Category Archives: Criticism

The Symphony of Line and Colour

I

Contemporary Outlook

|>>>/ There is something daring about art when it becomes a personal reflection; when it’s thematic considerations are meditations of its maker on themselves. This mode of working which is a tenant of contemporary art is a brave leap as the artist leads the viewer into a personal space both in imagery and a nuanced psychology of the self. If the body of work produced in this frame of mind sees the artist sharing personal anecdotes with the viewer through art making discourses then the viewer can be seen as accessing what can be akin to a memoir through a strewn body of a work that represents a ‘particular period’ in the artist’s life and career. The reader should note that I am saying that the memoir access that they will be subjected to with regard to the artist only represents a ‘particular period’ in the artist’s life because surely the artist focus, if they are constantly searching for new forms of artistic expressions, will shift in time and come to bare on something else \<<<|

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The Quadrille of Torture, Pain, Steel and Paint

Ilandi Barkhuizen

prologue

The preoccupation with the surface area in art making is an integral part of art practice as much as the development of new media is. It is an area that we often don’t give attention to when we look at works of art, yet it is there. It is a pedestal unto which ideas are communicated to us. The ancient artists, the San Hunter Gatherers, understood this; for instance they would use the bulge of the inside of the cave’s surface to express the bump of an antelope in an attempt to mimic form

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Speech: The Nature of an Artist’s journey

ON the 7 February 2015 at about ten in the morning I was about to read the prepared speech below at the opening of Tshwane University of Technology Department of Fine and Applied Arts BTech exhibition while I noticed, in the sea of the crowd nestle here and there serious looks including a couple of people who rolled their eyes upwards in the ‘here it comes’ attitude. This together with the occasional air blows from the nearby air con which ruffled my prepared speech papers in its duel against the onslaught of summer heat convinced me to ditch the speech and speak from an improvised angle. I doubt if anyone ate from my palms. Contrary to popular believe of the little circle I belong to, I am never comfortable speaking in public, even if it’s about what I feel passionate about, art. I find solace in the written text. Presently I hope that the speech below does justice to my improvised performance.

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From a *bundle of joy’s perspective

A group of things or quantity of material tied or wrapped up together

 TWO commercials have pricked my interest lately. The Cadbury chocolate commercial, by Oglivy & Mother, wherein triplets in their mommy’s womb sing about joy and the Telkom’s commercial, by DDB South Africa, wherein three babies are listening to an account of a fourth baby’s experience in his mother’s womb. By the time of the development of the present article there was a proliferation of commercials featuring babies which expands the baby as a prominent element or device within the architecture of an advertisement to help establish a product’s communication with the consumer. It is noteworthy to observe, as far as the settings in these two commercials are concerned; that while the Cadbury’s bulk content is delivered within the womb that of Telkom is delivered outside of the womb. Whether Telkom’s commercial was a response to that of Cadbury’s is another textual outing wherein we will have to probe the deeper genesis of conception of these two works, a pursuit similar to that of the chicken and egg question as to which came first. A task that could lead us nowhere in the face of scarce resources to could enable us to fathom succinctly the genesis of the two works, or in the face of abundance of resources we might just end up writing a long drawn thesis which, though enticing, is not necessarily our intentions.

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Neo Resistance Art and its Fallacy

/a mistaken reasoning which makes an argument invalid/

/the ability not to be affected by something/

*(first draft)

I was going to title the present article artwork. That title would not have encapsulated the issues that I would like to tackle presently. In a country that is divided economically as well as operating along racial lines when one looks at the so call liberal arts, even before we consider such art liberal, we must go to the beginning of the conception of an artwork which is in itself a problematic journey. Yet its locale is quite clear, the conception of an artwork takes place within the exercising of freedom to respond to stimuli either internally or externally to the artist.

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Hierarchical specifications in Fish Eagle advertisement (revised edit)

The recent Fish Eagle advert deserves to be dissected into its respective constituencies in order to appreciate how it naturalizes the product it is about. From its quite opening right up to the moment when the eagle swoop down to take its prey, the advertisement is a well orchestrated campaign for selling brandy through connoting the brandy with supremacy as far as status is concerned. That status is hierarchically specified such that we have an effect mirroring the food chain pyramid.

At its opening the advert shows a lotus¹ flower opening after a dew drop falls within its bud, propelling the petals to open slowly, we may assume, at the encouragement of the nourishing dew. At the background soft key notes from a piano can be discerned amidst the quite and serene mood of the environment within which this drama of survival of the fittest unfolds.

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A Planet of the Six Legged Horses

Indirect metaphor

 James Cameron’s Avatar (2009 )can be considered as a part of a chain reaction response to the detrimental situation our planet faces due to carbon emissions. Its release follows hotly COP 15 (the United Nation Climate Change Conference 2009) a conference where the super-powerful countries, the developing powers as well as underdeveloped countries met to discuss and find solutions to the challenges brought on by climate change due to CO2 emissions.  The conference did not reach the satisfactory results on a global level in that the drafted Copenhagen Accord document was ‘taken note of’ and ‘not adopted’ by the participating countries. Not even legally binding countries to comply with it, the Copenhagen Accord document pledged that countries should keep temperature rising to below 2 Degrees Celsius. The closure of the conference saw a division between the leaders of industrialized countries, who were happy with the accord, and leaders of other countries and non government organizations who were opposed to it.         

 It remains to be seen whether the Copenhagen Accord will be adhered to in the not so distant future. The fact in this maze of power-play is that poorer countries will be the one’s to suffer from the results of carbon emissions, with Africa being at high risk

As a motion picture Cameron’s Avatar follows on the heels of works such as The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) as well as The Day After tomorrow (2004) and to a somewhat metaphorical sense the documentary An inconvenient Truth (2006) by Al Gore.

 Avatar (2009) takes the phenomena of invasion and colonization to another level, which may be termed inter planetary intrusion with intent to dominate and retrieve by any means necessary what belongs to the indigenous inhabitants. In the film we see human beings invade a foreign planet with the intention to mine its precious mineral – unobtanium. If the invasion was motivated by acquiring a new and distant planet to live in due to the earth’s inhabitable condition (in the future) then their invasion could be justified, doubly so if it is done with the intention to coexists peacefully with of the original inhabitants of Pandora. However with the hostility of Planet Pandora’s air to the humans, their invasion is geared towards acquiring the precious mineral located deep within the forest of the Na’vi People – the indigenous inhabitants of Planet Pandora.  The Na’vi native occupation of the forest represents an obstacle for the acquisition of the precious minerals, to which the Na’vi seems oblivious or ignorant.

 I See You

In order to infiltrate the social infrastructure of the Na’vi people in planet Pandora Avatars have been developed to stand in for the humans. They are infiltrating humanoids that look like the Pandorians except for the noticeable five figures whereas the Pandorians have four. The Avatars have been genetically engineered to withstand the un-breathable air of Pandora which is harmful to human beings. When Jake Sully’s twin brother dies in the line of duty his brother is brought into the campaign to acquire the mineral of Pandora by operating one of the Avatars. Having being paralyses in battle, the commander who is heading this invasion mission offers him a surgery that will restore his walking ability.

After a haphazard preparation for Jake Sully to acclimatize to the control of his avatar a team is assembled to go deep within the forest of the Na’vi to do research and negotiate with the Na’vi – the Pandorians. Accidentally separated from the team in the thicket forest while attempting contact, Jake Soley undergoes an epic transformation, enculturation, acquire empathy and affinity for the Na’vi people through Neytiri, A Na’vi maiden who rescues him from being torn part by ravenous beast in the thicket forest. This leads him, through his Avatar to take sides with the Na’vi in order to stop the capitalist Neo-planetary looting that is launched.

A battle between human firepower, driven by greed, and aborigines of Pandora driven by self love and acknowledgement of nature as Mother God ensues. The Na’vi unites different tribes, defends the forests and destroy the enemy. As a reward the protagonist’s soul is transferred permanently to that of his Avatar thus reborn  as a full Pandorian.  

 There is no distance in the Universe

 There is a safety valve in place to cushion Avatar from becoming another cliché film dealing with apartheid ideology on a global level. This element is that the planet is inhabitable to human beings – without the use of oxygen  masks they cannot survive in Pandora; henceforth the use of Avatars. Avatar reminds us that in the universe all is connected to the ‘Mother Earth’ and we are all siblings and are connected to her. By hurting the earth we are simply inflicting pain to our selves in the long run.

 This, what the film teaches us, is the philosophy of self consciousness and that of our precious environment. It is with this message that one can begin to look around with a heightened consciousness, a third eye, an intense appreciation. Such appreciation will make us aware at all times that whatever we do to our environment affects all in all, this way our actions are bound to haunt us in the not so distance future.

 Avatar is a metaphor that sets the tone for the new age struggle, the fight to keep the earth habitable. This is the new age struggle; we ought to find it in us as humanity to coexist with our natural environment, to be conscious that our actions will always haunt tomorrow, a fact that resonates across cultures and continental boundaries. This is the bar that Cameron’s Avatar erects before us.

 21 January

 © Mmutle Arthur Kgokong 2010

 

Films referred to 

  1. Al Gore, A.A. An Inconvinient Truth 2006. Paramount Classics.
  2. Cameron, J. Avatar 2009. Lightstorm entertainment, Dune Enternainment and Indigenous Film Partners.
  3. Mostow, J. Surrogates 2009. Touch Stone Pictures 
  4. Dune Enternainment and Indigenous Film Partners.
  5. Derrickson, S (Dir). The Day the Earth Stood Still 2008. 20th Century Fox and Alliance Films  
  6. Emmerich, R.  The Day After tomorrow 2004. 20th Century Fox