Constitution Hill, Johannesburg

Constitution Hill, Johannesburg

Constitution Hill, Johannesburg CONSTITUTION HILL The Constitution was at the centre of South Africa’s transition to democracy and its guardian is still, the Constitutional Court. In 2002,  a permanent building for the Court was in the middle of the process of being built on the same site as The Fort, the city’s notorious complex of prisons, which had closed its doors in 1983 and been derelict ever since.  It had confined, within its walls, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, two major icons of liberation of the 20th century. At that time, The Johannesburg Development Agency wanted to develop this precinct into Constitution Hill, a program-driven museum, cultural and educational institution. I was part of a multi-disciplinary team drawn together to produce a series of temporary outdoor and indoor installations on the site as part of an initial research process. Read More My  recent “Lost and Found”  installation inspired our conceptual approach. And, working with the notion of the palimpsest, we designed 3 major  installations for 3 distinct locations across the prison precinct. Everything we placed onto the site was printed onto a transparent medium (either PVC or silk) so that the image itself was visible, but so too were the site, and at times, the city beyond it. We were making connections between the past, the present, and the future; both in terms of the physical space and in terms of the new Constitution and Bill of Rights which we used as the template off of which to develop our content. The first images here represent what we called The Rampart Walk, and are followed by  Three Women, an installation that was designed for the...
Joubert Park Project

Joubert Park Project

Joubert Park Project Joubert Park is one of few green spaces in the dense, inner city of Johannesburg. It’s surrounded by what was once a thriving retail and business centre for the city’s white middle class – abandoned in the 1980’s for the northern suburbs, with its decentralised malls and business parks. In their place African immigrants, refugees and poor and working class South Africans now live in often-derelict, slumlord owned apartments and vacant office buildings. Read More Living quarters are over-crowded and conditions can be fraught. Sometimes as many as eight people are living in a space designed for two. Everyday life can be fractious, and street space is accordingly intense and chaotic. The park, in this context, offers breathing space, and a temporary respite. In 2001, Curators Dorothee Kreutzfeld, Jo Ractliffe, and Bie Venter invited artists to make a work in response to the park, the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) situated within it, or the surrounding urban precinct. I discovered that photography was at the centre of the culture and economy of the park– business territory to upwards of 40 photographers who occupy inviolably fixed positions along the paths that run through it. They attract passers by who can pay for their services, and use the park’s scenic attractions as backdrops that signal their subject’s having ‘made good’ and established himself or herself in the city that has newly become home. In conversation with a group of photographers about the conditions surrounding their work, it emerged that they have been unsuccessfully trying to persuade the City to allow them to use a small existing building in the...
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...