRT extravaganza!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Mahatma and Murderous Implements

It is reported that Mahatma Ghandi passed briefly through Dundee.

We have been told he was trialled at the Magistrate’s court and locked away for a night in the local town prison.This morning we attempted to seek out the cell. There is dispute over whether this building still stands at all.

How, we wonder, are insignificant and everyday places granted historic/ universal significance by the legends that pass through them. How are such moments remembered and what record, if any, remains in this cell to mark the Mahatma’s uncongenial stay.

Warrant Officer Singh, from the local police station, holds the keys to the contested room and kindly shows us around. On entering, she points to an obscure mark on the concrete floor. This, she tells us, is the place where leg-irons were once cemented. We study the crack with reverence, possibly the point where shackles once clasped Ghandi’s ankle.

Our eyes shift from the floor to metal cabinets filling the room. An odd collection of objects cluttering each shelf: golf clubs, a jerry can, a weed eater, car battery, shoes, machetes, a traffic cone, rat poison, an extension cord and a variety of crow bars.

Each implement tied with a string and yellow tag.

“What are these for?” we ask Officer Singh.

She surveys the installation gloomily.

“This is evidence.”

“Evidence for what?”

“Evidence to be used in the court of law”

“The golf clubs?”

“ Murder weapons.” she confesses grimly.

Our point of reflection transfers swiftly from the incarceration of an icon to just how creative people can get when it comes down to offing one another.

Not the museum the Mahatma might have hoped for. The local Dundee police station obviously need’s all the office space it can get.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

and so it is...

We are currently faced with a wall of lists, charts, address books, stories, anecdotes, historical and personal sites of interest. Amidst this mass are ideas, routes, maps, idioms and Dundeeisms. An avalanche of potential and two months left to turn it all into something.

We have been in Dundee for two weeks now. During the first week we set about establishing our base and finding our way around the town. We are renting a cottage (a converted garage) that belongs to a big game-hunter friend of a friend. The first night spent navigating walls mounted with Kudu horns and trophy heads, until --out of fear of being impaled on the way to the bathroom-- we removed them and stashed them in the study. We now work away from the gaze of unblinking glass eyes.

During our time here we have made the town of Dundee our object of study. This has involved walking the streets and talking to historians, museum curators, educators, farm workers, bar men, locals, car-guards, journalists, politicians and re-enactors.

The more we listen, the more we find stories and routes intersecting with one another. Events, and histories are debated and speculated. Listen long enough and several versions on the same theme or historical character will emerge. What is mythologized in one tale will be rubbished in the next. One person’s victory is another’s defeat, time allows for certain liberties to be taken. The chance to re-invent, even redeem, the infamous.

In a town such as this the connections between people and their past are easier to discern, this is helped by the fact that a large portion of the population have resided here for over four- generations.

The locals assume we are here to explore sites surrounding the Anglo-Zulu and Anglo Boer Wars but our interests are a little less clear. Securing the support and participation of the community is of course crucial in ensuring the success of this project. Some embrace our ideas immediately while others take some convincing.

“Out the box” is a phrase often used to describe our way of thinking and we are not sure if this is to be read as an encouraging sign or as a polite way of dismissing us as complete weird ou’s. Art or artistic processes are relegated to beading necklaces or pastoral water-colours: a still life of field-flowers and calabashes. The use of phrases such as “public space intervention” and “installation art” will not, we have learnt, endear you to many and should be omitted from any getting- to- know -you chit chat.

We try to explain that we are not just interested in the town’s inglorious rep of colonial carnage but rather its more recent history, the history of the everyday, even the ordinary, the history of last year, of five minutes ago.

There is the abandoned fire-engine on the corner of Gladstone Street which has stood there for the last five years. Most locals are not sure about the reason for the vehicles demise but each has a constructed a story around it. The fire-engine, through the simple act of municipal neglect, has become an unintentional monument or museum in itself.

What, we ask, is the real story behind it? What legendary fires, if any, did it fight in its life- time? How long before it’s included in the motley chronology of the Talana museum transport collection. Unwieldy and cumbersome enough (Like the ox drawn milk carts of yesteryear) to be giggled at by visiting school groups of the future.