/ 23 September 2011

Tearing up the rule book

Tearing Up The Rule Book

A collaboration between two young Johannesburg artists, scheduled for the same weekend as the Jo’burg Art Fair, opens the doors to an interesting debate on the accessibility of art and gallery space to both artists and the public in South Africa.

Niall Bingham, a 30-year-old printmaking lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand, and 29-year-old all-round “creative hustler” Murray Turpin have created Nothing Is Sacred, a transient exhibition of lino-print works focusing on rituals and sacrifice.

The exhibition contains only one saleable piece and a wall installation, which they made this week, and the artists intend to destroy the installation over the next few days, literally tearing the prints apart. The installation is printed on paper that Turpin found on the ground outside his house. “We want to deconstruct the idea of prints as delicate objects that should only be touched by gloved hands,” said Bingham.

He and Turpin used objects they found lying around their studio and screens that other artists had already exposed, giving the work a gritty, stripped-down feel. Although they did not plan to open the exhibition at the same time as the Jo’burg Art Fair, they do not give a hoot about the collision.

“I’m not paying R120 entrance to look at Kentridge prints that I printed with my own hands,” said Bingham, who spent five years working as a printmaker at David Krut. “I take offence that artists have to pay that to get into the art fair.”

“It’s a buyer’s game,” Turpin said. “The art fair is not about the artists and it’s not about art. It’s about the galleries and how much money they can make. People might think we’re just ‘angsty’, but we’re not. We’re just rogue entities that are not pandering to commercial rules.”

The two feel the same way about mainstream galleries, which is why they have chosen to show their work in spaces of their choosing through Turpin’s project, Satellite Spaces/The Untitled Gallery, of which this exhibition is the second in the series. “The untitled gallery is a satellite gallery that utilises a different redeveloped location and a different medium for each individual show,” said Turpin.

Rejuvenation of the inner city
The project celebrates the rejuvenation of the inner city while at the same time creating a platform for the showcasing of different forms of art in interesting urban spaces. “Galleries are inaccessible to the general public,” said Turpin. “Many people feel undermined in galleries, or not welcome or taken advantage of. We’re sick of young artists bitching that they don’t have anywhere to show their work and can’t get on the Goodman bill. We have to make spaces for ourselves.”

The space for this show is a vacant office at 70 Juta Street in Braamfontein. Turpin heard about the vacancy, sent a proposal to the developer and now has what he called “a mutually beneficial agreement”.

Nothing Is Sacred stems from a performance work that Turpin created and performed in The Hague earlier this year. “Collaborations like this are important,” said Bingham. “Artists need to be collaborating with performing artists, but people are so territorial. Even on campuses the fine arts and performing arts are so separate; there’s no crossing over and hybridisation. Look at Kentridge — he’s so successful internationally because he’s managed to bring his background in performing arts into his current work as a fine artist.”

The content of rituals and the icon-based imagery cross all spheres of Nothing Is Sacred. “We are creating the ritual of constructing and deconstructing our work by putting it up and then tearing it down,” said Bingham. “We’ve also deconstructed our own practices and reconstructed our own work. Our joint work looks nothing like our individual art. If we had an illegitimate child, this is what it would have created.”

He added: “It’s also a reflection on the ritual by which people buy art. People with enough money to buy a Boshoff are doing the ritual of buying a piece and creating a conversation piece around the table at their dinner parties at their houses in Houghton. The ritual of buying art gains you a persona.”

Nothing Is Sacred opens on September 23 at 8pm at 70 Juta Street, Braamfontein, and will run until September 28