Archives for category: exhibitions

By Shandukani Mulaudzi

There is great power in self-reflection. It is defined as the ability to look into yourself, to introspect and to learn more about what informs who you are. It is simpler to see the scars and afflictions of other people than it is to see our own because self-reflection requires us to look in the mirror and really hone in on both the beautiful and ugly parts of who we are.Richardt Strydom kingpinWe live in masks. There are the masks we make for ourselves and wear to avoid being exposed to society’s criticism and then there are the masks our upbringings slowly mould for us. These masks are difficult to shed because they become such a big part of our identity. They become a part of us, a perfect fit and the skin we are comfortable in.

The power of Richardt Strydom’s “White Masks” is the very personal journey of removing the masks white masculinity wears and often hides behind. His, is an honest and vulnerable look at the white Afrikaner male mask he grew up with. It is an exploration of whiteness in post-apartheid South Africa and looks specifically at violent hypermasculinity and sexuality.

There is something very striking about Strydom’s exhibition. The images are a shock to the system.  At first glance, they invoke feelings of sadness, fear and disgust. What is most important, however, is how the portraits draw you in and implore you to inspect them further.Observer Richardt StrydomWhat you see then, is the deep scarring of gendered and racial ideologies on the individual psyche.

There is a deliberateness in the selection of how the masks manifest. Scars, bruises, open flesh wounds, patched up sores, exposed tissue, chained genitalia and abnormal growths. Our masks are so deeply entrenched part in who we are that getting rid of them is not an easy process – Strydom rips off the plaster to expose the horror of festering sores.

Not only does Strydom explore the pain of removing the masks, he examines the violent masculinity that comes with keeping them on. He does this by depicting some of the young men in the portraits with hand gestures shaped like guns that point into their mouths and under their throats.

A conversation on violence and hyper masculinity can never shy away from examining the relationship between the idea of “being a man” and how this relates to “sexuality”. This is something often taught in the home. The inclusion of the “chastity begins at home” piece is stark in this body of work. The in-your-face depiction of crushed male testicles is horrific. The sexuality of young men is often so restricted and results in many of them having no breathing room to find themselves and denying who they are for a very long time.

Chastity begins at home Richardt Strydom

Strydom leaves no stone unturned in this exhibition and his work calls for the viewer of the art to not only engage with his reflection of self, but with their own too.

White Masks is a solo exhibition by Richardt Strydom on show at Kalashnikovv Gallery from 7 – 23 June 2018. 

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Shandukani Mulaudzi holds a Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and is a graduate from The University of the Witwatersrand and #UCKAR. After an eventful career in journalism, working for titles like HuffPost South Africa, City Press, Finweek and YOU magazine, she ventured into the wonderful world of brand communications.

Richardt Strydom Portret-van-'n-jong-man-#8

Richardt Strydom Portret-van-‘n-jong-man_13

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Since leaving my academic position just over three years ago, I’ve not been engaging in writing about my practice. Practice in itself had to take a bit of a backseat, as I adjusted to new contexts and routines. I missed being creative both in making and writing, so having taken a self-impose creative sabbatical, I decided to set up an artist page on Facebook. I have been, and still am quite sceptical as to the platform and the effectiveness of such pages and their function for visual artists, but I found that it provided a platform for writing about my practice again – and it’s been nice.

Here is post I did recently, which I enjoyed both reflecting on and writing:

It might be because brand image wasn’t yet such a big industry in the late 90s – but more likely, with apartheid censorship so fresh in everyone’s minds, society was wilfully not as conservative as a decade later when ‘Familieportret 2’ caused a ruckus for its allegorical references to canonical textbook depictions of Western idealised beauty.

‘Untitled: enemata (from the domestic comforts series)’ received a Sasol New Signatures Merit award in 1997, despite clearly showing a rather compromising shot of an anus and erect male member on one half of the modified found sculpture. As alluded to by the title, the work refers to the not so charming boereraad that prescribes a lukewarm soapy enema to alleviate stubborn constipation. Juxtaposed with an Afrikaner Nationalist propaganda painting by W. H. Coetzer on the partner piece, the work proposes, in a tongue in cheek manner, a DIY cure for a ‘verkakte’ ideological mindset.

Shown here are contextual shots that place the sculpture in a white working class kitchen, to draw attention to more serious intertextual relationships and intersections of race, labour, privilege and agency.

At the time I held a part time job lecturing almost anything in the curriculum nobody else wanted to do, because I wanted to be a ‘working’ artist. I ended up spending more time working to make a living with very little time or energy left for making art. In the end even this particular artwork fell victim to those circumstances and was eventually used for its utilitarian content – for washing dishes. At the time, I convinced myself that in Duchampian terms the work was then finally complete.

 

Link to FB page here

BISM, Artists’ Books from the Jack Ginsberg Collection

BISM, a limited edition book, hand made and curated by Belinda Blignaut as part of the exhibition A SHOT TO THE ARSE (2012) was recently included on Booknesses: Artists’ Books from the Jack Ginsberg Collection, held at University of Johannesburg Art Gallery and ran from 25 March till 5 May 2017.

BISM, served as part document, part manifesto to A SHOT TO THE ARSE, and includes artifacts, remnants and a number of signed original works by some of the participating artists.

BISM, Artists’ Books from the Jack Ginsberg Collection

My contribution to BISM were 10 different pencil and gouache altered photographic print on cotton paper for each of the 10 limited edition copies, and sheet music from my work Die lied van jong Suid Afrika

BISM, Artists’ Books from the Jack Ginsberg Collection curated by Belinda Blignaut incl. work by Richardt Strydom

A SHOT TO THE ARSE, also curated by Blignaut, included works by Stuart Bird, Belinda Blignaut, Jan-Henri Booyens, Breinskade, Kris Canavan, Steven Cohen, Jesse Darling, Simmi Dullay, Ediblspaceships, Kendell Geers, Gabrielle Goliath, Dean Hutton, Jimmy Kipple Sound, Christian Nerf, Panga Management, Daniel Rourke, Athi-Patra Ruga, Wilhelm Saayman, Richardt Strydom, Linda Stupart, David Tallis, James Webb, Vanskrum, Konrad Welz, and Roger Young.

See also: artist book by Richardt Strydom and Jaco Burger, Ad Hominem.

BLEEK Invite 0032

Please join me for a walkabout of Bleek, Saturday 16 July at 15:00, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Cnr Klein and King George Streets, Joubert Park. 

Turbine Art Fair will also be in full swing just a few blocks away, so make an art day of it in the city.

Read catalogue essay by Dr. Christi van der Westhuizen here.

BLEEK Invite 004-1

‘BLEEK’ encompasses a number of photographic series that sets out to interrogate the performance of white masculinity from different points of entry. Masochistic violence and self-interrogation are recurring themes in the body of work. Strydom is especially interested in the manner different traditions and contexts are embodied in particular power rituals.

The historically hegemonic position of whiteness makes it difficult to comprehend the notion of a marginal whiteness. The difficulty to articulate a non-hegemonic whiteness often leads to uncertainty and suspicion. A public questioning of whiteness may pose a dilemma since whiteness, even in a postcolonial context, retains its hegemonic status and prestige that might serve to perpetuate what Mohanty calls ‘the white man as spectacle’.

This notion of whiteness as spectacle has led to the artist’s personal interest to examine and make visible the strategies used in the performance of postcolonial whiteness in the South African context.

(Press release)

Installation views:

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I’ve contributed two works for Performing Wo/Man, an exhibition curated by Derek Zietsman focusing on gender identity in post-apartheid South African art, has opened at North-West University Gallery in Potchefstroom.

The exhibition has a broad curatorial scope and visually investigates, explores and comments on issues such as: inter alia; the historic and contemporary construction of South African identities; masculinity; femininity; patriarchal hegemony; sexual identity; social identity; racial identity; social expectations for post-apartheid gender performativity; political and social change and its effects on gender performativity; rape and violence in South Africa; and abuses of power by role models and politicians.

Great to share a space with awesome artists like Diane Victor, Gordon Froud, William Kentridge, Anton Kannemeyer, Karin Preller, Bambo Sibiya, Bevan de Wet, Collin Cole, Grace da Costa, Jaco van Schalkwyk, Paul Molete, Robert Hamblin, Pauline Gutter, Zanele Muholi, Kim Berman, Sarah Ballam, Sybrand Wiechers and Tanisha Bhana.

Blaam-II
Art that hurts. It hurts to look at it; the art drips with damage, painful damage. But not all of it. Some of Richardt Strydom’s art aims to please.

The hurt, the damage…the effects of a violence that the artist extracts from the personal, where it is usually secreted, and puts in/to the public eye – literally, as an exhibit. It’s Blaam II’s nail in the eye. The wounds seem self-inflicted but self-infliction would be a misattribution, as the wounds surface becoming. These are the marks of making, of being made. This becoming is through violations inflicted upon the subject.
The “contents” of the wounds signify their structural grounds. This is the damage done by Afrikaner nationalism.

Dwang#6

Dwang#7
In the Dwang series Strydom, in a corrective repeat, also shows us the violations that happen in plain view. This series is based on a childhood memory of “public medical examinations administered by state doctors that all pre-adolescent boys in state schools had to undergo during the 1980s”. These are violations usually confined to private spaces that have been normalised in public spaces: in the institutional settings of schools where children’s bodies are corralled into gender and race and sexuality, and then ritually invaded. Institutions that rest on the compulsory accessibility of the child’s body to the adult, of the boy’s body to the adult male. The Dwang series is Strydom’s most aesthetic work. Issues of agency come to the fore in the artist’s decision to place young men instead of boys on the receiving end. The relational positioning of the two figures conveys the power imbalance – the subjection. This is complicated by the models’ adoption of receptive stances. They aim to please. The onlooker can derive pleasure from the image. The onlooker becomes complicit. The corrective repeat lies in that the work reiterates the gesture of shifting the private violation to the public but with a vital difference: it exposes normalised actions of everyday violation and demands our examination of complicity in them.

Violence/violation is constitutive of the subject under review in Strydom’s work: ‘the Afrikaner man’. It is a truism that identification is in itself an act of violence: making the ‘I’ is always already an exclusion, the ejection of what is ‘not-I’. That said, the historical conditions of the construction of ‘the Afrikaner’ are the violences of colonialism and apartheid. These are structural violences that bled into the South African War (1899-1902), the so-called Border War in Namibia and Angola, which involved the ‘frontline states’ (1960s-1990), and the violent repression inside the country (1976-1994). It is an identity born in blood, its own and other’s.

When called upon to take up arms to defend the apartheid state against the swart gevaar (black peril) and the rooi gevaar (red peril) in the 1960s, the violent features of this variant of colonial white masculinity intensified. Militarisation of the identity saw a hyper-masculinisation. Strydom’s work cleaves open the damages that the project of whiteness has inflicted on this version of masculinity, captured in the title of this retrospective exhibition: Bleek, or pale. The title suggests not only pigmentation but also bleakness (of life) and, in translation, “beyond the pale”. The identity that achieved hegemony during apartheid has been stigmatised. It seeks a new lease on life.

Portret van ‘n jong man # 1 (White Masks Series)
Portret van 'n jong man # 11 (White Masks Series)
The White MasksPortrait of a Young Man series includes images of worn orifices, re-opened scars, deep purple bruises, partially stitched wounds – all superimposed on faces. This identity is not only wounding but violating. It obscures/displaces whatever intact ‘I’ could have existed. The addition of a hand gesture indicating a pistol positioned in the mouth, on the temple or the heart, or under the throat, reinvokes the violence suggested by the injuries, and also the response: self-obliteration through violence. The wounds of this identity make it unliveable. As part of the same series, ‘(the male) sex on the brain’ is pictorially depicted: a penis and scrotum superimposed on a face and forehead. The ‘cocked pistol’ is under the throat. The combination hints at a sexualised violence, which is also suggested in the ‘hand/pistol’ in the mouth in this series. The work hints at the slippage between homoeroticism and Afrikaner masculinity’s homosociality, despite its heteronormative pretensions.

The unpicking of the strands of sexuality and gender is continued with the addition of affect in the Dwang series. The artist’s explanation of the work as based on public medical examinations positions this series as a critique of normalised violations. At the same time the images show a submission that is eroticised. The eroticism seems intermingled with affect, a tenderness even in the intrusion of the disembodied hand in the mouth. Invoked here are the losses in intimacy and humanity due to the brutality of abiding by an exacting heteronorm in the service of whiteness.

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In the A verbis ad verbera – From words to blows collection, the hard-hitting double-panel work Speak and Spell draws together Strydom’s critique of Afrikaner masculinity in two images which lend themselves to a double reading, aptly. The left panel shows the artist with the words ‘Daddy fucked me’ carved with bloody cuts into his forearm. In the right panel, the artist shows his tongue, cut to split it. In one reading, the previous generations of Afrikaner men did indeed ‘fuck’ the current generations, by inducting them into an identity so exclusionary and injurious as to render it unliveable. How does one speak as a white Afrikaans man, given the guilt (Blaam is the title of two of the works), the doubt (Weifeling is another)… Clinging to whiteness demands speaking with a split tongue: speaking in one way among those like you, and in another with other South Africans. The second reading is that of sexual violence inside Afrikaner families, including against boys by fathers, which is yet to be acknowledged and worked through. There again a split tongue is the only way to maintain the veneer. But the violence is carved into the body.

It could seem as though Strydom balances on a thin line, especially with the Dubul iBhunu series, which at first sight simply suggests the well-worn claims of Afrikaner male victimhood. Again the hand-as-gun is employed, sometimes in combination with what seems to be small facial wounds. Viewers are invited to listen to the Afrikaner nationalist Die Lied van Jong Suid-Afrika, which Strydom had commissioned a composer to recast in reverse form, overlaid with vocals by Afrikaans men singing an African nationalist struggle song with the phrase ‘Dubul’ iBhunu’ (Kill the Boer). But the work proposes that nothing less but a scrambling of the Afrikaner nationalist discourse, combined with an opening up to the black other – a making vulnerable to the black other – is demanded of white Afrikaans men.

dubula-#1

Ibhunu-#1

The post-apartheid strategy has been for Afrikaner masculinity to deny its privilege while bemoaning victimhood to reclaim the former position of ‘mighty man’, of ‘priest and king’, as popular lay preacher Angus Buchan would have it. In contrast, Strydom’s oeuvre surfaces the injuriousness of formerly hegemonic Afrikaner hetero-masculinity in its establishment of a hierarchy in which some men are positioned as ‘lesser’. Strydom’s art is not violence, as Magritte’s work Ceci n’est pas une pipe reminds us. It is a surfacing of the actual but hidden victimisation suffered by generations of men under the hands/pistols of the priest and king.

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Dr Christi van der Westhuizen is author of White Power & the Rise and Fall of the National Party and a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Institute for Humanities in Africa (Huma), University of Cape Town.