Jo'burg art pick: March 18 2011

Seldom do exhibitions curated as a footnote to conferences stimulate any more interest than the conferences themselves do.

In the realm of academia they are what chill-out rooms were to raves, places to rinse the brain and to check that one’s extremities are still there after hours of relentless thudding in close proximity to others.

Whether electronic music or cultural theory is your bludgeon of choice, the effects of the chill-out room are somewhat universal: just short of restorative, one feels relieved of the thudding without altogether having escaped from it.

The exhibition Space, Ritual Absence, currently showing at the University of Johannesburg’s FADA gallery is an exception to this rule. While sticking quite faithfully to the theme of the eponymous conference which it originally accompanied (this took place at the University of Johannesburg between March 9 and 11), the exhibition has stood the test of the academic bludgeon and survived with a tale of its own to tell.

Comprising a selection of works by South African artists new and old, including Dineo Bopape, Rat Western, Joni Brenner, Penny Siopis, Neil Goedhals, Jackson Hlungwani and Steven Cohen, this exhibition examines the role of social, and sometimes psychological, liminality in the diverse practices of these artists. Curated by James Sey and Leora Farber, the exhibition pursues a controversial notion of Sey’s that artists such as Hlungwani, Goedhals, Wopko Jensma and others represent an ‘outsider’ status verging on madness.

The exhibition runs until April 1 at the University of Johannesburg’s FADA gallery.

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