Spier Contemporary…’open for art’.

The Spier Contemporary Art Competition

Text & Images By Caroline Kaminju/Africancolours.com

The recently concluded Spier contemporary national competition and exhibition was a reflection of South African life in all its forms. Some of the issues it touched on included the upcoming FIFA World Cup, identity, urban landscapes and political status.

It revealed how people see things differently depending on their background and gave insight on how South Africa is really a ‘rainbow nation’. The exhibition included traditional and new art mediums such as paintings, print making, photography and sculpture as well as video installations, performances and new media. 

Launched in March 2010, the exhibition comprised of works by 101 South African artists which were displayed at the Cape Town city hall right in the heart of town. This made it more accessible to people from all walks of life including tourists. In living with one of the exhibition core objectives, the exhibition also created a new audience and a forum in which artist could market their work.

The exhibition occupied two levels of the hall and one needed at least two hours to see it in its entirety. On the first floor at the extreme end was Masobe Mothapo’s mixed media statue of himself as a street beggar titled Makatizen Lerole. One could easily mistake it for a real person due to its life size structure and realness.

This Polokwane born artist even dressed the statue with his real shirt, pants, shoes and hat. Holding a tin cup on one hand, on the other one had a piece of paper written Ke kgopela thuso ke, Hlagaletswe. Ke nna Makatizen Lerole which translates Please help the poor man. I am Makatizen Lerole. Thank you. ‘I wanted to see the world from the beggars perspective’, says Masobe.

He went as far as putting the statue on the streets where it ended up being ‘arrested’ after passers thought the statue was a real street beggar. ‘I had to go to the police to bail myself out’.  This is one of the works that addressed the social status of the country with the gap between the rich and poor widening everyday.

Thirty four year old Dawood Petersen, who is an attorney by profession, chose the upcoming world cup as his theme. His works sought to ‘greet, rejoice and lament the advent and departure of the first African World Cup’. The Jimmy Choos Golden Boot Award was an interesting piece made out of real soccer boots painted with golden paint affixed with heels and gems bok skin.

He conceived this work after a friend of his gave him a pair of soccer boots as a gift after he decided to rekindle his ‘love affair with soccer’. To his surprise, he found himself no longer ‘romantically interested’ in soccer instead there was a debate within himself that questioned form verses function.

He then decided to create a piece that he would metaphorically offer the top goal scorer of the world cup. His choice of materials such as the animal hide denotes the cultural richness of the host country and some of the rituals associated with it.

The title and the heels ‘takes a satirical view on the quality of soccer that the South African national team Bafana Bafana has become known for playing’, much like playing soccer with high heels. With no formal training in art Dawood’s work displays his ability to interpret and contextualize information from what he observes.

Hanje Whitehead’s mixed media kinetic sculpture titled Die Bystander (The Bystander) was hair rising and left people frightened every time it moved. It consisted of objects that simulated maggots that were placed on red soil and their movement was triggered by sensors built on the base of the work.

She used latex and form to make the maggots which could be mistaken for real ones.  According to Hanje, the work refers to ‘Kitty Genovese syndrome in which spectators of a tragic event or emergency simply stand by and watch when someone or something is suffering or dying.’

She adds that the spectacle describes the tension and aggression that is suppressed in people who fear that if they took action they would take the responsibility of ‘opening a can of worms’ or in this case ‘a can of maggots’.  

Kinetic art provokes an interaction between the viewer and the artwork and this is what Hanje is interested in. That’s why she choses to produce work that can be touched and interacted with to trigger different reactions and interactions. 

Dale Yudelman’s video installation of an abandoned burnt out car off Long Street in Cape Town was captivating to watch. Filmed for three weeks, the film is a commentary by ex-cons, betrayed girlfriends, and members of secret society who narrate what might have happened to the car.

Bordering on fact and fiction, their stories ultimately shaped the structure of the film. ‘In this piece, I examine the ambivalent nature of personal truth and shared reality, by scrutinizing the paradoxes and ironies of daily life’. 

With such amazing talent it must have been a difficult time for the judges to chose the winner out of the just over 2700 entries that were received. The prices comprised of five R500, 000 cash prizes, seven international artist-in-residency and a ‘People’s choice’ Award based on the votes by the visitors of the exhibition.

Araminta de Clermont, Dave Rovertson, Hasan and Hus

ain Essop are some of the artists who received the cash prizes while Lindi Rbi, Mohau Modisakeng, Sicelo Ziqubu and Jacki McInnes received the Artist-in-Residency awards. 

The two month exhibition was developed by African Centre and its not clear yet whether the exhibition will travel to Johannesburg and Durban.

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