Skip

Skip

Skip: Present Company Included A space between ‘private’ and public By Kathryn Smith A blond child, dressed in a bright red jumper and denim pedal pushers, plays a solo game of jump-rope with a pink skipping rope, her mouth moving as she clears each round. She counts as she moves forward in slow motion, in front of a wall from which the paint and plaster peels. The frame of a video camera remains locked off as she exits to the left, her rope leaving a blurred pink trace behind her. Read More “She’s trying to get to one thousand” was the answer Terry Kurgan offered when I asked why her daughter Jessie obsessively jumps rope. Watching her daughter skip and count, paying little heed to anything else going on around her as she strives towards her self-imposed goal, moves Kurgan. It was here that Jessie seemed completely ‘in her own world’, totally within herself. Not to disregard any sense of victory or self-satisfaction Jessie may feel if she actually reaches one thousand ‘skips’, but the number, if not unrealistic, is neither here nor there. What is compelling however, is what Kurgan manages to capture in filming this rather futile, yet unremitting action. Operating within a visual language system that utterly defies yet runs oddly parallel to that which underpins the ‘home movie’, the video captures not just the image of Jessie and a pink skipping rope, luminescent and animated against a decaying building, but materializes and amplifies the passing of  time and associated loss, through its repetition. Through the publicising of a relatively ‘private’ or personal process, the work holds...
Lost & Found

Lost & Found

Lost & Found When my parents got divorced, my mother, who had been the maker and keeper of the family albums, took them with her. My father, who attaches very little importance to physical objects with their roots in the past, retained the box of discards (which some years later he gave to me). Read More The disobedient photographs and slides that had never quite made the cut; a head cropped off at the neck, eyes caught between open and closed, a small dot of child in a vast and empty landscape. The pictures that were out of focus, or hopelessly over exposed; that did not confirm, “yes! I love you and I’m having a perfectly happy childhood, birthday or day at the beach”. The work comprised 16 images – digital prints onto silk organza. Each image measured 3 meters by 2 meters and had to be printed in three separate sections that I stitched together leaving the edges to fray. They moved slightly as viewers walked through the space. They also moved in and out of view and focus, depending on where you were standing and on the quality of the light as it shifted and changed throughout the day. This work won the FNB Vita Art Prize in the year 2000. Review by Kathryn Smith cover 1_1 Inst View DAG 2_1 Inst View DAG 5_1 cover 1_1 Inst View DAG 4_1 Inst View DAG...
Maternal Exposures

Maternal Exposures

Maternal Exposures In late 1997, following heated public debate – freedom of choice was enshrined within South Africa’s Termination of Pregnancy Bill. The tensions and controversial publicity generated by the abortion debate were useful for more reasons than their outcome. The open parliamentary process facilitated a public display that transgressed deeply held, extremely repressive taboos surrounding sexuality and the private domain. It was at this time, and in the context of the increased subtlety and complexity being forged in the relationship between the public and private realms in South Africa, that this project evolved. Read More In 1999/2000, informed by lively consultation with hospital staff, and working in collaboration with architect Nina Cohen, Maternal Exposures was permanently installed into the densely trafficked antenatal waiting area of Mowbray Maternity Hospital, in Cape Town. It was designed so that it related strongly to the function and uses of this hospital space, and interacted with the public in whom the work originated. The photographs and text derive from interviews I conducted at the same hospital over a period of six months; informal encounters with women who were pregnant, about to give birth or had just given birth. The text alternates between the three principal languages of the Western Cape (Afrikaans, English and Xhosa) and is conversational in tone. It threads through the installation and reflects a broad range of experience and opinion. At times provocative, poignant, humorous, brave, entertaining, sexy, sad and challenging. The text, and the red keywords are another layer, and intended to contradict the so-called ‘documentariness’ of the images, and raise questions about photographic meaning. Most particularly about the...
Family Affairs

Family Affairs

Family Affairs Family Affairs was an installation that comprised 3 distinct parts: Dear Mom –  a group of 3 found family photographs (each one imaging a mother and child), and a correspondence about them between me and my mother, Family Affairs  – a series of 16 photographs I shot of my own children, and  Shooting Back – a group of photographs they shot of me. Together, they become a conversation about family affairs and love affairs, love, loss and longing. Layered over with another conversation – about family photographs, their power and deception,  and how they mediate our experience of ourselves in the world.  Read More There’s a wonderful text that Richard Avedon wrote in the late 80’s, called Borrowed Dogs where he talks about his own family photograph albums. He says that his family took great care with their snapshots. They planned compositions. They dressed up. They posed in front of expensive cars, and homes that weren’t theirs. They borrowed dogs. He recounts how in one year of family photographs he counted eleven different dogs. His family never in fact owned a dog. He talks about the fact that in his family albums “all the photographs revealed a lie about who the Avedons really were, but a truth about who they really wanted to be”. This lie/truth paradox has always interested me when it comes to domestic snaps.   1 Installation View 2 Installation View 3 Looking Back #1 4 Installation View 4a Looking Back 5 Family Affairs # 1 5a Family Affairs # 3 6 Family Affairs # 10 7 Family Affairs # 11 8 Family Affairs # 12 8a Family Affairs...
I’m the King of the Castle

I’m the King of the Castle

I’m the King of the Castle I’m the King of the Castle was produced for the exhibition Purity and Danger, curated by artist Penny Siopis in 1997. Artists and public personalities were invited to respond to what might be considered to be taboo in South Africa at that particularly fluid and optimistic moment in our recent past, just 3 years after democracy. We were asked to consider notions of ‘good or bad’, ‘right or wrong’, ‘decent and indecent’. In that context, this work focused on the universally problematic terrain of representation and child sexuality, and the equally taboo realm of the representation of the eroticism and intimacy inherent to the mother and child relationship. Read More In half of the grid of 40 images, my (then) 6 year old son was naked, which became controversial and the focus of public response to the work, and I’ve included it here because over 15 years later, people who meet me for the first time often say – “Oh, you’re that artist who takes pictures of her children without their clothes on! “. My children have grown up and exited this ‘frame’,  but looking back at this body of work now, they are still, to my mind, quite ‘achy’ images of a little boy performing himself for his mother, trying on different versions of masculinity and himself. The work disturbed some people and others loved, and were moved by it. In retrospect, I think the disturbance had quite deep social roots.  In her book, Family Frames, Marianne Hirsch has a chapter titled Maternal Exposures  (which title I later borrowed for a new...