Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sculpture with Fanonian roots

...and at the theoretical foundations of the After Math© project.... Frantz Fanon...

At the core of After Math©, reside the theories and concepts of psychiatrist, philosopher and revolutionary Frantz Fanon (July 20, 1925- December 6, 1961). Fanon (1952) in his book titled Black skin White masks unpacks the devastating psychological consequences of colonialism and broader, racially oppressive political regimes. He coins a key concept referred to as the “colonisation of the mind” and identifies a resulting neuroses i.e. “black neuroses”.  “Colonisation of the mind” is the process whereby the colonised, due to broader political racial inequalities, is violently dispossessed of physical, material and cultural effects (Hook, 2004b: 88). The empowered coloniser and the disempowered colonised settles into what Fanon refers to as a “psycho-existential complex”. For the colonised the elimination and degradation of all forms of wealth, manifests psychologically as distaste, subordination and inferiority.

 As such, Fanon (1952) argues that the “black neuroses” is caused by an elimination of black/native culture and its replacement by the favoured Eurocentric culture as the only standard or model to aspire to. In other words, the self loathing aspect of the oppressed identity is forged by the coloniser. Fanon’s “black neuroses” refers to the black man’s[1] aspirations to be accepted by the coloniser; or even to become the coloniser.  Hook (2004a) extends this condition to the South African context in the following quote: “apartheid may be considered a particular extension or variation of the basic politics and conditions of colonialism”.

He refers to Bertoldi (1998) who claims that the basic constructs of colonialism i.e. politics and conditions, apply to apartheid. In a similar way, the South African “black neuroses” becomes a variant of the original Fanonian condition.

As previously introduced, the After Math© project is a sculpture, video work and performance based social intervention that explores temporality, wounding and consequence. The project aims to contribute to post-colonial and post-apartheid discourse by visually unravelling, unpacking and tackling the process of wounding, inscription on the physical and mental body; as well as its aftermath. It proposes to explore the after affects of racial discrimination within a South African context through the process of narrative re-enactments which manifests here as sculptural installations, video work and performance art. The project through its major outputs aims to critically engage the viewer around the subject of temporality, wounding and its consequences. 

[1] Subsequent psychoanalysts, such as Loomba (2005), notes that Fanon’s writing is gendered. She insists that post-colonial critique is inclusive of both genders and all classes and sexes. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Announcement: Exhibition 2012!!!

Launching the After Math© Project
A sculpture, video work and performance social intervention; exploring temporality, wounding and consequence

Below, find the concept and artist statement for my show titled After Math©, which will be hosted by the Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg in August 2012.

After Math is envisaged as a long term project, that comprises a range of outputs. The initiation phase of this project commenced in February 2012 and involves the production of the first body of work. Phase two involves introducing and displaying the work in the public sphere; beginning with an exhibition at the Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg in the second week of August 2012.
Through collaboration, the work benefits from a broad range of artistic disciplines and creative dialogues. Approximately eight works will manifest as sculpture installations (created by Farieda Nazier), two to three as video work (by Mocke J Van Veuren) and one as a performance piece (by Thami Hector Manekehla).
The intent behind this social art intervention is to invoke and evoke the process of catharsis by probing wounds of the past. Within the South African context as with many other analogous contexts, personal histories are undeniably engrained with discrimination and its consequent wounding. Borrowing from Fanon, Hook (2004a) refers to this wounding as the “neuroses of blackness”. He argues that instances of racism cannot be reduced to any one theory; and infers (by making reference to the Apartheid Archives Project)[1] that these narratives be approached via multiple conceptual lenses (Hook 2004b). In this regard, this intervention uses a range of explorative creative methodologies including stop motion animation, sculptural installations and performance art as mechanisms to generate dialogue around the discrimination-wounding-aftermath theme. Although foundational works manifests as sculptural installations, the process for arriving at the sculptural combines a personal socio-political account structured by mathematical processes and formulae. This methodology was selected to unpack causalities and its effects on the ethereal, through rational calculation and deliberation.
Consequently, the project comprises of two main streams; the first pertains to the creation of an art experience in line with the foundational underpinnings of Fanonian psychopolitics and secondly, capturing the viewers interaction, reaction, response and reception of the work in an analytical article.

The work
The intervention described below is informed by two key works of Frantz Fanon    i.e.   The Wretched of the Earth (1963) and Black skin White masks (1952). Through sculptural installations, video work and performance the work makes reference and attempts to visually unpack key concepts from these foundational works, within a contemporary post apartheid South African context.           
Sculptural Installations and Video work
The installations and video work which constitute After Math, illustrate the transformative processes incurred in terms of inscription of a personal history on a body or form. It is further, a gradational visual record demonstrating a progression of moments within a work’s lifecycle.  As time elapses, cause seemingly disappears and the wounded object replaces it; becoming the only evidence that the action ever occurred. Each installation and video work will comprise a number of unfinished abstract sculptures deliberately stopped at different stages of its production. These will act as physical records or evidence; a metaphor for the inscribed and wounded body.  Similarly the stop motion animated video work constitutes a number of still photographs depicting the bodies as they progress[1]. The relation between the work and its surrounding context i.e. space-light-sound environment is core to the manner in which they will be read, perceived and experienced. 
The performance
By means of play, movement and illusion, the art experience extends in meaning through performance; transgressing boundaries that exist between the three modalities: static installations, animated video work and living body. Within the exhibition space, the performing body explores and depicts the volatile actions of discrimination-wounding-aftermath sequences.

Field, S. 2007. The Politics of Disappointment: Trauma, ‘Healing’ and Regeneration in Post-apartheid South Africa. [O].
Accessed: 9 January 2012
Hook, D. 2004a. Fanon and the Psychoanalysis of Racism. [O].
Accessed: 20 February 2012
Hook, D. 2004b. Frantz Fanon, Steve Biko, ‘Psychopolitics’ and Critical Psychology. [O].  Available:
Accessed: 20 February 2012
[1] The Apartheid Archive Project (AAP) is an international research initiative run by the University of Witwatersrand. It aims to archive and analyse a broad range of up to 5000 narrative accounts of racism in South Africa. AAP has launched three successful international conferences that critically interrogate the data they have collected, using number of theoretical lenses.