Ductac's Gallery of Light shows creativity on camera
From the viewer’s perspective, video installations can be a tricky medium to wrap your head around. The content is often obscure and indecipherable, and it’s all to easy too walk away feeling more than a little confused. However, if you’re armed with some background knowledge on the artist and their intentions, video installations can be a rewarding and fascinating art form.
One such exhibition, entitled ‘Mine’ (showing at Ductac’s Gallery of Light), presents video installations of 17 South African artists (including well-known notables William Kentbridge and Robin Rhode), in which they comment on personal ownership. Each artist also appears in his or her film. To help you understand the pieces, we asked five of the artists. to give us an insight into their work.
Johan Thom Title of installation ‘Terms of Endearment’.
Length of film Three minutes 49 seconds.
Describe your video installation. In short, it’s a work in which I wanted to express something about the relationship between domesticity, art and the subconscious. For most of my career my home has also been my studio. There’s something interesting about the way in which art is simultaneously very personal and social, domestic and public.
What message are you trying to convey? I think we ought to carefully examine the myriad ways in which ideas about dirt and cleanliness figure so prominently in the way we structure and understand the meaning of our lives.
Where do you appear in the film? I appear made up in ‘skullface’, as a delirious character that seems to celebrate the material messiness of life even from beyond the grave.
Who inspires you? The ingenuity of ordinary people.
Do you have a favourite filmmaker? I love film generally, and three names come to mind immediately: Steve McQueen, Bill Viola and Werner Herzog.
What makes you proud to be South African? We are a hybrid, multicultural nation.
Robin Rhode Title of installation ‘The Stripper’.
Length of film Two minutes 22 seconds.
Describe your video installation. It’s a stop-frame animation where we see an anonymous character/protagonist attempt to steal the parts of a motor vehicle that have been painted onto a wall in the street. The theme could relate to the fact that the artistic process has a criminal intent.
What message are you trying to convey? My message is that only through the realms of the creative process can one commit artistic crimes and get away with it.
Where do you appear in the film? I appear in the animation as the main protagonist, or thief.
What inspires you? The world in which I live, and the people who inhabit it.
Do you have a favourite filmmaker? Steve McQueen.
What makes you proud to be South African? That as a nation, we want to steal cars really well.
Lerato Shadi Title of installation ‘Hema’ (or ‘Six hours of out breath captured in 792 balloons’).
Length of film Five minutes 26 seconds.
Describe your video installation. The video is footage of a performance staged in an office space in Cape Town. The performance consisted of me situating myself within the office and becoming an architectural feature of the building, where for six hours, from 10am until 4pm, I blow up balloons by breathing out only into the balloons.
What message are you trying to convey? ‘Hema’ deals with the question of how an artwork and work are valued and packaged, taking six hours of my breathing, blowing balloons (a seemingly playful act) and packaging that into a five-minute video. It is a comment and investigation into how we choose to spend the hours that make up the days of our life.
Where do you appear in the film? I place myself in the centre of the building, while the balloons invade the rest of the space.
Who inspires you? I think we’re all inspiring. Maybe not all the time, and it might not even be most of the time, but there are certainly moments in everyone’s life that are inspiring, and those are worth celebrating.
Do you have a favourite filmmaker? Most of the artists in this exhibition are quite exceptional.
Bridget Baker Title of installation ‘Steglitz House’.
Length of film Nine minutes.
Describe your video installation. It was shot inside a miniature construction of a ’30s West Berlin home in the Arikalex Museum in Steglitz, Berlin. It depicts a slowly unfolding narrative that delicately shifts between domestic psycho-drama and investigative espionage, exploring the rooms of a recently abandoned furnished home. It is spliced with ambiguous South African references and idiosyncratic framed art objects that trace the life of a phantom traveller.
What message are you trying to convey? I’m curious to inscribe relational spaces and histories with personal mythologies around representation, appropriation and absence, framed by a complex South African past.
Where do you appear in the film? There are references, like hidden clues, including photos of my father and aspects of our South African identity, as if evidence of a complex life lived by the missing inhabitants.
Do you have a favourite filmmaker? Francis Alys and Jan Sˇvankmajer.
How does your video relate to the theme ‘Mine’? This particular work voices my consideration of personal loss with the death of my father as a missing inhabitant in my life.
What makes you proud to be South African? That’s quite a complex question. I’d say I’m proud to be South African because of the people.
Jacques Coetzer Title of installation ‘Desperado’
Length of film Two minutes eight seconds.
Describe your video installation. A man in a glitzy gold shirt makes the gestures of a street beggar. It’s based around the theme of rich man/poor man. What message are you trying to convey? I’d like the interpretation to be open-ended.
Where do you appear in the film? I’m the begging man.
Do you have a favourite filmmaker? Francis Alÿs, a Belgian-born artist who now lives and works in Mexico City. I recently watched footage of him running into a real tornado with his video camera. Wow!
What makes you proud to be South African? I’m careful to be proud of us South Africans, but I think we’re doing okay. It is vibrant to live in a place with such variety, such contrasts. The lowdown Exhibition: ‘Mine’, until February 4 at Ductac Gallery of Light, Mall of the Emirates (04 341 4777). Artists: William Kentridge, Robin Rhode, Bridget Baker, Dineo Seshee Bopape, Doris Bloom, Jacques Coetzer, Teboho Edkins, Simon Gush and Dorothee Kreutzfeldt, Donna Kukama, Michael MacGarry, Nandipha Mntambo, Zanele Muholi, Cedric Nunn, Berni Searle, Lerato Shadi, Penny Siopis, Gregg Smith and Johan Thom.