5 Artists Using Video To Reflect On The Ineffable
From bold performances to intricate installations, conceptual video works to large-scale public pieces, we’ll be bringing you the best unconventional artists who’re pushing the boundaries of their medium to create art that is uncompromising in its originality.
Previously we’ve looked at performance artists who’re questioning the frameworks of the medium, now we turn our lens to focus on South African artists who use film and video as a central component in their work. While video works often serve as a meeting point between other disciplines like photography and performance in an artists’ practice, the medium offers a literal immersive experience that transports the viewer into the world of the artwork in the sense that in order to be appreciated it in any way, it must be viewed in its entirety.
But are video works art or entertainment? Can they be classified as visual art? These 5 artists argue the fact through their work that video art is indeed an art form, a means of expressing the ineffable as well as reflecting on political, social and human interactions that characterise our experiences.
Working across sculpture, film, photography, video and publishing, Michael MacGarry’s work is some of the most important contemporary art from Africa in its critique of the neocolonialism that is shaping the future of the continent. His seminal short film Excuse me, while I disappear is filmed in Kilamba Kiaxi, a new city built outside of Luanda in Angola by a Chinese construction company for 3.5 billion US dollars to house more than 250 000 people. The film sets up an eerie juxtaposition between the old and the superimposed new. This work, like much else of Michael’s work, imagines a near future for the continent in which a dystopian reality is masked under the guise of modern multi-national corporate ‘progress’.
Emerging artist Francois Knoetze burst onto the art scene with his series of video works Cape Mongo. These video works follow the life cycle of discarded objects that are poignantly animated by larger-than-life creatures that are played by performers in elaborate suits made of trash. These characters however are interlopers, neither at peace with their environments nor able to escape them. This unresolved highlights the junction between material and social histories. Through the personification of objects –trash – Francois’ work causes us to question our prejudices towards to the historically dispossessed which today remain alienated on the margins of society.
A Johannesburg-based artist collective, Cuss have gained wide international acclaim for their conceptually driven digital art that draws off the everyday of Johannesburg city streets and challenges conventional artistic aesthetics as well as representations of African identities and realities. The group embraces the plurality of the internet and constantly explore new modes and contexts in which to make and present their work. Characterised by a low-fi glitch anti-aesthetic, much of their work takes the form of raw video footage of idiosyncratic scenes from everyday city life. Anti-establishment by nature, Cuss favour unusual locations to present their work as interventions that blend seamlessly with the gritty backdrop of the city.
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Nelmarie Du Preez
Working across mediums including performance, photography, video and computation, Nelmarie Du Preez has received numerous awards for her work which interrogates the politics and value of trust between humans and robotics. Through this unusual fusing of art and science, Nelmarie explores the tensions and absurdities of the post-human and postcolonial experience. Her video works are the culmination of these inquiries, which challenge the viewer to imagine not too distant futures in which machines occupy an uncomfortable presence in our lives.
With a deeply immersive approach, Simon Gush’s work gets at the heart of his subject matter, which in recent years has focused on the poetics and politics of labour. His quiet video series meditate on the various ways in which work constructs our identities, alongside prevailing perceptions of work, including the ideological assertion that ‘work’ is morally ‘good’. Without being overt, Simon’s work is nonetheless poignantly political in its reflection on the lingering residue of socio-political histories.