Friday’s Art Factory workshop at ILAM saw Grahamstown’s street performers gathered round an improvised ironing board with the task of designing and making their own plastic clothing. We introduced the participants to the process, who immediately busied themselves with various tasks. Some of the children set about meticulously cutting out plastic against the patterns of their own clothing, some used the irons to ‘sew’ their outfits, while others drew out plans for their customization. The job was slow, but the participants worked well as a group. They focused on just one or two outfits at a time, which they worked on according to the design specifications of the child for whom each particular garment was being made. There was a fascinating integration of imagery from popular culture and other more personal references. There were shirts, for instance, which borrowed designs from the soccer uniforms of Bafana Bafana, and more specifically; names of heroes like Maradona. Some appropriated the branding of the goods the plastics originally packaged.
There is a model of street performance which any Festival goer will be familiar with. Children with painted faces hold stationary poses until passers-by drop coins into their coffers, and catalyze some variety of dance or performance. Often the performers wear unusually assembled costumes. Some costumes are thematic, some apparently put together without a particular unity in mind. What similarity does connect the various pieces of the more eclectic costumes is simply that they are unusual. The more out of the ordinary, the more striking the overall costume, hence the performer stands out more; and with luck, earns more. ‘Othering’ is more often than not an active process, but rarely is it so graphically played out. Although the performers are complicit in the problematic exchange, the power is usually in the hands putting down coins. It is necessary for the performers to define their appearance in opposition to the conventions of the society from which they are hoping to benefit. Appearance and identity are close and troublesome bedfellows. The extent to which one defines oneself by what one wears is debatable, but clothing certainly has a deeply complex semiotics – the implications of clothing are unavoidable.
The art factory is facilitating a process whereby the cast-off materials are positively appropriated – no longer to be worn as markers of abjection, but rather as indications of agency. It is perhaps contradictory that wearing waste materials (essentially) is an affirming statement – but perhaps that this contradiction can be so simply implemented (that the workshop participants can and do make beautiful and interesting garments) undermines assumed truths. Branded clothing relies on a societal framework which glorifies the individual to justify its value. It was meaningful to see a group of youths working together, rearranging and manipulating branding into new forms, which marked both belonging to their particular group, and their individual agency within that group. It felt like something important was happening.
A few weeks ago I attended a conference at the Spier Wine Estate in Cape Town. The conference, Tipping Point, was about Art and Climate Change, and, despite my reservations that it would be full of angry mueslis in drowning polar bear T shirts – I not only met some amazing people in both the arts and Sciences, but also genuinely opened myself up to a new way of thinking, and a shift in my every day behavior and concerns.
Whatever your ideological, religious or political approach to our planet is; it’s important to notice that we are seriously fucking up: Our home is in serious danger, and it’s time we started cleaning up a little bit. What was particularly interesting to learn at the Tipping Point conference was that the next COP * conference after the one in Mexico this year is in Cape Town - 2011 is the time when the issue of climate change comes to Africa – plus, unlike with FIFA & the NAC, there may actually be SUPPORT for the arts around this international event.
All that aside, however (it’s very cold in Grahamstown and it’s hard to stay focused/serious while wearing three pairs of pajamas and a furry hat):
Myself and James King attended a follow-up meeting around COP 17 while in Grahamstown, and in a discussion led by Dylan McGarry of the Arkworks collective, the assembled group discussed what would be important, both as artists and citizens of the planet, for hosting this event in Cape Town. When looking at climate change in terms of rates of consumption vs. harm to the planet, it’s very apparent that first world wealthier countries are actually consuming all of the world’s resources – leaving nothing for countries that are still developing to reach for. With this in mind, we at Mixtape (with the help of Arkworks ) looked to the concept of ‘Upcycling’ as an African model to inspire some of our community workshops.
Upcycling basically means taking Rubbish and turning it into something useful, meaningful, or beautiful. Like those chickens made out of plastic bags, or Heath Nash’s lights. For our very first workshops at the 2010 National Arts Festival, Mixtape worked with children from the Sakhalunthu Cultural Group and the Art Factory initiative to produce Wind Socks and decorative flowers, all out of throwaway material. As well as teaching these young people skills for transforming waste into art (and often with economically viable trade-offs; many of the flowers would have looked great as buttons in a Cape Town boutique), we also started some of the workshops with a walk around the youths’ immediate home environments to pick up trash to use as raw materials, and then ended by hanging the wind socks and flowers both around the village green and Grahamstown central, as well as marking out the home of Sakhaluntu Cultural Group in Extension 9.
All in all a good start.
In collaboration with the Sakhuluntu Cultural Group, Mixtape will be facilitating daily art, music and theatre workshops with youth from Hlalani and Extension 9, with each workshop culminating in public outcomes.
Sakhuluntu Cultural group is a Section 21 initiative that aims to help underprivileged youth stay away from crime, drugs and alcohol by providing after-school activities for up to thirty of the community’s children to
According to legend, one used to be able to drive one’s car to a place called a “drive-in”, at which it was apparently possible to watch a film – from the comfort of said car. This “drive-in” myth has always appealed to me – be it cool kid nostalgia, or an intrinsic fear of being out in the open. The mobile cinema project seems (to me at least) to owe a nod to the drive in model. Drive-in’s are great because they make something which is fundamentally anti-social escapism into communal social fun time (and because most cars have back seats). Getting art out of galleries is part of Mixtape’s mission, alongside more (more generally) using strategies of production/display which are as interesting as the production on display.
“Video art is a stillborn medium” according to Linda, quoting Will Self. People don’t watch video art in galleries. Whatever the multitude of reasons there are for this, an interesting consideration is the tension between video art and conventional film or t.v. People see moving images on screens and expect entertainment – and most video art is (in t.v. terms) really boring. It’s not altogether surprising that it is said that the average time spent viewing a video in a gallery is eight seconds. The mobile cinema works so well with that tension. It is, in itself, a kind of inversion of the conventional cinema drive-in – and, by its likeness to that conventional cinema idea: and inversion of the gallery’s way of dealing with video. Galleries insist that video art is not film, is not entertaining – which is often misunderstood as ‘not worth watching’.
The Mobile Cinema truck was parked outside The Rat& Parrot on Wednesday evening, during the Ghana-Germany game – and still it drew a crowd. Consider for a moment the insurmountable odds which this event overcame. People don’t watch video art at gallery openings; when they’re inside, swimming in free wine and have nothing better to do. Anything which can get people outside in the evening in Grahamstown is doing something right, let alone when less than ten steps from warm boozy soccer. A pair of astute critics standing behind me left halfway through Tim Leibbrandt’s piece with a disgruntled exclamation of “No man, I thought it was the new 300 trailer…”, which is something I hadn’t considered. One always learns so much when work is introduced into the public sphere.
The work will be on the streets of Grahamstown again on the 27th, 29th and finally on the 2nd.at the Mixtape party in the egazini cultural center in extension 9. Featured artist include: Andrew Putter, Charles Maggs, Robert Sloon, Ed Young, Lizza Littlewort, John Nankin, Gerald Machona, and Dan Halter.
I was very saddened to hear that our favourite dad in the group, Jasper Stupart is not well.
I’ve been meaning to review Richard Mason’s latest solo exhibition ‘Carbonage Light’ at the AVA for some time now (3 Weeks to be exact). It’s hasn’t happened often this year (despite the multitude of offerings available) that I’ve walked out of an exhibition, dying to tell everyone that they are missing out if the don’t go see it, then only to find myself going back time again to chuckle and give a mental ‘up yours’ to the various institutions and groups that Mason so irreverently critiques with a wit that is at once easy to digest and upon further investigation, complex and subtly layered.
Disc Ten is up on my soundcloud account. This is the song i’m most proud of. I hope you enjoy it.
I’m also working on getting data discs available of all ten discs. Maybe also making a compressed zip folder that I can email to peepw if you would want the convenience of dloading one folder instead of dloading every track off the soundcloud account. There will obviously be a price for this, but I’ll keep you all updated.
hey guys, so im looking to get into contact with the CT kids working on Activating the Transitory spaces in Gtown, i am currently trying to manage and get this project moving. We have started working with sakhulunthu in the making of the kites, ironing plastic packets together to make the cover of these kites. This workshop was extremely successful but ultimately we want to fly large scale kites from the 3 chimneys and Makana’s Kop.
What im looking for are people who might have ideas and knowledge about kites, box kites, and windsocks. These kites have to be able to hoist themselves! also any technical knowledge about how construct these, materials used etc. would be greatly appreciated. to cut costs and be eco friendly we are trying to use recycled materials.
I would really like to get into contact with those of you coming and who are working on this project, I REALLY REALLY NEED TO BOUNCE IDEAS AROUND regarding the construction of these kites.
please drop me a mail or a line.