Some Thoughts on Dada South?
Thursday, January 07, 2010
Admittedly I am still a youngster, but I think looking back over the decade, Dada South? will prove to be the most significant of the big South African blockbuster shows, at least from a local context.
While Africa Remix made waves around the world, and was probably the biggest, most significant show of African art we'll see even in the next ten years, and Picasso in Africa got the hinges on the National Gallery's door swinging and the Tropics: Views from the middle of the globe unfortunately did not (am I forgetting anything important here? Cape 07?), Dada South? has two factors which I think will prove impactful. Firstly, it was an examination of how local production was affected by Western art in a positive way, by a movement which is increasingly seen to hold the roots of most contemporary art production. Secondly, it revisited a chunk of 80's South African art. This second is important. As we drift through our second decade of democracy, looking back is becoming both easier and more necessary. A little distance gives us the leeway to reinterpret and revision (as this show does), but also the opportunity to look critically at where we come from.
Another factor which makes this show a hit is the pure awesomeness of seeing some of these works. Who thought they'd ever see a Hannah Hoch, a Hans Arp, a Man Ray. Or some of the artifacts, like the original R. Mutt article, the old journals and Caberet Voltaire invites. Even local stuff I'd read about but never seen (Fook Island stuff, old Willem Boshoff's). On the downside though, this show really needed to open with a catalogue, a guide through the sometimes obscure bits and pieces and an entry point into some of the narratives and histories.
There are some seminars coming up, and I think they are vital to attend. This show will expose its significance through discussion. I look forward to writing a second piece after that.
Also, while the graphic design clearly wanted be subversive in the spirit of Dada, I really wanted to spit on the supid red and green explanatory texts. I think we have to accept that Dada has been commodified and intellectualised. But that of course is a whole other article.
Also, my work was the best on the show.