|Vaughn Sadie and Bronwyn Lace: Unit for Measure|
A relational aesthetic product in the South African context would more than likely be burdened by identity politics, given that social relations are often haunted by the baggage of the Apartheid era. In charting a course beyond the self/other dichotomised coupling, which predominated contemporary art at nascence of the post-apartheid era, a number of South African artists, primarily based in Joburg, have developed a kind collaborative practice that chooses to explore and challenge the spatial conditions that have contributed towards fixing relational dynamics between individuals. Most of these artists operate from self-reflexive positions in that their practices also evince an awareness of the impossibilities inherent in mapping space and how representational models and new media such as Google Earth engender virtual maps, which often flatten the character of space.
Given the concerns that drive this ‘spatial aesthetics practice’, the art forms are often site-specific performance or installation works of an interdisciplinary nature – with such a keen spatial awareness dancers are ideally positioned for this work. The artist operates as an intermediary and the performance or intervention a tool to foster new relationships within socially/ politically loaded spaces such as no-go zones in the city or townships . In these instances depoliticising and demythologising areas of the city are the end product. This practice is centred on generating an ‘experience’ that is both synthesised and real, which is intended to “set new ways of living and models of action” .
In outlining the characteristics of this practice or form of art this paper will touch on the work of collaborative artworks/interventions by Marcus Neustetter and Stephen Hobbs, and Bronwyn Lace and Vaughn Sadie as well as interdisciplinary site-specific initiatives such as the X-Homes and In House projects, which encompassed dance, theatre and performance art.
Mary Corrigall: Art Critic and Writer. Research Fellow at the Research Centre for Visual Identities in Art and Design, at the University of Johannesburg