CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS - University of Pretoria

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CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS - University of Pretoria

Transcript Of CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS - University of Pretoria

Copyright © Department of Visual Arts, University of Pretoria, South Africa 2005 First published 2005 ISBN 1-86854-614-4

Foreword Refereeing procedure Editorial panel Referees
Published papers



Trauma, pain, and identity

Leanne Engelberg (Independent art contractor and consultant, South Africa)

Site: Manifestations of memory and trauma

Ruth Lipschitz (Independent art historian, South Africa)

The Volksempfängers (1975–1977) by Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz: reworking myth

and history


Memory, pain, and identity

Gerard Schoeman (Rhodes University, South Africa)

Melancholy constellations: Benjamin, Kiefer, Kentridge and the play of mourning

Maureen de Jager (Rhodes University, South Africa)

Speaking in a language of obstacle and delay: mute matter and mourning in the work of Doris Salcedo

Tanja Sakota-Kokot (University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa)

Baghdad café: rhetoric, ‘embedded’ journalists and the ‘other’ in the war in Iraq


Visual colonialisms

Kathryn Mathers (Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Pretoria, South Africa)

The reverse gaze: the impact of the South African gaze on American travelers

Jeanne van Eeden (University of Pretoria, South Africa)

Pretty as a picture: constructing the picturesque at The Lost City


Identities across borders

Michael Herbst (Rhodes University, South Africa)

The postmodern corps morcele as an effect of capital

Carine Zaayman (University of Cape Town, South Africa)

Computers, sex and pop: new media objects in contemporary Japanese cultural production

Visual Culture/Explorations Refereed Conference Proceedings ©2005



Trauma, pain, and commemoration

Elizabeth Rankin (University of Auckland, New Zealand)

Museum as memorial: some southern sites

Liz Stanley (University of Newcastle, United Kingdom)

Looking at the taciturn exterior: On legendary topography, the meta-narrative of commemoration and

palimpsest monuments of the concentration camps of the South African War


Constructing identities

Alex Rotas (University of the West of England, United Kingdom)

What you see is not necessarily what you get: ‘Culturally diverse’ visual artists work on show outside

the gallery space in the UK

Stella Viljoen (University of Pretoria, South Africa)

Photoshopping for femininity: The feminine as allegory of the modern

Leoné van Niekerk (University of Pretoria, South Africa)

Curating multiplicity: Documenta 11 as a model for global representation


Aesthetics of terror: 9/11 and after

Benita De Robillard (University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa)

Iraq and 9/11: Time, death and empathy


Theory matters

Bert Olivier (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa)

Re-affirming the value of the image, and its social implications: Shlain and Lacan

Jillian Carman (Independent art historian, South Africa)

Disciplined language

Dirk van den Berg (University of the Free State, South Africa)

Framing images under iconoclash conditions


Visual design

Ria van Zyl (University of Pretoria, South Africa)

Looking ‘good’: citizens of a new brand world

Note regarding visual material: Please note that it has not been possible to include all the visual material in these proceedings. Please contact the author of a paper for more information.

Visual Culture/Explorations Refereed Conference Proceedings ©2005



The international conference Visual Culture: Explorations was dedicated to an interdisciplinary exploration of visual culture and was hosted by the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Pretoria in July 2004. This was the first time than an independent conference of this kind was hosted at the Department of Visual Arts. Over seventy abstracts were received, and almost forty papers were selected by the convenors. Papers were delivered by delegates from. Denmark, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

The sessions were structure around themes that are topical in the discourse of visual culture, as well as in many allied disciplines and fields, especially those that are interested in aspects of the visuality of culture. The interdisciplinary nature of the conference was confirmed by the fact that the speakers come from the following disciplines/fields:

Anthropology Asian and African Studies Cultural and Heritage Tourism Design History Fashion Studies Fine Arts Information Design Sociology

Art History Communication Cultural Studies Education Film Studies Historical and Heritage Studies Philosophy Visual Culture

Refereeing procedure

The papers delivered at the conference were selected by the convenors according to abstracts submitted by the presenters. Out of seventy abstracts received, only forty were selected for the conference. After the conference, the presenters were invited to submit their papers for consideration in the peer reviewed conference proceedings. The 19 papers subsequently received were submitted to two referees, who were asked to comment on the academic merit of the papers and whether they constituted original research. Thirty-one national and international referees, who are acknowledged specialists in the field, were consulted (see list below). The recommendations made by the referees were returned by the editors to the researchers, who were asked to address the suggestions/comments made by the referees in revising their papers. All the papers in this volume were revised by the researchers before publication. The original referee reports are in the possession of the editors.

Visual Culture/Explorations Refereed Conference Proceedings ©2005


Editorial panel

Prof J van Eeden, Department of Visual Arts, University of Pretoria Dr E Basson, Department of Art History, Visual Arts and Musicology, University of South Africa

Prof Chris Bailey Dr Eunice Basson Ms Barbara Buntman Dr Jillian Carman Dr Elfriede Dreyer Prof Trudie du Plooy Dr Amanda du Preez Prof Pieter Duvenage Prof Pieter Fourie Mr Federico Freschi Prof Danie Goosen Prof Anske Grobler Dr Michael Herbst Dr Lize Kriel Prof Sabine Marschall Prof Catherine McDermott Prof Bert Olivier Dr Frikkie Potgieter Dr Annette Pritchard Prof Elizabeth Rankin Prof Colin Richards Ms Robyn Sassen Mr Arnold Shepperson Prof Bridget Theron Prof Dirk van den Berg Dr Liese van der Watt Dr Bernadette van Haute Ms Stella Viljoen Ms Karen von Veh Ms Carine Zaayman

Northumbria University, United Kingdom University of South Africa, South Africa University of the Witwatersrand / Independent art historian, South Africa Independent art historian, South Africa University of Pretoria, South Africa University of South Africa, South Africa University of Pretoria, South Africa Bond South Africa, South Africa University of South Africa, South Africa University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa University of South Africa, South Africa University of Pretoria, South Africa Rhodes University, South Africa University of Pretoria, South Africa University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa Kingston University, United Kingdom Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa University of South Africa, South Africa University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, United Kingdom University of Auckland, New Zealand University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa Independent art historian, South Africa University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa University of South Africa, South Africa University of the Free State, South Africa University of Cape Town, South Africa University of South Africa, South Africa University of Pretoria, South Africa Witwatersrand University of Technology, South Africa University of Cape Town, South Africa

Visual Culture/Explorations Refereed Conference Proceedings ©2005


LEANNE ENGELBERG [email protected]
This paper will examine the importance of site in terms of memory and trauma with specific reference to the District Six Public Sculpture Project (Heritage Day, 24 September 1997, District Six) (DSPSP), as well as the site1 of the presentation of this conference paper. The DSPSP took place within a transitional period of South African history, following soon after the historic 1994 elections. It clearly marks its historical reference to the forced removals in District Six (1968-1981), which marked or reflected on socio-political change on Heritage Day. The current relevance of the DSPSP is that land restitution is presently taking place on the scarred landscape, on which the temporary interactive exhibition was displayed. The paper will focus on selected artworks from the exhibition in which artists worked with the site’s past and memories to memorialise and work through trauma.
I would also like to briefly push the idea of trauma and memory further with regard to the site of the presentation of this paper in terms of reworking the past in terms of art restitution and the van Tilburg Art Collection, housed in this particular site. I will also discuss a personal association. I will address this in the second part of the paper.
This paper will now focus on the setting of the DSPSP exhibition, which forms an integral part of the individual artwork’s meaning. District Six was named the Sixth Municipal district of Cape Town in 1867. The area was inhabited by a diverse multi-cultural, working-class mixed racial community, urbanised from the early- to mid- 1800s. On 11 February 1966, the apartheid government declared the area a whites-only area under the Group Areas Act of 1950 under which South Africa was divided into separate territories designated for occupation by distinct racial groups. At the time, District Six was considered by the apartheid Government to be a slum and the estimated 33 500 residents were officially given one year to relocate to Cape Town’s periphery. The actual number of residents was probably closer to about 50 000 - 60 000.2 In 1968, the government moved in to demolish homes and thousands of people were removed from the area as part of the implementation of a policy of forced removals. Homes were still being bulldozed until 1981, fifteen years after the area was declared for whites only. The name ‘District Six’, therefore, came to signify the senselessness of apartheid’s Group Areas Act and it was in response to the memory of this pain that the DSPSP invited participation in creating artworks directly on the landscape, just before District Six was scheduled for resettlement. Participators were invited to pay tribute to the previous residents and to mark the land with their

1 This paper was presented at a conference titled, “Visual Culture/Explorations” held at the University of Pretoria, 9-10 July 2004. The exact location on campus is the Old Arts Building, which houses the van Tilburg Art Collection. 2 These figures are given by institutions such as the District Six Museum and the District Six Beneficiary Trust (

Visual Culture/Explorations Refereed Conference Proceedings ©2005


artworks, which would function as temporary memorials. The DSPSP was as part of a broader event, namely the District Six Festival3 held on Heritage Day (24 September 1997). The day was chosen to
establish District Six as a heritage site, which would remind the public of the injustice and damage
caused by the forced removals perpetrated by apartheid officials in this area, and to reclaim the space
for those who had been removed.
Over a period of nine months, five public meetings were called by the organisers all of who are artists,
Kevin Brand (who was born in District Six), Dorothee Kreutzfeldt and Renate Meyer. Some artists were
invited, but the project remained open to participation from previous District Six residents, lesser-known artists and any interested parties who wished to contribute4. Partnerships between ex residents and
artists were encouraged.
Sixty-two artworks were eventually created by individual artists and groups or collaborations. Artists had
inevitably to position their identity critically within historical material that dealt with social and political
aspects of a specific site’s past. Social and political aspects of South Africa’s historical past are
inextricably linked to the site; and artworks made in response to the site can be shown to be so
‘constructed’ as to incorporate such significations into the reading of the artwork. In this sense artists
3 The District Six Festival, which was to serve as an opening event, was planned as an open day for the general public with performance art, food stalls, a march, stilt walkers, choirs, graffiti artists, musicians and other events, and thus aimed at a very wide public audience. 4Questions of representation are raised here with regard to artists who were not ex residents being included in such a project. The Project was open to anyone who wished to commemorate District Six and pay homage to its ex residents. Interaction between artists and ex residents was encouraged. It is important to remember that District Six is the most well-known and romanticised site with regard to forced removals and different approaches may increase understanding of different cultural backgrounds of the people involved. However it still does raise questions of the authority of representing the other. Thus collaboration was encouraged and interaction from visitors who could have been ex residents i.e. Brett Murray’s “Memory” work in which viewers were invited to “Mark a place on District Six that brings back memories” (Soudien, Meyer 1998:38). However this debate of representation continues… Such an all-inclusive approach to curating presents a very different organisational procedure from more mainstream curating. The project that evolved into the DSPSP through interaction between the steering committee, the co-ordinating team, artists and former residents of the area, served to bring together a large range of artists, with varying educational training, visual literacy, life experiences and backgrounds. The District Six Museum, the District Six Civic Association, the District Six Restitution Committee, the Department of Art, Culture, Science and Technology, the Cape Town City Council, the National Monuments Council, the South African National Gallery, the Association for Visual Arts and the District Six Development Forum were all represented by individuals on the steering committee. The Urban Art Foundation and Robben Island Museum also participated. The organisers also saw themselves more as facilitators than curators and were involved in organising sponsorship, drawing up budgets and carrying out general administration of the project. Sponsorship was received from the District Six Museum, Ford Foundation, Baltic Timbers, Real Steel, Kohler Cores and Tubes, Nampak Corrugated, PPC Cement, Ready Mix, Vadek Paint, Constantia Paint, Graphic Workshop, Creda Press, Sappi Fine Papers, Besto Bel, Newlands Parks and Forests, Profile Engineering, All Glass, Vanstone, Cerebos Salt, Altitude Scaffolding, Association for the Visual Arts, South African National Gallery, Miller, Gruss, Katz and Traub, Cape Town City Council, Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, Safmarine and the German consulate. Artists who participated included: Alvin Schroeder, Andrew Porter, Arlene Amaler-Raviv, Beezy Bailey, Belinda Clark, Belinda van der Merwe, Black Fist Art Movement, Brett Murray, Bridget Baker, Carl Collingson, Clare Menck, Clemintina can der Walt, Clive van den Berg, David de Leeuw, David Solomon, Debby West, Denise Penfold, Dominique EspatelierNoel, Donovan Ward, Dorthee Kreutzfeldt, Ena Carstens, Eve van Zyl, Gabriella Kaplan, Garth Erasmus, Gary Frier, Graeme Germond, Gregg Smith, Heel Arts Collective Dance Group, Hannele Maree-Smit, Hilmore Hotz, Hofmeyr Scholtz, Humzah Goolam, James Mader, Jo O’Connor, Johann Louw, Jos Thorne, Karen Press, Kevin Brand, Leon Vermeulen, Lien Botha, Lize Hugo, Lizza Littlewort, Margaret Chetwin, Martin Bacchus, Melanie Sutton-Wallace, Mustafa Maluka, Nadja Daehnke, Nazley Jafta, Nicholas Lehman, Nicola Jackson, Nicolaas Vergunst, Paulette Lamoral, Petra Mason, Pienaar van Niekerk, Randolph Hartzenberg, Raymond Smith, Renate Meyer, Roderick Sauls, Roger van Wyk, Simon Dunkley, Stellenbosch Paper Project, Strijdom van der Merwe, Sue Tatham-van Niekerk, Sue Williamson, Susan O’Grady, Thami Kiti, Tisa van der Hoorn, Veronika de Greef-Gabrielse, Victor Petersen, Warrick Sony and William Hewett.

Visual Culture/Explorations Refereed Conference Proceedings ©2005


could be seen to be using site-specificity5 as a means to critique, evaluate and interpret the significations of the site. Artworks made in response to a specifically South African site enable viewers to ‘deconstruct’ the ideological interests underlying South Africa’s political past, often through recourse to memory and a form of memorialisation.
The various artists’ responses to the sites are all elements of a broad network of communication related to self and society in South Africa today. But artists and curators also attempted to bring fragments of memory and trauma, peculiar to the chosen site, to the fore through the exhibition to allow for commemoration. The landscape of District Six, an area that so visibly bore the brunt of the invasive policies of the political past, was inevitably treated almost as holy ground and approached with a sense of nostalgia, which will be addressed later in the paper. In a Bush radio interview (30 April 1997) Kevin Brand, one of the project organisers, explained that the project is about “issues and sympathies of the pain of the past … as a requiem to District Six”.
In this way the artists’ individual identities and motivations in relation to selected sites would inform the different creative processes and specific memories (personal and collective) which they desired or served in their reinhabitation or re colonisation of this space.
Andre Brink, Professor of English at the University of Cape Town, discusses local South African contemporary trends for defining history. He identifies a new historical trend/approach as being archaeological, using memory (described as unreliable, selective6 and suppressive) as a tool to excavate the past. Furthermore he discusses the way in which historians cannot merely subvert past narratives by supplementing them with previously marginalised accounts of the past. These multiple versions will give a clearer picture of the past (from both Eurocentric and Afrocentric perspectives) than previously prescribed South African historical processes. Yet Brink also acknowledges the difficulty of retrieving or accessing fact:
something may in fact have happened, but that we can never be sure of it or gain access to it, and that the best we can do is to fabricate metaphors - that is, tell stories - in which, not history, but imaginings of history are invented (Brink
5 The DSPSP exemplifies the significance of site specificity in local artmaking, particularly as it links to concerns of memory. The setting becomes integral to the reading and making of the artwork:
‘Site-specific’ is a term used to describe individual art projects where the location of the work is an integral component of its meaning. Since the eighties, ‘site-specific’ also has been applied to exhibitions including a number of artists whose works preference or are inspired by the site where they are shown. Preferred venues include buildings not associated with art or locations out of doors. With both individual projects and exhibitions, site-specificity connotes the inseparability of location in relation to significance (Greenberg 1996:364). 6 This selectivity and conflict between history and memory is illustrated in an example by Rushdie: The narrator knows that it ‘is the true desire of every artist to impose his or her vision of the world’ (87). He goes on further to ponder this similarity of impulse between historical and fictional writing: ‘I, too, face the problem of history: what to retain, what to dump, how to hold on to what memory insists on relinquishing, how to deal with change’ (87-8). What he knows complicates his narrative task in that he is dealing with a past ‘that refuses to be suppressed, that is daily doing battle with the present’ (Rushdie 1983:88 in Hutcheon 1989:72).

Visual Culture/Explorations Refereed Conference Proceedings ©2005


In this sense, every act of memory may be understood as an act of selection and forgetting. Artists must
deal with these complexities, compounded by their personal and collective pasts passed on through
collective memory, which eventually becomes formalised into the continuous, unitary, closed master narrative7 of history.
For the DSPSP, the archives8 housed at the District Six Museum9 served as a resource, together with
close interaction and participation of some former residents of the area. Individual artists also drew on
their own memories and identity, constructed by the personal and collective past. Such works dealing
with memory in the form of temporary memorials may be seen to sanctify the past and act as ‘aide -
memoire’. They conform to the idea of a ‘counter-monument’, a temporary and accessible form of public
art, which sometimes invites spectator participation, produced in response to a particular historical
moment as opposed to the more traditional, permanent forms of didactic sculpture, of which there is a
long-standing history in South Africa.
The artworks and exhibition can also act as an agency for healing processes and commemoration.
Working through trauma from the past is a requirement for meaningful memorialisation, as Ernst van
Alphen, Director of Communication and Education at the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in
Rotterdam, points out:
a trauma arises when an event cannot be worked through, understood within the frames of reference provided by the symbolic order. When an event makes “no sense” in terms of the culturally provided meaningful frames, it cannot be experienced or memorialised. This lack of a reference frame, which would allow a certain amount of distance from the event, can only lead to a repetition of the event in its full immediate directness. This repetition or return of the event has
7 Hutcheon links the political and constructed nature of narrative and representation as follows: We can try to avoid fixing our notion [of representation] and assuming it to be transhistorical and transcultural. We can also study how representation legitimises and privileges certain kinds of knowledge - including certain kinds of historical knowledge … our access through narrative to the world of experience - past or present - is always mediated by the powers and limits of our representations of it (Hutcheon 1989:54).
Historical narratives are re-representations of the past. The narratives used as sources of the past for the artists have agendas and function within a context that is historical, social, intertextual and political, as do their artworks and the exhibitions. 8 The past is only known to us through textualised traces: documents, archives, photographs, films, literature, paintings, architecture, artifacts, oral tradition and so on, which are indirect, interpreted and complex in the present. Through its construction history becomes a complex intertextual cross-referential discourse. The artists worked with these textualised and constructed representations or traces, both formal and personal, as well as personal and collective memories. All these sources act as proof that something happened, yet we can never be exactly sure of what actually happened. These sources acted as reference material for the artists who grappled with their personal fragments and actualities, to re-represent the past as personal metaphors. 9 The District Six Museum is a community museum that commemorates the area, and honours those that fought against any forced removals and the Group Areas Act. It was envisaged by ex-residents of the area in 1989, and opened on 10 December 1994. It moved to the Moravian (Keizersgracht Street) on the site of District Six in 1999, after the church was restored. The museum archives hold historical material in the form of newspaper articles from the 1940’s to the present, photographs dating back to the turn of the century, paintings, prints, street signs, architectural vignettes, artifacts, recorded interviews with ex residents and official documentation regarding the region. The archives and museum collection are still growing.

Visual Culture/Explorations Refereed Conference Proceedings ©2005


nothing to do with memory; the very possibility of memory implies distance from the event. On the contrary memory means indirectness (van Alphen 1997:163).
‘Indirectness’ implies a distancing of the self, or coming to terms with the event or trauma. The artists and curators can be seen to work ‘indirectly’ with the past within new frameworks. This implies that the trauma has already been worked through by the individual into collective memories and personal identity, through the agency of a text10. The individual artworks, exhibition and the broader framework of the festival serve as new texts.
The significance of the exhibition clearly lies in the fact that it took place after the first democratically held elections in South Africa of 1994. In a country where ‘non-whites’’ movements, living areas and land ownership were previously controlled by various apartheid laws, space and land have become highly politicised and controlled. These laws have also impacted on attitudes towards space in the arena of art. As Jennifer Law, a social anthropologist explains:
Artists are dealing with change and new found freedom, I think that that is one of the reasons that installation art is popular at the moment. It is partially about asserting their right, their freedom to exhibit, outside of traditional spaces. Looking at the state of the country itself where space has been incredibly historically politicised and people have been confined into boundaries, these boundaries are now being challenged (Law interview 1996).11
District Six, in modernist terms, is a non-traditional and unconventional space for exhibiting art that presents a form of public commemorative art as temporary installation, rather than the conventional permanent monument associated with public commemorative sculpture. Artists were literally able to reclaim the landscape by ‘reinhabiting’ it through their artworks. It allowed for a symbolic reclamation of what apartheid law had taken away from its residents. Former residents who participated in the DSPSP exercised their previously denied rights by reoccupying the abandoned landscape and physically marking their presence. These participants also left their mark in the public space for other people to interact with; to remember the evicted residents, their present, future and their past.
Several of the artists’ comments and artworks reflect ideas on the construction of identity within the past restrictive South African context and do so through links with the body as implicated in the chosen sites.
10 Casey supports van Alphen’s comment on ‘indirectness’ in the following quote: commemoration is a mediated process, usually through the interposed agency of a text … and in the setting of a social ritual … only in the presence of others, with whom we commemorate together in a public ceremony (1987:218).
Casey refers to commemorabilia when referring to the vehicles such as rituals or texts or in the case of the exhibition, the artworks and public or communal DSPSP festival (1987:218). He continues by pointing out that the “past is made accessible … in the commemorabilium itself ... [however] distan[t] and anonym[ous]” the people and the event may be (1987:218). This would make the memories of District Six accessible to the artists, curators, residents and viewers of the exhibitions. 11 “[B]odies and identities have, under apartheid, been spatially described. To comment upon the land is almost inevitably to comment upon the body” (Taylor 1996:82). In this statement Taylor echoes Law’s comment about the newfound freedom of exhibiting outside of traditional spaces but extends the idea further in drawing parallels between land and body. In South Africa, where the movements of bodies have been so rigorously controlled by regulatory laws such as the Group Areas Act, such suffocating forces and constraints have impacted on and restricted the lives of large sections of the population.

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