In a somewhat questionable marketing endeavour, the Eastern Cape Region has been sign posted, ‘Frontier Country’ and indeed this is what it is. Historically it is the site of the 9 Frontier Wars and much brutal conflict and living here presently can still seem the edge of nowhere by comparison to many major South African metropols. With Grahamstown at the heart of it, it is also a cosmopolitan space not without vestiges of past pain but - like many colonial outposts in a post-colonial time - it is no longer a satellite to an absent motherland, a mere microcosm of elsewhere, but also a world unto itself.

A potential space of intellectual, debate rather than military conflict – geographically isolated from metropolitan trends – a melting pot of many places, a crucible. In more recent history, this frontier space has been a site of culture, of experiment. Home to an annual arts festival, how is it that Grahamstown with a population of just under 140 000 can command so much creative imagination in novels, plays, poetry and art? Frontier, Border, at the end of the world but not about to fall off – merely at a vantage point to observe a view to come.
- Rat Western

DISCHARGE 2012             COLOUR COLLOQUIUM 2010             SYNTHETIC DIRT 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Chad Rossouw: The Paranoia of Ron T Beck

Ron T Beck is corrupt, international and invisible. He is the opposite of the corporate spin-doctor. Ron is the doer, the producer, the enabler. Moving from dodgy mining deals in Russia, to dealing arms in Iran, Beck is multi-talented, nonchalant, and enormously immoral. He embodies the filthy underbelly and maneuvering that enable gross corporate profits. He is also an artwork, an invention of artist Charles Maggs, and probably your friend on Facebook. Beck only exists through images and abrupt statements on social networks. The images are generally found on the web, and are characterized by all the eyes in the picture being censored. The statements range from geographical to philosophical, with a spy fiction paranoia that is distinctly familiar.

Charles Maggs scans the internet for images and ideas that reveal the hidden structures of Capitalist power. Like a true paranoiac Ron T Beck can be found lurking anywhere. He washes up like the dirty foam on the shore of the internet. By using Facebook, Beck becomes close. He is part of our network, someone we know. The implication of our own complicity, or at least indifference, is revealed by his presence.

This paper aims to investigate two points around Beck as an artwork. Firstly, it will look at how Maggs constructs the character on Facebook from a variety of sources. And secondly, the importance of the context of the character, both in terms of social networking and South African art production.

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