WHEN early 20th Century critic of psychoanalysis Karl Kraus proclaimed, in his attack against Freud and the Austrian school: “From now only piracy will be permitted,” he was merely answering the terrifying problematic which American, Ralph Waldo Emerson had previously
delineated: “It is as difficult to appropriate the thoughts of others, as it is to invent,” consequently all forms of appropriation, whether they be the outright theft of the remix pirate, the anti-hierarchic nomadism of the schizophrenic or the mashup culture of the hiphop musician, are all really just comments on the artistic process we call invention.
To be alive in the maelstrom of today’s insanely literary pop culture, to write about art, is to risk offending highbrow critics who maintain theory is the sole prerogative of the academic, that any discourse is invariably that of the Western Canon vs the Other and all activities, including the activity of art should, and can only be, understood from within the realm of polite bourgeois society, through a lens provided by domestic homeland safety security regulations, 2010 soccer stadiums and a city by-law prohibiting urination, belching, farting in public and noxious odours?
DIABOLICAL really, but the devil works in mysterious ways, and Ed Young is no exception. Aside from the fact that he is probably getting paid by Arthrob to reveal his innermost angst, and post-acne mutterings, some of which may or may not involve Devil-worship, his ongoing Jew-baiting is becoming somewhat of a problem.
Now I am not accusing Young of being anti-Semitic, that would be cheap, rather, his invective falls into a pattern that is so often the case these days with white South African youth who never experienced the repression of the eighties, and now have neither the guts nor the temerity to fight for freedom of expression. It is bad enough that our courts are starting to err on the side of profanity, (as the Faasen case shows) protecting middle-class bureaucrats like Young, who use hate speech to illustrate a point (as if elevating abuse to the level of speech somehow renders the abuse beyond the pale of justice) and whose invective comes pretty damn close to being obscene.
CAPE TOWN empresario, chick magnet and purveyor of hard liquor held what must be rated as one of the most Over the Top (OTT) 60th birthday celebrations ever. The date – Saturday April 5, The venue, the Royal Albert Hall in the bohemian paradise of Lower Woodstock. Here are some snippets — I am greeted by Wonder Woman, a barrage of artists on roller skates, odd members of a 70 piece orchestra, Waddy Jones and an “8-year-old boy” whom I mistake for a live alien from Zeta Reticuli.
The alien is eyeballing me, with the ancient eyes of a creature who has just traveled a million light years across the interstellar tide in a fifties flying saucer (with matching soap dish). I rub my brow, but everything is still out of focus. Is this it, an extraterrestrial contactee, at an art party of all places? My unconscious screams — I am co-hallucinating, or maybe somebody slipped me a Mickey Finn? It all compresses down, an 8 foot high human transmogrified into an Eloi. I may as well have tripped down a rabbit hole and ended up with Jessica, the March Hare and the Red Queen.
CAPE TOWN: “Christian Dauriac has produced a work of art,” says artist Zavick Zaroff Botha who in conjunction with Marianne, the premier French Wine estate in Africa, and Franck Malassigne, has created a startling new piece that will be forever associated with the estate’s 2004 Pinotage.
The Marianne Pinotage won an award at the ABSA Top 10 Pinotage ceremony held at Cape Town’s Castle on Thursday, March 6 2008. The award, sponsored by the Pinotage Association in conjunction with ABSA, saw Zavick’s original artwork commended for its innovative interpretation of the wine-making process.
The collaboration is a natural development for Botha, who stumbled upon the vineyard in 2007. “I could taste the fullness of the berries and Mr Duriac explained that they were 100% Pinotage. I immediately fell in love with the estate.” Zavick believes he has captured the very essence of Marianne in a select artwork produced exclusively for Mr Duriac.
THE pretentious white-boy from Welkom who arrived on the Cape Town art scene during a millennial slump, had very little to show for himself except a big mouth. Young quickly made a name as an infamous rude-boy, whose method of operation was the hackneyed “art attack” involving one or more victims. (As one of his “victims” I believe I can report about such nefarious activities). Not content with sacrificing aesthetics and profit, Young took to bully boy stunts and conning the media into participating in what he called “conceptual art”. In reality Young disliked everything he saw. As columnist Suzy Bell who “bought” Bruce Gordon after being approached by Young in a scheme relates: “The problem with Ed is, he isn’t an artist. Not like Wayne Barker who was rude, had attitude but at the end of the day, produced the goods.”
With little to show for his visual arts degree purchased from Michaelis, Young was forced out of desperation into producing futile and sterile acts. Young even struck up a weird relationship with Ronald Suresh Roberts at the height of the scandal involving Robert’s defamation case against the Sunday Times. Whilst Roberts was being pilloried and depicted as a carpetbagger with his head up our second President’s behind, Ed chose to support Robert’s freedom to be unlikable.
THE weird apartheid time-warp which kept Derek Wilson in the Argus newsroom for thirty years has finally ended. South Africa’s worst critic, who never made it out of the eighties conceptually, and refused to embrace transformation, either in his choice of words, or material for review, has been forced into retirement.
Ringing changes at the Independent Group have also seen David Hill, editor of the Group’s community papers leave, and dare one say John Scott could be the next “old fogey” to be pushed into the twilight?
Wilson is best known for his complete and utter failure to recognize the anti-apartheid movement, and the cultural boycott called by anti-apartheid activists in defiance of government laws segregating South Africans into race groups. Defying calls by cultural workers for whites to not participate in the regime which created separate amenities and apartheid arts structures, Wilson insisted on covering the whites-only opera, even while blacks and so-called “coloureds” were forceably prevented from attending venues such as the former Nico Malan.
Wilson, forever the newsroom queen, also coined the term “artsy fartsy” to relegate much of what he wrote to the corridors of parochialism, and white infantilism as his readership consistantly insisted that Aviva Pelham and Alvin Collison were the “beesknees”, all the while refusing point blankly to attend any art event which actually transgressed boundaries and the borders in the townships.
It is a wonder of the modern world that Wilson’s reign of terror against anything which smacked of the unconventional or radical, continued well into the 21st century, and that he was not forced to retire earlier. Having absolutely no grasp of criticism, or the theories which underpinned much of the anti-establishment counterculture which arose, first as an antidote to apartheid institutions, and later as a reaction both to the democratic election and the approaching fin ‘d ciecle, Wilson insisted on ignoring most of South Africa’s youth culture.
Forever the curmudgeon and mother grundie of rock ‘n roll, Wilson would routinely spike copy that was anywhere near critical of the colonial institutions which created a stilted and stuffy Cape. It is beyond belief that hacks at the Argus never realized the man was obviously suffering from senile dementia or Alzheimer’s and can only recall a smattering of notables in his ignominious and shy career.
This posting has aroused a lot of interest around the world and now gets about 500 hits every day. Perhaps it is the magic of the iconography involved, or the idea that the male principle of the Hamesh Hand, has a feminine equal in the Hand of Fatima?
Here is the text from my original posting. I have updated the links and images which disappeared for some reason:
“I’ve also seen one in an Orthodox Jewish Home, with a “Chai” this symbol, commonly seen on necklaces and other jewelry and ornaments, is simply the Hebrew word Chai (living), with the two Hebrew letters Chet and Yod attached to each other. Some say it refers to the Living G-d. Judaism as a religion is very focused on life, and the word chai has great significance. The typical Jewish toast is l’chayim (to life). Gifts to charity are routinely given in multiples of 18 (the numeric value of the word Chai).
According to a Wikipedia entry, “the hamesh hand or hamsa hand is a popular motif in Jewish jewelry. Go into any Jewish gift shop and you will find necklaces and bracelets bearing this inverted hand with thumb and pinky pointing outward. The design commonly has an eye in the center of the hand or various Jewish letters in the middle.”
“There is nothing exclusively Jewish about the hamesh hand. Arab cultures often refer to it as the Hand of Fatima, which represents the Hand of G-d. Similar designs are common in many cultures. Why it has become such a popular symbol among Jews? I haven’t been able to find an adequate explanation anywhere. My best guess: in many cultures, this hand pattern represents a protection against the evil eye, and the evil eye has historically been a popular superstition among Jews.
Hand of Fatima exhibition by Farideh Zariv
In June 2006 Iranian artist Farideh Zariv held an exhibition in Cape Town’s Bo Kaap, a predominantly Muslim district of Cape Town.
This is taken from one of the leaflets of the show: “The Hand of Fatima, an ancient motif in northern Africa and Middle Eastern art and architecture, is rich in meaning. The symbol is also known as khamsa and the Eye of Fatima in Islamic tradition. The Hand of Fatima symbolises divine protection, freedom and peaceful co-existence with others and is used, for example, as amulets, jewelery and architectural features. Although predating Islam, the symbol has been widely assimilated into Islamic art and popular culture.
The Iranian-Australian artist, Farideh Zariv bought her first piece of Hand of Fatima in 1990. Her collection have grown to more than eighty pieces and have been collected from Iran, all over the Arabian world and India. Selected pieces will be on display. On display will also be multi-media artworks by Zariv that were inspired by the Hand of Fatima. According to Zariv, ‘-each hand has a message for humankind. The hand of Fatima is a symbol of that message, carrying spiritual and mystical meanings. This hand could be a hand of light, showing humankind the way to brightness and peace. It could also be a hand, which directs human attention to inner spirituality. In my art I try to convey this message including the essence of the hand in the title of each work.’
PICASSO’s bulls reminds me of another bull story — apparently the same Marilyn Martin responsible for this years ground-breaking exhibition, curated a boycott-breaking show in Pinochet’s fascist Chile during the reign of apartheid president PW Botha no less. Amazing really how things have changed in the world of cultural fertilizer and South Africans are free, politically-speaking, to smell the visual delights, of arguably the world’s greatist Spanish artist, courtesy of, you guessed right, the French government.
Personally I could never figure out why historians go on about Picasso’s line drawing without discussing his depiction of women — a supreme mysogenist or just somebody too pissed to worry about the finer details of the female nude? I’ll leave it up to you to decide.
IF IT were not for the seething acrimony of contemporary South African art criticism, the debate over Picasso’s alleged appropriation of African art forms — the accusation of theft leveled by Sandile Memela and the subsequent belligerent reportage by Donaldson — would have probably descended into polite satire — the culture of the absurd.
Instead of upbraiding the Pretoria News for its initial opinion piece, which had slammed Memela’s remarks for being: ‘more sad and pathetic than disturbing because they reveal an Afrocentrism clutching so desperately for something that it can claim as all its own.’ Memela chose rather to roast Donaldson’s admittedly egregious banter with yet another statement that inflamed the conservatives.
‘The voices that must have the final word are white. There is no room for the political and cultural critique by independent African voices on this contentious subject,’ Memela protested, in what one can only presume to be a sneaky piece of polemic calculated to bait former racists and cultural imperialists alike, but as it turned out, the imperialists and conservatives were right, having swallowed the hook, they would now witness the truth behind the Africanist position on Picasso, before the eyes of the world, or so it seems.
One can only commiserate with all those high-brow cocktail party-goers, those exhibition schlebs munching on pretzels while ineffectual cultural workers still slouch on the sidelines.
Regardless of cultural status, one still seeks common ground, and believing in the slow dance away from polarization. Yet again the public is enthralled by a debate of extremities — the neat binary opposition of the exclusive Africanist position vs vi die-hard Europhiles. An invariable extremism of tastes, a frenzy of aesthetic desires that see fit to ostracize certain Africans on the assumption that race is the determining factor in our identity as a nation; race and race alone is what will conclude this visual arts debate, thereby cementing the new African Renaissance and Globalism with a new flavour of pap, untouched by white hands?
For Memela, Africa can only be defined by what it is not. Africa can never be European, it must stand apart, and be purified like some dark continent only accessible to its original inhabitants. For Donaldson, the European Continent will always be the omega point of cultural discourse, while Africa must stand alone, like a poor, half-sister forever at the cocktail bar of discourse.
Memela on the other hand presumes that his own people are synonymous with the first peoples of our land, the Khoekhoe, the !Kung San, the Griqua; furthermore, that the ‘birthplace of humankind” is also the “cradle of civilization and only ‘African intellectuals’ may debate these issues. Donaldson moreover falls into the trap of a patronising snideness, an effete familiarity that can only bread contempt for the position of “white critics” on the sub-continent.
Turning Mamela’s attack upon Donaldson, in on itself however, may be considered a little disingenuous; it opens us all up to accusations of Eurocentricism and the harshest attack of all, of simply ‘being white’ regardless of ones skin tone. The very same kinds of attacks leveled at Memela by the conservatives, and now thrown about, in a circus of ritual absurdity that has begun to characterize popular debate in South Africa. One must therefore find another means of waging intellectual assault, perhaps the notion of universality spoken about by white intellectuals like Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel?
If the juxtaposition of Memela’s use of the term ‘African’ (in contradistinction to the use of the term ‘whites’ ) our own semantically starched trap, were not bad enough, Donaldson’s use of a simple phrase without any universal appeal, except perhaps to his own mother, has snowballed into a literal form of xenophobism, a negro-centric attack against so-called white Africans of European descent.
This kind of intellectual sparring inevitably results in hate speech, of the insidious kind outlawed by our constitution. It is pointless going back to that time when racists of all hues could launch verbal barbs with a flick of the wrist, without forethought or fear of censure. It is even less advantageous for pale critics and ebony-coloured bureaucrats to deploy the arguments of racists, in the attempt perhaps to better themselves and others, uplifting nothing except the hated ideology of the past.
THERE is an existence worth contemplating and it is the existence of an artist. No ordinary artist, Luke Human embodied that capricious spirit of outrage against a system that denied the most fundamental human right – the right not to give a damn about anything, except being yourself. Luke was more than anything in the world, himself. His art was second nature and for what it’s worth, I could not bring myself to simply mollify his journey into “figurative expressionism” since so many figurative expressionists fall into a psychiatric ward of self-examination and fail to return with the goods.
If there was a failing it was that Luke was more of an artist, than a producer of artwork. As such, it is worth assessing what being an artist like Luke Human must have been. For one there was no sign of pretension and braggadocio which marks so many art-school graduates these days. No attempt to render likeable, easily digestible, commodity fetishes. Absolutely nothing of the decorative or banal. No, what Luke possessed was an uncanny ability to render portraits of ones own inner turmoil, the strife and crisis of ego we experience on a daily basis.
After sitting for one such portrait on New Years Eve in 2002, in his studio above Wellington Fruit Growers, I was amazed to see my features extracted like some rare inner monologue, and redrawn to perfection in the nether regions of Luke Human-ness. Today I would love to know if anything came from these preliminary sketches, that were bound to wash-up at various galleries, and always marketed as the act of sheer and utter raving lunacy, the life of an artist whose portfolio of work must have included a fair amount of studies of young girls from Bishopscourt and Constantia.
I hate to sound trite or trivial, but the very thing which gave Luke his stormy impulsive personality turned out to be his finally undoing. With no formal schooling as such, he turned to a variety of distractions to compensate. Among these were his drug-taking and liberality, mixed with an equal volley of understatement and self-praise, that issued forth from many incantations into the night. I dare say that he was eventually done in by one of the many skollies and criminal types that must have provided Luke with a daily pharmacological sustenance for this, his most artistic of folly’s.