Saturday, August 25, 2012

Full jury for 'APPEAL 2012'

The forthcoming exhibition 'APPEAL 2012', opening on Tuesday 11 September in Doornfontein, has a full participating 'jury' of a dozen artists. They range from a poet to an artist inspired by graffiti and rap, to another whose signature is inflatable sculptures. 

The participating artists are: Catherine Dickerson, Amber-Jade Geldenhuys, Ansie Greyling, Ikram Lakhdhar, Kai Lossgott, Nelson Makamo, Leroye Malaton, Agnes Marton, Naadira Patel, Sandile Radebe, Pauline Theart and Marguerite Visser. 

They will respond in their chosen medium broadly to the notion of judicial redress, more specifically triggered by a core installation from Cape Town-based artist Elgin Rust. At the heart of 'APPEAL 2012' is a centrepiece of 'evidence' in diverse media including found courtroom furniture reconfigured into installations. There is also photographic evidence, audio recordings, documentation and an online archive of case material.  

The project has a roll call of fictional characters headed by Advocate Alice who leads the evidence. The collaborating artists are in turn imagined as a jury and their aesthetic responses will be assembled into the group exhibition at different points over its two-week run. The finissage on 24 September could be understood as a composite statement about emotional transformation. 

Planned works range from narrative text and poetry to video, found objects such as surveillance cameras, resampled sound and more. One participant is interacting with the project long-distance from the US in an experimental profiling exchange. 

The exhibition is preceded by a workshop where participants are invited to refine their responses and collaborate. 

A dedicated exhibition website has more information:

Exhibit C  (2010)
Elgin Rust
Sixth in the Series, Edition ⅓
Photomontage, collaged, archival ink on photolustre paper
84 x 147cm

Vernissage: Tuesday 11 September @ 18h00
Venue: 2nd floor, Warehouse Building East, 3 Buxton Street, Doornfontein
Viewing hours: 10h00-14h00
Finissage: Monday 24 September & 18h00

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

'APPEAL 2012': Artists collaborate in Doornfontein exhibition spanning art, law, & media

Exhibition venue
'The Living Artists' Emporium'
3 Buxton Street, 2nd floor, Warehouse Building East, Doornfontein, Johannesburg
A constantly morphing exhibition that explores ideas around art, law and the media opens next month on 11 September in a pop-up event at an inner-city warehouse. 

'APPEAL 2012', the culmination of a long-running research project by artist Elgin Rust, incorporates over its two-week exhibition run the creative responses of a dozen other artists to existing 'evidence' around notions of the judiciary and related issues of redress. 

Rust says: "Much like a trial gets re-opened for an appeal where evidence is re-evaluated, the project is re-opened and investigated. And like a case that goes into an appeal moves between courts, the project now moves location from Cape Town to Johannesburg."

Invited artists will respond in their chosen medium, ranging from sculpture to video, photography, sound and text. Planned artworks include inflatable sculptures, obsolete surveillance cameras, singing and graffiti. These will be integrated into the composite installation by the exhibition close, into what Rust terms a final 'judgement'. The joint collaborative visual statement regarding emotional transformation will be fully evident at the exhibition's finissage on 24 September.

Participants include: Catherine Dickerson, Amber-Jade Geldenhuys, Ansie Greyling, Kai Lossgott, Leroye Malaton, Agnes Marton, Naadira Patel, Sandile Radebe, Pauline Theart and Marguerite Visser.

The exhibition is facilitated by guerilla gallery, an artist-led platform that hosts projects in makeshift city spaces. The venue is courtesy of The Living Artists' Emporium in Doornfontein and 1886, a property development, asset and financing solutions company. The exhibition is partly sponsored by the National Arts Council.

Exhibition opens: Tuesday 11 September @ 18h00
Exhibition closes: Monday 24 September
Exhibition venue: 2nd floor, Warehouse Building East, 3 Buxton Street, Doornfontein, Johannesburg
Exhibition hours: M-F 10h00-14h00; Sat 10h00-14h00
Artist's walkabout: Saturday 22 September @ 11h00

Contact details: guerilla gallery

Thursday, August 9, 2012

'APPEAL 2012': Q&A with Elgin Rust

'APPEAL 2012': Kim Gurney interviews Elgin Rust in a written exchange about her forthcoming research project and collaborative exhibition that spans art, law and the media, opening 11 September in Johannesburg.

KG: One element that recurs to me in the story behind 'APPEAL 2012' is the question of voice. Achille Mbembe has spoken a lot recently about the capacity to voice and how this is linked to a crisis of language in this country, and in turn to imagination. And this project really began with the silencing of your voice. In what ways would you consider your project an exploration of giving voice?

ER: 'APPEAL' is the continuation of an investigation that I initiated in 2008 for my Masters at Michaelis School of Fine Art, UCT. And yes, its roots can be traced back to a personal experience of the judiciary. One where I felt like my voice was silenced and which propelled me into this journey investigating redress and what I have come to term aesthetic redress. It now attempts to allow other voices represented by a 'jury' of artistic collaborators to explore notions around the judiciary.

KG: You speak about processes of "aesthetic redress", how the work may trigger memory for the audience to imagine the invisible rather than seeking to reveal some kind of hidden essentialist truth. Would you elaborate on how 'APPEAL' may explore this?

ER: I guess it would do so in a similar way as the initial fictional trial did in 2010. R v Judicial Redress was and still is driven by the invented characters Advocate Alice and Detective Prince. They collected 'evidence' from various Cape Town based courts and re-staged the material as a performative installation - the trial. This was based on three precedents that encapsulate aesthetic redress: research + reconstruction + reinterpretation. It is a process that led me to play an aesthetic game by re-staging heterogeneous objects and processes based in the aesthetic and judicial realm. This revealed a clash, which is part deconstruction and part constructive affirmation of subjectivity.

For 'APPEAL', I have invited a jury of participants from different disciplines to re-investigate the same material. Much like a trial gets re-opened for an appeal where evidence is re-evaluated, the project is re-opened and investigated. And like a case that goes into an appeal moves between courts, the project now moves location from Cape Town to Johannesburg.

The exhibition comprising the evidence and part of the installation will be 'trial ready' for the opening 11 September. Over the ensuing fortnight, the jury will incorporate its judgements, understood as opinions, estimates, notions, or conclusions. I hope the collaborative processes will reflect the complex nature of emotional transformation. A vernissage will close the 'APPEAL' on 24 September.

R v JR (installation view) (2010)
Mixed medium installation of found material from courthouses
Dimensions: variable
Photo credit: Dave Robertson
KG: One of the main symbols that you use in the installation is a ship. What is the significance of this visual metaphor for you?

ER: The metaphor of the ship is effectively used by many artists to express concerns around imagination, migration, colonialism and globalisation. Yinka Shonibare, Cai Guo-Qiang, Kcho and closer to home Cara van der Westhuizen and Renée Holleman come to mind. Unlike Shonibare's ship, which is made using Dutch wax fabric, the ship for the trial Das Narrenshiff is made entirely from found courtroom furniture -- the evidence collected by the detective for the case. It is conceptually based on Sebastian Brant’s The Ship of Fools, a reference indirectly to my roots but more pertinently to law as a problematic colonial import. The ship stands where the participants of a trial act out the controlled ritual of truth-finding. It invites us to play an imaginative game, with notions of childhood memories and contemporary social concerns.

KG: The project crosses mediums, from photography, to found objects to sculpture and sound. Tell me something about how this enables your conceptual ends.

ER: The play across different mediums allows for play between the judicial and aesthetic realm. Photographs, physical evidence and sound clips are read very differently when positioned in the court or in a gallery. This game as described by Jacques Rancière, deconstructs, in a Derridean sense the meaning, revealing inherent unresolvable binaries, which create space for new meaning. This breaking of past and present, which leads to an overload of meaning, reveals the fragility of materials, images and messages in the installation. The deconstruction of materiality is what makes it possible for the work to offer alternatives for emancipated subjectivities.

KG: Your work is described as a kind of serial, performative installation, much like a shifting archive of meaning. In an earlier personal conversation, we touched on an apparent increasing incidence in contemporary art-making that approaches the archival. Yet often this does not extend beyond the catalogue to personal affect, a realm wherein your work finds full meaning. What in your view is the key to this bridge?

ER: The key is the incorporation of affect, something that got a bit lost in the 60’s and 70’s, the heyday of critical art. It was so focussed on interrogating social systems by mimicking them that the artist's personal touch almost completely disappeared. This project mimics the judicial system but it also elicits affect as it incorporates the artist's mark. This leads the viewer to see rather than to think the truth -- a truth that is viscerally sensed, also termed by Deleuze as sense memory. Process art has a long historical trajectory with affect or sense memory, which is understood to run deeper than visual memory. According to Deleuze, this “seeing feeling” is achieved by looking at the "how”, or the production of answers. These emerge though the game-play.

Process sketch (2010)
Dimensions: A4
Elgin Rust 
KG: You have also chosen to work collaboratively with other artists. Can you give an example of how such collaboration has worked in the past to serve the project's broader purpose?

ER: The exhibition 'JUDGEMENT-UITSPRAAK' hosted by The AVA Gallery in Cape Town in 2011 was the first move in that direction. I invited artists to spend time in the initial trial installation R v Judicial Redress set up for the 'Masters Moving Out' show facilitated by the Michaelis Gallery to produce a work in response. The 14 judgements were curated alongside elements from the initial trial installation, including Das Narrenschiff. The artists worked mostly in their respective studios to produce new work using material of their own choice. These judgements which, while offering up some closure, nonetheless remain open-ended and up for discussion. The responses were varied. From Max Wolpe’s ink drawing and Nina Liebenberg’s performance piece to the direct interventions of Bridget Baker and Sonja Rademeyer into pre-existing material or requested evidence.  These immediate interventions caught my eye.

KG: What role do you think artists have to play regarding social justice if any; and how might a broader "trauma culture" that you cite from Hal Foster underscore this?

ER: The primary aim of the court aside from law-making and law enforcement is to resolve disputes and redress violations of rights. The manner in which disputes are resolved has far-reaching effects especially for South Africa emerging from the apartheid regime, which abused the judicial system to enforce an unjust society. It is therefore pertinent for all South Africans to continually keep vigil, to contribute, and to protect an independent judiciary. The shadow of the law shapes society and society shapes the law. The awareness of this circular nature should encourage voices to re-imagine the judiciary. This dialogue fuelled by artists potentially has the power to embolden courts to produce creative and innovative judgements that no longer perpetuate what Foster terms a “trauma culture” but rather a culture of emotional redress.

KG: Recently Khulumani Support Group in South Africa was successful on behalf of 25 South Africans in receiving a settlement from a US court against corporations that produced parts for military vehicles used by the apartheid regime to carry out raids and assassinations. How do you view such compensation in light of the concerns of your project?

ER: From what I understand, the settlement of [US]$1.5 million will be split between the Khulumani Group and the claimants represented by Lungisile Ntsebeza. In the larger picture, it is just a very small settlement from a company that has gone bankrupt. In light of my project, it’s how these funds are put to use which is interesting. Money goes a long way to cover actual incurred cost but I believe emotional redress cannot be bought. That is why the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was so important. Also interesting is the fact that the reason this case could go to court was the Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows non-US citizens to bring cases against non-US citizens in a US court. As a precedent it is interesting because it paves the way for litigation against multinational corporations and foreign banks that financed the apartheid government. The snowball effect could be endless.

KG: Of what particular significance is bringing this research project to Johannesburg?

ER: Johannesburg is richly steeped in matters pertaining to the judiciary. It houses the Constitutional Court and places like the Drill Hall. It seemed like a logical progression to allow for a broader band of artists and audience. This attempts to further an awareness of the role art can play in making abstract social systems more tangible. It also activates a visual and theoretical discourse between cities across art, law and media.

KG: What is next for Elgin Rust, once 'APPEAL 2012' has come and gone?

ER: I would like the project to travel more. And seeing the response I had from people outside of South Africa, I believe this model can still be taken further. Dakar springs to mind… [laughs]. The project containing all the research, evidence and the various manifestations thereof is documented and archived online. The call is open for interested parties to get involved. In the interim, I am looking towards 'Infecting the City' [public arts festival in Cape Town] in 2013. But for now I will continue to take it one step at a time.

R v JR (installation view) (2010)
Mixed medium installation of found material from courthouses
Dimensions: variable
Photo credit: Dave Robertson
Elgin Rust is an artist, researcher and cultural practitioner based in Cape Town. 
Kim Gurney is an artist, researcher and journalist based in Johannesburg. She helps curate 'APPEAL 2012' through guerilla gallery, an artist-led initiative.