Nipping it in the bud

by T Leibbrandt

 

Arguably one of the main attractions at this year’s art fair was Tate Modern director Chris Dercon’s day three Alpha Romeo talk on ‘Audiences: How Much Do We Really Care’ and indeed many interesting assertions presented themselves. One of the more eyebrow-raising sections emerged with regards to the Tate’s future plans in terms of incorporating African art both into the permanent collection and into future exhibitions. The result could be broke down as such:

“All methods of African art production that are going to be ignored by the Tate in the future please step forward. Not so fast Young African Contemporary Photographers and Historical Artists.”

In other words, the crux of the matter seemed to be that Tate’s view on the increased inclusion of African Art into its collection will revolve around “historical modern artists from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s…and of course Photography, young contemporary photography” to quote Dercon. As to why everyone else is still sitting on the bench, Dercon asserts that “lack of knowledge and expertise is the principle problem from Tate’s perspective” and it is “easier to engage with contemporary art on an international level than historical”, hence why they feel that focussing on the historical is more “ambitious”. Couple this with the talk’s concluding video (which declared the Tate to be the model for the “Museum of the Future”) and a fairly perplexing scenario presents itself.

The question that is thus begged is “What are the photographers doing right that everyone else is doing wrong?” If one throws in the four decade block of historical artists, the alarming logical conclusion is that there is a sect that neatly perpetuates the pigeon-holing of Africa as the turmoil-ridden dark continent that everyone else can turn to and say “Hey, at least we’re not those guys.”  This may seem like the easily-assumed “autogripe” position but when Dercon enthusiastically makes reference to the fact that Okwui Enwezor is working on a photographic exhibition about apartheid or Tate’s currently exhibiting of “an amazing body of work” of Guy Tillim’s photographic series depicting the 2006 Democratic Republic of Congo elections, it doesn’t necessarily contradict that position.

In a sense this approach forces African artists to adopt a specific position (and indeed mode of production) if they wish to gain recognition. This is not unlike the horticultural pruning process of snipping the apical buds in order to fashion the growth of a tree or bush within a very specific, pre-determined range of shape, size and degree of productivity.

Granted this article is dwelling on specific aspects of Dercon’s talk that weren’t necessarily central to his discussion of audiences and the future of the museum. And indeed it is not the article’s intention to imply that it is suddenly Tate’s responsibility to single-handedly propel every last sect of African art to the forefront of the international art market. The point rather is that the projected approach to incorporating African art into the collection, as outlined by Dercon, seems to perpetuate the current trend of imposed latency that is charitably bestowed on African art acquisition on an international level. “Anyone can do contemporary art, so you guys stick to what you do best”, seems to be the implication. Focussing on modern African art is fine, but does it really have to be so Modern?

Engaging Audience

by M Blackman

 

The label of ‘elitist’ has often been the bugbear of the Joburg Art Fair, this year being no exception.  Ross Douglas the director of the Art Fair was quite direct in acknowledging that ‘elitist’ was the kind of animal the art fair is. But Chris Dercon of the Tate Modern, in his talk on the idea of audience, suggested that the art zeitgeist was heading away from elitism towards an inclusive museum system.  This idea was quickly contradicted in the follow-up panel discussion when Bisi Silva of CCA in Lagos exclaimed that those who are not interested in an art event “don’t have a right to be there.”   The discussion of audience was taken further when the interlocutor of the same discussion asked how audiences could become engaged with the curatorial process.  It seemed that, for a while, no one wished to tackle the question but then Riason Naidoo, the director of the South African National Gallery, eventually offered the idea that showing artists out of the established cannon was part of the process of engaging with a South African audience.

It seems strange that Naidoo did not take this opportunity to discuss the recent Trechikoff exhibition at SANG.  For this exhibition seems to exemplify exactly the idea he was trying to articulate.  ‘Trechikoff , the Peoples Painter’ did, after all, attract the highest public attendance in SANG’s recent history.  Despite Naidoo’s laudable attempts to attract a wider audience with ‘Pierneef to the Gugulective’ it was not this but the Russian émigré that gripped the South African public.  If we are to take Trechikoff as the closest exhibition to date to fulfilling South African audience’s demands, then it should also be noted that it only attracted scorn from the critics.

Of course it may be claimed that the critics were merely voicing an elitist hegemony that sought to wrest art away from a popular audience.  But the fact remains that the closest we have come in South Africa to having large-scale audience participation with an art exhibition was ‘Trechikoff’.  It also seems true though that the ‘elitist hegemony’ may have a point about Trechikov’s over simplified and, by then, outdated art practices.  Sadly what seemed to resonate most, with regards to art and South African audiences, in Chris Dercon’s lecture was what he said about his DVD that refused to play ‘it is inside but you can’t see it’ (italics mine).

Share the Same Space for a Minute or Two

by M Barben and S Thomas

 

It’s 11pm and the place is empty. One of the security guards dims the lights as he leaves. The sound of closing doors echoes through the space; it’s time.

 

I climb out of my frame, remove the plastic flower from my mouth and stretch my aching limbs. I’m freezing and I need to find a shirt. I can hear the elephant bleating in distress from across the hall. The sound adds to a cacophony of shuffling figures and waking images. One of Angus Taylor’s giant golems has mounted Rodney Place’s suspended saddle, leaving a trail of dirt across the left wing.

 

Nyana V. Jackson’s nude warriors have seized and reassembled Paula Louw’s suspended revolvers and are attempting to poach Brett Murray’s gorillas, who seem to be playing with Deborah Bell’s very serious looking dog. Kentridge’s women weep quietly, clearly upset by their representation. The left wing is altogether chaotic and alarming. I move off into less hostile waters.

 

A cool sea breeze drifts through SMAC, I decide to take a swim. Colder than before, Ian Grose lends me his jersey and looks at me compassionately with all ten of his eyes. Around the corner Barend de Wet’s pretty balloons float to the ceiling. Ed contorts his hairy arm and flexes his stiffened hand after ages of maintaining the contemptuous position.

 

I’m lured to the right wing by ethereal chanting. A séance of sorts seems to be taking place; Sanell Aggenbach’s ghosts dance around Justin Brett’s charcoal-smudged monolith and Matthew Hindley’s hyena howls at a non existent moon. Slightly perturbed, I sneak away and narrowly avoid The Black Terror’s mean left hook. I walk past What if the World and notice Jan-Henri’s silver skull gaping at Daniella Mooney’s prettier, flower-adorned equivalent.

 

I spot Athi on a woven beach in the distance. I grab a few bottles of Pommery and walk hurriedly towards the palm scattered shore. Eager to dress up for midnight bellinis, I beg Sophie to lend me her dress. Refusing to part with her prized possession, I settle for one of Athi’s leotards and spend the remainder of the night in the haze of an eternal summer.

 

Dawn beckons me back to my frame. I undress and climb in, the plastic rose wedged between my teeth. With Naïve Melody playing in my head, I settle down for another day of men staring at my breasts. A hangover awaits. Thanks a lot, Pieter Hugo.

A FEW GOODMANS

“I don’t trash talk” says Frances Goodman with a mischievous look in her eye, “but I think its better to be here”.

We’re standing in her garden, at the opening of her peripheral event, the Goodman Garage. All the way in Westdene.

On the weekend of the fair you wouldn’t expect to be hijacked outside the Sandton Convention Centre. But nevertheless, shuttles, slyly operated by innocent looking knaves handing out pamphlets, did just that.

This is hijack advertising of the worse kind. It works on an easy principle. Wait for a mainstream event to attract a large audience. Then, displaying acts of using devious and cunning, place a ‘shuttle’ outside the entrance offering unsuspecting visitors a lift to and from your peripheral event.

The malicious intent described in this opening gambit wasn’t real that evident however. Rather, Frances Goodman was being, well, sneaky, but also playful, and we can never blame anyone for that!

Goodman is of course, and perhaps not so coincidentally, represented by a gallery of her namesake. Her intention of hosting the Goodman Garage, literally garage sale of her remaining work that hasn’t been sold on her previous exhibitions says something about the relationship of commerce of events on the fringe as opposed to their commercial counterparts.

Among the detritus that nobody wants, there was in fact some staggering installations. Her sound piece titled ‘You II’ whose companion ‘You’, a bound book full of statements of a lover addressing the object of her affection. The voice of the lover is a woman Goodman says she met in Antwerp.

There is something macabre in this work from 2003. The voice is distinctly sad. The utterances to have the pain of a relationship where the mutuality is one sided. A withdrawn longing leaving a crevice in the pit of your soul.

If you can find these shuttles in time, hop on, take a trip. The magic of the mystery tour is worth it.

Not in Envy of Thine Happy Lot

Chris Dercon, newly appointed director of the Tate Modern, has proposed several ideas for the future of the museum, and more specifically, the Tate. The museum, Dercon says, needs to become a dynamic space where the audience’s changing perception of discerning visual culture can manifest itself in the museum. Hence his use of the words, “‘What is good for the artists, is what is good for the audience’ is no longer true”.  While an idea like this one could be the future of the Tate, the reality is that the same is not possible in a South African context.

 

The Tate Modern is positioned in an extremely privileged position as one of, if not the most influential and powerful museums in the world, with approximately 5 million viewers a year. Coupled with the fact that the audiences in London are wanting to visit museums, and are at a point where they can sway bosses to re-evaluate the way they are structuring museums,  South Africa is left in a stark contrast. Most museums in South Africa require an entrance fee, and many South Africans are not interested in visiting them. The notion of taking the Museum outside, while interesting in theory, or the museum as everywhere is a European idea, which is not applicable in a South African context. Dercon’s statement “the Artworld is based on the control of information” still has a strong foothold on the way in which museums are run, and shows no possibility of major change in the future as long as they are not supported properly.

 

On a basic level, the problem lies with the issue that an active response towards creating “the social cohesion” spoken about in yesterday’s interview with Ross Douglas, needs to happen on a larger scale if Dercon’s model for a changed museum can happen in any way. One feels that there is a lot of talk about inclusivity and engagement, and these intentions are essential to developing an art-aware public, but ultimately what these phrases have become is a somewhat empty rhetoric. The art community remains a small and elitist one, and this needs to change if museums and other art institutions wish to increase the number of people viewing the work in their galleries and museums.

FNB JOBURG ART FAIR: A PLACE FOR OUR ART?

The FNB Joburg Art Fair finds itself in murky territory. While the event has a clear focus on building a sustainable art-buying market that hopes to extend beyond the buyers and collectors of the established “circle”, it also attempts to bring the international into the South African market, and to allow the local some kind of access to the international. The fair aims to develop the local market as well as find its place in Africa and elsewhere. One then questions, especially in the light of yet another impending economic crisis, whether the fair is capable of doing both.

The organization of an annual South African art event, let alone an African one, has been troublesome. Funding and poor organization have prevented events, like Biennales, to take place consistently. But these are hardly new problems. The fact is that this fair is happening, and has managed to happen for four years, exposing the art public and the so-called ‘non-art’ public to emerging and established artists through the exhibiting of private galleries. October, a London-based gallery, has found a niche in representing African artists that have not been selected by South African galleries. The gallery is ‘instrumental’ in establishing the international careers of El Anatsui, Owusu-Ankoma and Romuald Hazoume. Although the gallery did not aim to create a stable of African artists, they found that The Joburg Art Fair allowed their artists exposure to an untapped South African/African market.

What does it mean when an English gallery manages to find success for their (African) artists overseas, only to bring them back to a so-called African art fair where they then form part of a gap in a market? This single instance reveals a common phenomenon that occurs in a variety of other commercial sectors, and is not unique to the art world. Several other galleries follow a similar track to October; Artco, Galerie Ames d’Afrique and Seippel Gallery are European-based, with interests in taking the work global. It would seem that the South African ties to African work are strangely European in a sense. Apart from Goodman and Stevenson who have brought African artists from their stable to the fair, there remains no South African gallery present this year that aims to include a collection of artists from other parts of the continent exclusively. Only one solely African gallery – not including the independent collective Migrant-C, is representing African artists: Omenka Gallery.

One can only wonder, as the only event of its kind in Africa, whether it is the fair’s responsibility to attempt to represent the continent. A fair and not a biennale, the event inadvertently finds itself wearing several hats. Albeit commercial in its focus Joburg Art Fair offers an opportunity for galleries to display their selected artists, the fair will be criticized as a “representative” enterprise as long as there are so few annual African art events.

Permanent Error

I wrote this piece a couple of months ago for the Mail & Guardian:

Walking into Pieter Hugo’s Permanent Error currently on show at Michael Stevenson is an ocular experience. Not only is it visual, and with enormous photographs stretching to a metre or more it is highly visual, but also makes you physically aware of your eyes. Every image billows with thick acrid smoke; the ground is covered in fine ash. You want to rub your eyes. You can imagine the sting of burning plastic.
In the photo titled Abdulai Yahaya, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana a boy crouches in the dust. The landscape is ashen and apocalyptic. The boy stares directly out of the picture, but it seems that no human should be there. Sweat is beaded on his forehead and runs through the dirt on his cheeks. His eyes are red-rimmed and so glassy that you can see the reflections of the people in front of him. It is emotional. You are hit by the stark reality, the bleak and circular existence of this person. His impassive gaze and crouched pose reflect an inexpressible violent hopelessness. In other photos, you begin to notice fragments of keyboards and coils of electrical wire. An old computer monitor is on fire. If computers are a site of contemporary identity, here they become eviscerated and useless. The people too are silent, abject and exhausted. In the backgrounds low fires burn, the only real colour in the images. They are the active participants.
This setting, easily imagined by a Hollywood director for a disaster movie, is real, as are the people. Sitting on the outskirts of the slum Agbogbloshie in Accra, Ghana, the area is a dump where locals ‘mine’ obsolete technology for the copper and other metals by burning out the plastics. At night, fresh containers are emptied of technological junk. These piles of old computers are shipped from Western nations, ostensibly as donations to bridge the ‘digital divide’ and provide education. Far from a positive notion of recycling, it is an easy excuse for unscrupulous waste disposal. In reality, the broken computers have little value. The irony is that this delivering of the apparatus of knowledge is literally apocalyptic in implication. The utopian ideals of digital technology, freedom, communication and ease, find the marred side of the coin in places like Agbogbloshie. The impulse to progress is haunted by its own destruction. The soil and air is poisoned and the people are destitute. Indeed, the photographs are an indictment of a culture of waste. It is a vision of the true failure of capitalism.
The title of the show Permanent Error puns on this failure. In computer speak, a permanent error is a bad sector that can only be rectified by clearing the whole disc and rewriting. Here, there is the permanent error inflicted on the landscape, the permanent error of benevolence masking abuse, and the permanent error of the health and poverty of the people living in Agbogbloshie. Also seemingly irreversible is the relationship between the West and Africa, a quagmire of history and politics. It is a relationship that is reflected in the gallery space, in which the privilege of looking (and of ownership) is awarded to the wealthy.
While the subject matter is spot-on contemporary, feeding into current fears of eco-destruction, they are not news pictures. They fall somewhere between documentary and portraiture. After the decline of the photomagazines, like Life, in the 70’s the latter is a realm of photography that is increasingly finding its space within the white cube gallery. This has been a way for concerned photographers to maintain their integrity and their income. In order for this transaction to remain viable, however, the images need a hook to attract value. In Pieter Hugo’s case, they are beautiful images. The figures are central, composed and monumental. The colours are carefully modulated, desaturated but contrasty. It accentuates the details of dirt, rich areas for our eyes to settle upon. The smoke is both threatening and appealing, an end-of-the-world sublime. In this regard they fall into a long tradition of Western art, the fascination with ruin and decay. It is a line from Hieronymous Bosch’s pictures of perdition to Dutch Masters’ vanitas paintings to the movie 2012.
In the 19th Century this fascination was condensed into an aesthetic theory, especially in industrializing England. The picturesque, slightly differently understood today, was the idea that what was beautiful in reality didn’t make great pictures.  Interesting pictures had texture, at odds with the ideals of beauty of the time, smoothness, roundness and evenness. Painters, and practitioners of the burgeoning art of photography, went to great pains to seek out the windswept tree, the craggy cliff, the anti-classical and the ruin. They found pleasing images in the broken, the torn-down and even in the poetic raggedness of the poor. The picturesque was a romantic impulse and a reaction against the rapidly technologising world. It was also a particularly classed aesthetic, in which the leisured would tour the countryside in search of the picturesque. Contemporary writing often equated the picturesque artist with the big-game hunter, capturing a rarity and fixing it to the wall. The artist’s role was to realize an ideal with impunity. In this regard it masked the class relations implicit in the landscape of the era. The land wasn’t shown as a place of labour or ownership, but as a space of aesthetic contemplation.
In a certain light Pieter Hugo’s Permanent Error is the heir to this aesthetic. It finds visual pleasure in ruin. The photographer as both tourist and hunter of the exotic is not a hard analogy to make. While it wears its political bent on its sleeve, implicitly showing suffering and labour, this too can be a form of masking capitalist privilege. It can act as a kind of palliative. Susan Sontag in her book Regarding the Pain of Others, says that sympathy, a normal reaction to visual representations of suffering, allows us to “feel we are not accomplices to what caused the suffering. Our sympathy proclaims our innocence as well as our impotence.” To set aside our sympathy is to consider our own culpability. The more visceral the photograph, the greater is our feeling of sympathy. Rather than a call to political or social action they become a cathartic spectacle. It creates a fantasy of transgression, while hiding complicity with the system.
While this reading of Hugo’s work certainly has its merits, it doesn’t entirely sit comfortably. In the work entitled Aissah Salifu, the figure stands straight, a bent piece of metal in his hand. The smoke atmospherically obscures his legs while emphasizing his handsome face. With glossy ebony skin his forehead is topped with a plaster running so vertically that it reads as decorative. He looks like a character from a Mad Max post-apocalyptic fantasy to such an extreme that the spectacle of it becomes obvious. It makes it clear that this is a posed image, taken by a photographer who has watched movies, who brings his own baggage to the photograph. The image reveals its artifice. This point is made clearer in an adjoining room, where a curve of TV screens shows looped video clips. Each shows one of the photographs, identical except for the moving background and the swaying and fidgeting. If you listen closely you can hear the shutter of Hugo’s camera. By showing the mechanisms of the poses, their forced immobility, and foregrounding the act of photographing, it becomes clear that the photographs aren’t a site of easy redemption. It admits that even the condemnation of capitalism can be recuperated into a commodity. By revealing their spectacular nature, the images challenge the spectacle, while still remaining a commodified object. The political dimension is no longer subsumed, but becomes a part of a complex relationship of meanings. It allows the images honesty. But it is even more hopeless: the circle of consumption is unbreakable, not only for those who are ground down by it but even in the images that are critical of it. There truly is the permanent error.

The Kendell Code

At Kendell Geers’ press walkabout for his show Third World Disorder at Goodman Cape, he spoke about becoming more superstitious as he grows older. Superstition is an appropriate metaphor for art making. A black cat isn’t a black cat, but an omen. Similarly, a sculpture isn’t a sculpture, but a way to save the world, or an investigation into society, or an alchemical reaction. Superstition is both an irrational interpretation of a sign and narrowing of the signs’ meanings. A black cat will always be an omen, never a sweet pet to be loved and given milk.

In Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, the superstitious meaning of the world is guarded by an illuminati, and it takes a maverick outsider (but with special talents in understanding signs) in the service of truth to expose the singular meaning. Too bad it is a lovable fiction: in reality, in art meaning is nebulous. The relationship between a hexagram, the number six, the sixth letter of the alphabet and the F word is tenuous at best, but possibly just plain illegible.

This was an observation from hearing Geers talk and I wonder how I would have seen the show if I had gone in blind. That is the problem with looking at works by Geers: the force of his personality precedes him, which really makes it difficult to separate criticism from vitriol. Perhaps Stevie Wonder says it best: Superstition

The Sound of a Zip on Red Latex Boots.

This is a piece I wrote on Cameron Platter which appeared in his catalogue HARD TIMES / GREAT EXPECTATIONS:

Cameron Platter’s work, which stretches from drawings to video to sculpture, can sometimes be hard to pin down. The best word I could get to describe it is apocalypsonaïve. It is a portmanteau made up of three separate words, but in Platter’s world of Sportswater-and-Penis Combos and killer transvestite scorpion zebras from outer space it seems to fit right in.


Apocalypse, the first element, is because of the dark sci-fi undertones and storylines and the post-human characters. It is a world where LOLcats come back to haunt us. It is for the fear of KFC and WMDs. Apocalypse allows for an area of rich fantasy and, like all good apocalypse narratives, a healthy dose of social commentary.


Naïve, the second element, is for the childlike drawing, the cut-and-paste animation and the gratuitous use of paperback verbal cliché. It lends an innocence all the worse for the violent content. It’s like watching kids playing with guns, sweetly involved and terrifyingly earnest. Linda Stupart once described it as the “embittered and delinquent love child of Quentin Tarantino and Dr Seuss”, which is as appropriate as funny.


In the middle of my word is calypso, the third element, for the syncopated rhythm of the islands. It is the Durban sun, the bright colours and the taste of the subtropics. It’s the creole mix of a crocodile and a detective. It’s the secret hideouts of Scaramanga and Dr No. It’s the gaze of the colonialist. And it is the dirty parties when the sun goes down, the strippers and sex tourists, the drugs and speedboats. It’s the sound of a zip on red latex boots.

RS: In most of your work there is a big contrast between the childlike style of drawing and the violent or mean content. How do you see it affecting the viewer?

CP:  I think of it as a form of reportage. I only transcribe what I see around me: night clubs, hookers, sex, fast food, tabloid horror stories, the art world, TV, films, politics, consumer culture etc. The fact that the “style” is childlike, that’s just how I see things. It doesn’t really matter to me how it affects the viewer- they choose to eat it up how they want and then spit it out again. Treat adults like children and children like adults and you can’t go wrong…

RS: It reminds me a bit of Tank Girl. Reacting to the wrongs in the world with reckless abandon.

CP: How can people not react? I’m astonished that people can go about their lives smiling, eating KFC, watching TV, buying cell phones, wanting the latest 3-in-1 penis combo. Tank Girl. Doesn’t she wear revealing outfits?

RS: She does. And reacts violently.

CP: I suppose I’m like a passive-aggressive-slacker-Lebowski type of reactor.

RS:  Do you bowl?

CP: Leg-spin.

RS: I meant ten-pin…

CP: That’s, like your opinion, man. Once or twice. In Parow.

Platter’s animations are often made with simple colours, minimal movement and with cutouts glaringly stuck on. The backgrounds flash and the shots are long and drawn out, like anime from the 90’s.

RS: Your work has a very handmade feel about it even though it’s digital.

CP: Funny. My video work is almost the most handcrafted, hand-done, side of what I do. Even though it’s digital

RS: Somehow things that are digital can look more handmade. I think it’s because unslick digital drawings refer to the past.

CP: I think there’s a return to doing things yourself. Making things from what you got. Not just in art. Like growing a vegetable, instead of buying one. Which may mean people would start making their own art instead of buying it.

Platter often repeats motifs, such as crocodiles, porn, fast cars, bars, John Muafengejo and KFC legs. Certain characters also make multiple visits, developing quirks of personality over time, resembling the repeated characters in crime novel series.

CP: The latest animation, The Old Fashion, started out as a remake of my 2005 animation My bm is bigger than yours. I literally re-storyboarded scene-by-scene and then just let it develop. It turned into something completely different to the original. And that’s when I realized that things like the zebras, the crocodile had this real potential to be these important, familiar, characters. Like the players in a crime novel series. I love the contrast of high and low. And I love people, things, that don’t take themselves too seriously.

Platter overtly refers to detective fiction and is a massive crime fiction fan. One of his repeating characters is a crocodile who talks like Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe and falls in love with fallen women. The villains are often straight out of James Bond, though Blofeld’s cat gets the active part.

RS: You refer to bad literature or at least genre’s that aren’t considered ‘literature’, like paperback sci-fi or spy thriller James Bond-style and crime novels.

CP: I suppose I feel some sort of kinship with crime-fiction books. The fact that they aren’t supposedly “hardcore” literature. I don’t make politically correct installations dealing with violence, race, oppression, and poverty etc. I make bright, colourful, “childlike” works that are slightly funny, off-kilter or humorous. Doesn’t mean I don’t have a political agenda though.

RS: Crime fiction, especially the old kind, like Raymond Chandler and Dash Hammet, are in essence morality tales, but with an unconventional bend. Do you feel there is an off-beat sense of morality in your work?

CP: That’s it. I’m big-time into morality tales. Doing the right thing but embracing contemporary sleaze at the same time.

RS: Is there a bigger morality power. Some of your animations end with a powerful external force cleansing the world (like transvestite scorpion zebras).

CP: I think it is just an easy Beckettian way to end- otherwise the stories would just go on and on and never end. The Zebras are also like Steven Seagal. So like a combo of Beckettian and Seagalian wrath cleans shit up. But I do like finality, and there is something quite comforting to me about a sudden ending: Finish and klaar.

RS: Like a premature ejaculation?

CP:  Or coitus interruptus.

Pornography is a theme in Platter’s work. His recent video Black up that white ass 2 started with a 7 minute graphic animated porn scene

RS: I noticed that you love the seriality of the characters. But the similar sequels and repeated characters remind me of porn as well as crime fiction. What is your relationship to porn?

CP: I was a pornographer in a previous life. I love porn but I hate it. I think it’s such an important thing. Everyone has sex, and sex is porn. My/ our relationship to porn is way too complex for me to be able to sum it up. For me, it changes everyday. But art’s relationship to porn is a poor cousin in tatty underpants.

RS: I like how all porn has this dark side, which I think you put into your videos. Like the flip side of this eroticism is death and fear.

CP: There is definitely fear and death lurking in whatever I do. I think the dark side comes naturally- there is no conscious effort to include in my stories. It just happens. And then gets extreme.

RS: There seems to be a new common motif of giant KFC legs in your videos.

CP: It’s a reaction to the trivialized, homogenized, dumbed-down nation of franchise stores, franchise restaurants and franchise people that South Africa is fast becoming. Every brown paper bag on the street is a KFC bag. KFC is the World Food Program. And the Colonel? How much more ridiculous can you get?

RS: I know. It is scary that chicken and evil can be so closely related. Do you ever eat it? Maybe when you are hungover?

CP: Never. I’ll eat fried chicken. But only if I make it, and only if I know the provenance of the chicken.

RS: There’s an element of Afro-kitsch in your work, especially in Black Up That White Ass 2, referencing quack African herbalists and John Muafengejo.

CP:  I do like the notion that my stuff isn’t from a single source. It can be about dictators, KFC, Lebowski, porn, South African politics, Metallica, penis problems, crime stories and zebras all at the same time. And it can make perfect sense. To me, at least. I don’t see it as Afro-kitsch. Maybe I’m just colour blind, can’t see the wood.

RS: You mean it’s not kitsch or not specific to Africa?

CP: I don’t go out to create something kitsch. Maybe I’d call it DirtyAfroBaroque.

RS: Maybe kitsch is the wrong word. Too much value judgment.

CP: I think it has something to do with growing up around that type of art. John Muafangejo, Tito Zungu, Cecil Skotnes, Azaria Mbatha.

Platter lives outside Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. It’s a city on the east coast of South Africa, which like many port cities is a vibrant mix of cultures and industry. It is also rapidly developing.

RS: Tell me about Durban. Has moving out there permanently been a big change?

CP: Durban’s described in chi-chi W Magazine as a gritty port city. Go figure. I live a little outside Durban. It’s the chance to focus, concentrate, and get back to the basics about why I make art/ stuff. I mean, I work in a sub-tropical forest 2kms from the warm sea. And I have a pug called Salvo.

RS: I once heard your house described as this island of jungle amongst new triple storey housing developments. True?

CP: True. And I think it gives real insight into what comes out of me.

RS: That you have your own island secret facility/lair?

CP: Amidst the KFC drive-thrus and Scarface-Tuscan mansions. Amidst golf-estates, and corrugated-iron shacks, Hindu temples, churches above auto-body shops. Sub-tropical beaches and sewer pipes.

RS: Islands have this amazing wealth kitsch. I was reading the other day about dictator kitsch, the kind of imagery that Kim Jong Il and Adolf Hitler surrounded themselves with. And how these idealistic representations of the world say something so much darker.

CP: It’s humorous, but then very quickly becomes super sad and scary. All the mirror glasses that the “villains” wear in my latest video The Old Fashion are Charles Taylor’s. It’s interesting what they reflect…