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THURSDAY 25 MAY: 18H00 – 20H00
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Knew where they went–
They went to God’s Right Hand–
That Hand is amputated now
And God cannot be found–
The abdication of Belief
Makes the Behavior small–
Better an ignis fatuus–
Than no illume at all–
Poem 1551 by Emily Dickinson (1882)
WHATIFTHEWORLD is pleased to present Ignis Fatuus – a debut solo exhibition by painter and installation artist Ruby Swinney. Swinney’s work explores what it means to live in a vanishing natural world that is growing progressively darker and unfamiliar. Through the blurring of both South African and imaginary landscapes her work evokes a sense of loss of faith in what it means to be human in a time of intolerance, mistrust, violence and environmental uncertainty. Drawing on this uncertainty Swinney creates surreal tableaux in which she revels in the strange and unpredictable moods of the natural world and its ability to both alter and transcend human experience.
The Wits Anthropology Department is pleased to reopen its Museum collection with
If we burn there is ash
An exhibition by Talya Lubinsky
with contributing artists Meghan Judge, Tshegofatso Mabaso and Thandiwe Msebenzi
and performances by Lebohang Masango and Healer Oran
Wits Anthropology Museum
Wednesday 7 September 2016
Walkabout with the artists Thursday 8 September 11:30-13:00
On Christmas Eve of 1931 a fire broke out at Wits University’s Great Hall. At the time, the façade of the Great Hall had been built, its stone pillars and steps creating a striking image of the university in the young colonial city. But the University had run out of funds, and the building that would become Central Block, had not yet been built. Erected behind the grand façade of the Great Hall were wooden shack-like structures, which burned in the fire. These wooden structures housed the collections of what is now called the Cullen Library, as well as the Ethnographic Museum’s collection. Initiated by Winifred Hoernle, head of the Ethnography Museum at the time, the collection was largely comprised of pieces of material culture sent to her from the British missionary, William Burton, while stationed in the ‘Congo’ region.
The fire burned hundreds of books, paintings and artefacts. Some of the only objects that survived the fire are clay burial bowls from the Burton collection. Able to withstand the heat precisely because of their prior exposure to fire, these bowls remain, but are blackened and broken by the 1931 fire.
The exhibition, If we burn, there is ash centres around this story as a place from which to think about the value of colonial collections of material culture. While the origins of the 1931 fire remain unknown, it nonetheless provides a space in which to think about the potentially generative qualities of fire.
Ash, the material remains of fire, however elusive, does not disappear. Even when things burn, they are never fully physically or ephemerally eliminated. Ash is not just the physical remains of that which has been burnt. It is also used as an ingredient in cement mixtures. It is literally transformed into a building material.
Using ash and cement as a poetic relation, this exhibition asks about the potentiality of burning in the project of building and growth. Ash and cement serve as a provocation on the question of what is to be done with the material remains of a violent colonial past.
For further information, please contact Talya Lubinsky (email@example.com) or Kelly Gillespie (Kelly.Gillespie@wits.ac.za)
GHOSTS examines the consequences of international gun trade in Africa while questioning our uncomfortable fetishism and worship for deadly weapons.
“Do you love your guns? YEAH! God? YEAH! Government? F*** YEAH!!” So sings Marilyn Manson of America’s rabid obsession with ballistic, religious and political weapons of mass destruction.
While America has its God and its government – and certainly no shortage of guns – it is from a handful of Africa’s most volatile nations whence any form of “god” has fled and whose anarcho-fascist kleptocracies reduce just about any notion of “government” to a brutal, bloody farce.
Ziman may have made America his home but it is the continent of his birth upon which his dark, disturbing vision continues to fall.
“GHOSTS” confronts the complex socioeconomic and political circumstances of the African arms trade – a multinational, multibillion-dollar industry that moves in one direction only – into Africa.
Ziman spent six months collaborating with African artisans to produce wool garments and beaded replicas of the iconic AK-47 used in the series.
“They have lived around crime and violence both in their adoptive South Africa and their native Zimbabwe,” Ziman says. “There is a sadness about the pictures—a loneliness and distance.”
Ziman’s work challenges the tragic cliché of our times: a war torn, violent Africa of militant and corrupt dictators, child soldiers, and unceasing civil wars fed by a growing international arms-trade.
For him, the series is a platform to discuss the corruption, greed and influence of foreign world superpowers who, eager for a stake in Africa’s abundant natural resources, provide weapons to dictatorial governments in trade, and often to opposing factions as well, ensuring a perpetual cycle of war for generations.
Ziman is a South African artist currently living and working in Los Angeles. He is the director of hundreds of music videos for superstars ranging from Ozzy Osbourne to Michael Jackson, and held the reigns as writer/director/producer for Hearts and Minds that premiered at the Berlin and Montreal Film Festivals, as well as Jerusalema, South Africa’s official entry to the 2008 Academy Award Foreign Language section.
Ziman is also well-known in the U.S. for his public art in Venice and is currently working on a private commission in Santa Monica.