Scielo RSS <![CDATA[Kronos]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/rss.php?pid=0259-019020160001&lang=en vol. 42 num. lang. en <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/img/en/fbpelogp.gif http://www.scielo.org.za <![CDATA[<b><em>Red</em> Assembly: the work remains</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0259-01902016000100001&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en This issue of Kronos is dedicated to Terry Flynn, assistant curator at the Ann Bryant Art Gallery, who was instrumental in the successful installing of 'Red Assembly' there in 2015. Friend, colleague, artist and inspiration. Hamba Kahle. The work that emerged from the encounter with Red, an art installation by Simon Gush and his collaborators, in the workshop 'Red Assembly', held in East London in August 2015, is assembled here in Kronos, the journal of southern African histories based at the University of the Western Cape, and previously in parallax, the cultural studies journal based at the University of Leeds published in May 2016. What is presented there and here is not simply more work, work that follows, or even additional works. Rather, it is the work that arises as a response to a question that structured our entire project: does Red, now also installed in these two journals, have the potential to call the discourse of history into question? This article responds to this question through several pairings: theft - gift; copy - rights; time - history; kronos - chronos. Here we identify a reversal in this installation of the gift into the commodity, and another with regard to conventional historical narratives which privilege the search for sources and origins. A difference between (the historian's search for) origination and (the artist's) originality becomes visible in a conversation between and over the historic and the artistic that does not simply try to rescue History by means of the work of art. It is in this sense that we invite the displacements, detours, and paths made possible through Simon Gush's Red, the 'Red Assembly' workshop and the work/gift of installation and parallaxing. To gesture beyond 'histories' is the provocation to which art is neither cause nor effect. Thinking with the work of art, that is, grasping thought in the working of art, has extended the sense of history's limit and the way the limit of history is installed. What to do at this limit, at the transgressive encounter between saying yes and no to history, remains the challenge. It is the very challenge of what insistently remains. <![CDATA[<b><em>Red</em> textures and the work of juxtaposition</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0259-01902016000100002&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en Simon Gush's evocative work Red is an installation, an exhibit, a film, a website, and a provocation to think about what these different forms convey and do, and how they do so. What kinds of engagement, work and knowledge production are involved in curating, designing and creating work in different formats, each of which combines varied media and forms of expression? This article considers the design and interpretive possibilities of Red's different forms, paying particular attention to juxtaposition as a fundamental technique in designing and constructing exhibits, films and websites. The analysis examines the layerings, interactions, timings and textures involved and draws in other exhibitions to highlight the ways that Red and history museums approach their work and relations to time, history and historiography. <![CDATA[<em><b>Red</b></em><b>, Ann Bryant Gallery, East London</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0259-01902016000100003&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en Simon Gush's evocative work Red is an installation, an exhibit, a film, a website, and a provocation to think about what these different forms convey and do, and how they do so. What kinds of engagement, work and knowledge production are involved in curating, designing and creating work in different formats, each of which combines varied media and forms of expression? This article considers the design and interpretive possibilities of Red's different forms, paying particular attention to juxtaposition as a fundamental technique in designing and constructing exhibits, films and websites. The analysis examines the layerings, interactions, timings and textures involved and draws in other exhibitions to highlight the ways that Red and history museums approach their work and relations to time, history and historiography. <![CDATA[<b>Screwing the assembly line: queerness, art-making and Mandela's Mercedes-Benz</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0259-01902016000100004&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en This article analyses the bed installation in Simon Gush's Red exhibit to draw attention to the 'sleep-in' aspect of the 1990 East London Mercedes-Benz strike. It shows how the strike narrative's emphasis on the shop workers and Nelson Mandela's flawless red Mercedes-Benz automatically insulates the strike's central sleep-in component from the topic of queer desire. By revealing Red's beds and the acts thereon as the strike narrative's 'queer limit', the article uses Gush and Emma Sulkowicz's techniques to reinvent the sleep-in as a complex space of homosociality and queer self-discovery. Doing so builds on Gush's installations and uses performance to deliberately 'pervert' the strike's collective memory and offer up strategies for queer critique in (South) African historiography. <![CDATA['<b>The voices of the people involved': <em>Red</em>, representation and histories of labour</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0259-01902016000100005&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The installation artwork Red by Simon Gush (with his collaborators James Cairns and Mokotjo Mohulo) evokes two senses of representation. One is of symbolism, meaning, visual strategies, juxtapositions, silences and so on. The other appears as the authority to speak on behalf of the views of an individual or an assemblage such as 'the workers', 'the community' or 'the people'. In this article I employ this double sense of the term to consider how the voice of the worker has been deployed in the production of South African labour histories. I do this through examining what was arguably the major labour history publication in South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s, the South African Labour Bulletin. It devoted a large part of its November 1990 issue to the strike and sleep-in at the Mercedes-Benz plant in East London in that year, the same set of events that Gush drew upon over twenty years later. I then turn to the installation Red itself, originally exhibited in 2014 at the Goethe Institute in Johannesburg and the following year at the Ann Bryant Gallery in East London. In Red, events were made into history through voices and images on film and the fabrication of artefacts for display: 'strike uniforms', a 'Mandela car' and 'sleep-in strike beds'. The latter were presented in the installation's publicity as speculative reconstructions and counterposed with interviews in the film component that were depicted as 'the voices of the people involved' from management and labour. Instead I argue for seeing these both a speculative reconstructions. Linking this to the spatialising technologies of museums I examine how the Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum in Cape Town and the Workers Museum in Johannesburg, evoke voice and words in their depictions of migrant labour. Locating the Labour Bulletin and these museums alongside Red provides an opportunity to think of alternative ways that labour histories may be produced in both the academy and the public domain. <![CDATA[<b>The factory as a battlefield</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0259-01902016000100006&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The crisis of labour is also one of representation. Some contemporary artists working with moving images have been questioning how to represent capital, labour and the worker. Isaac Julien or Harun Farocki, for example, have focused on interlacing characters - from fiction or reality - with geopolitical spaces in order to present the entanglement of the economical new order with the new forms of labour. The South African artist Simon Gush has shifted from this trend in order to present labour without directly representing the workers. In his artwork there is no longer a search for the political subject as a historical force or for the individuals who occupied its place; instead he leads viewers to a critical reading of an object, allowing a staging of the past from the viewpoint of the present. That is what I think Red does. In this article I explore Gush's connections with Marx, Benjamin and Steyerl to show how Gush's work is part of a critical tradition that has abandoned the subject as the privileged instance of political agency; turning the emphasis of the modern schema upside down, it focuses on the object as the force of emancipation. I would like to suggest that Gush used an object, Mandela's red Mercedes-Benz, to produce another image so that the story told is not necessarily that of a symbol of pacification, but one in which the factory was a battlefield. In this way I explore the emancipatory potencies of the object. What I propose is a reading of Red from the point of view of a return to the thing, where the latter becomes a political force. <![CDATA[<b>The production of <em>Red</em>: aesthetics, work and time</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0259-01902016000100007&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en This article considers the installation Red from several vantage points. There is an almost photographic quality to certain long industrial landscape shots from East London in the documentary film. As they are spliced together with interviews about labour struggles at the Mercedes plant at the beginning of South Africa's democratic transition, the temporal and visual displacements evoke Adorno's notion of the exchange structures of history. Too much happened in that time to be processed and it must be refabricated and revisited: Red is one mode of doing so. Kracauer's approach to film is invoked with its emphasis on the simultaneous happening of recording and revealing. The material elements in the installation that reference the beds and uniforms of workers (and their ingenuity) are read alongside the aeronautical and subterranean experiments of Nadar in nineteenth-century Paris, who posed mannequins as humans underground in order to overcome the technological limits of photography at the time and to fabricate the real. The article ends with an exploration of other film works by Gush that deal with work, leisure and inventiveness, some of which arise almost incidentally from his journeys to document Red. <![CDATA[<b>Listening to <em>Red</em></b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0259-01902016000100008&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en Following a distinction John Mowitt draws between hearing (and phonics), and listening (and sonics), this article argues that the dominant notion of listening to sound was determined by the disciplinary framework of South African history and by the deployment of a cinematic documentary apparatus, both of which have served to disable the act of listening. The conditions of this hearing, and a deafness to a reduced or bracketed listening (Chion via Schaeffer) that would enable us to think the post in post-apartheid differently, is thus at the centre of our concerns here. We stage a series of screenings of expected possible soundtracks for Simon Gush's film and installation Red, simultaneously tracking the ways that sound - and particularly music and dialogue - can be shown to hold a certain way of thinking both the political history of South Africa and the politics of South African history. We conclude by listening more closely to hiss and murmur in the soundtrack to Red and suggest this has major implications for considering ways of thinking and knowing. <![CDATA[<b>Hearing <i>Red:</i> Aurality and performance in a film by Simon Gush</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0259-01902016000100009&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en Focusing on the film that accompanies Simon Gush's installation Red, this article positions itself within the 'ambient humanities' and explores sound as its primary mode of inquiry. I consider how sound constitutes not just the soundtrack but also, at particular moments, becomes the subject of the film itself. I believe these moments are worth attending to because, empirically speaking, they render audible some aspects of history that might otherwise literally be overlooked. Taking my cue from a striking aural performance recounted in the film, I consider possible archaeologies of insurrectionary noise in South Africa and beyond. Beyond the empirical, I am interested in theorising not only about but also with sound, and reflecting on how doing so with respect to history might be productive. I thus tease out thinking about sound in history, sound with history, sounding history and the like, in the process asking what aesthetics can do for the work of history. Drawing on ideas advanced recently by John Mowitt (2015), I consider how the notions of echo and resonance illustrate the kinds of alternative epistemological perspectives that attention to sound might enable for historiography. In the conclusion, I tie these back to the foregrounding of performance - particularly performance with a strong aural dimension - in the constitution of social and public memory. <![CDATA[<b>Interment: re-framing the death of the Red Location Museum building (2006 - 2013)</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0259-01902016000100010&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The design and construction of the Red Location Precinct was the culmination of a national architectural competition, the first outcome of which was the Red Location Museum. Situated in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth, the materiality of the township impressed itself on the factory-styled museum building. However, the residents of New Brighton were not unanimously in favour of the building of a cultural precinct and museum, and through a number of protests, closed down the museum. Renaming it 'a house for dead people', the community began to disassemble the museum building. The museum is now a ruin, its frame decomposing. Rather than staging the porousness between an inside and an outside of the museum - and between the past and present, the real and the simulated, the living and the dead - as a problem to be worked out in dialogue, the museum has, by framing the struggle against apartheid commemoratively, incorporated the residents of New Brighton into what is called here a 'mortificationary complex'. This article elaborates the concept of the frame as it works through the displays within the Red Location Museum and its building, reframed by Simon Gush's installation, Red. Juxtaposing Red and the Red Location Museum allows the affects and effects of this artwork to seep beyond the confines of the events with which it explicitly grapples. Through the concept of the frame, this encounter asks that we rethink the materiality of the photograph, the commemoration of the struggle against apartheid, and the ways in which death marks the sights and sites of public history in museums after 1994. <![CDATA[<b>Blood Lines: Cecil the Lion, Mandela, and art in history</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0259-01902016000100011&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en This article takes three events as a cue to examine the connections between race and development in the history of hunting. First, the killing of Cecil the lion in July 2015 by Walter Palmer. Second, Nelson Mandela's hunting trip in 1991 that was reported on under the title 'Mandela Goes Green'. Thirdly, the art installation and film Red that explores the building of a red Mercedes for Nelson Mandela in 1991. Serendipitously, these three events come together in a way that enables a look at how art, technology and history can be thought differently. The workshop 'Red Assembly' in East London and the careful thought given to a retelling of the building of Mandela's red Mercedes collides with the hyper-technological online protest and commentary in response to the killing of Cecil. Their near simultaneity, each referencing Mandela in a different way, draws attention to the continuing concerns over labour and race in a post-apartheid South Africa that continues to look to Mandela as a figure of positive change. The contentious debates around the wildcat strike at the East London Mercedes-Benz factory in 1991 as well as the killing of Cecil 25 years later illuminate how claims to development and progress are caught up in globally connected flows of capital and material goods that persist in the tendency to view the figure of the black body only as labour, despite protests that point to the need for more critical thought. At the same time, these contentious debates and a reading of the installation Red through the 'Red Assembly' workshop reflect the anxieties of writing history in a post-apartheid South Africa that struggles to reinsert the human into understandings of the past without falling prey to the temptation of producing history as an uncritical act of recovery or a celebration agency. <![CDATA[<b>Red Mandela: Contests of auto-biography and Auto/biography in South Africa</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0259-01902016000100012&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en This article examines the case of the red Mercedes-Benz built in 1990 by workers at the Mercedes-Benz plant in East London and presented to Nelson Mandela as a gift shortly after his release from prison. During the 1990s a biographic order marked by a discourse of heroic leaders was growing in South Africa, where biographic narration and self-narration played a noticeable and, at times, substantial part in political transformation and reconstruction. Nelson Mandela's 'long walk to freedom' became the key trope for South Africa's history, narrated as the triumph of reconciliation. The presentation of the car to Nelson Mandela in 1990 occurred at a time of transition in the life of his auto/biography, from the biography of desire for the absent revolutionary leader to the biography of a statesman and president. This partly explains the ambiguous, double-edged history of the gift, as a labour of love on the part of NUMSA workers and as donation by Mercedes-Benz South Africa (the corporate version of these events emphasised the 'friendship' that was 'sparked' between Nelson Mandela and Mercedes-Benz South Africa). Inspired by the East London autoworkers' commitment to produce the car for Mandela, as well as by the resilience some of them showed during their nine-week strike and sleep-in in the plant soon afterwards, Simon Gush's installation Red has intervened in how those events should be remembered. By choosing to exhibit the disassembled body panels of a replica car alongside reconstructed displays of sleep-in strike beds made of scaffolding, foam, upholstery and car headrests, with imagined uniforms of striking workers, Gush has chosen to appropriate the history of the events of 1990 from the celebratory frames of the Mandela biographic order. The installation turns into an inquiry into the labour process and the events of the strike that was critical of the reconciliatory and celebratory understanding of the gift as a product of a partnership between the workers and management. <![CDATA[<b>Johnny Fingo: war as work on the Eastern Cape Frontier</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0259-01902016000100013&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en 'Johnny Fingo' is a character and an archetype. He appears in the memoir of British soldier Stephen Bartlett Lakeman, titled What I Saw in Kaffir-land (1880). In the text he is oblivious to pain even as he bemoans the irreparable damage to his Westley-Richards rifle. He is a leader of the 'Fingo' African levies. He can therefore be distilled into a history of the general presence of African levies on the Eastern Cape frontier. Although soldiers, Johnny Fingo and his levies are also defined by their sartorial choices, as captured in the words of Lakeman and other British officers. This article explores how the nineteenth-century South African figure of the 'African levy',[1] an irregular and underpaid soldier, foreshadows the emergence of the more enduring archetype, namely that of the 'Zulu Policeman'. Both of these characters/archetypes are bound by the fact that they were paid to fight; war was their work. This world of war work was, however, not sterile; both 'Johnny Fingo' and the 'Zulu Policeman' wore clothing (uniformed non-uniforms) which made these men swagger. <![CDATA[<b><em>Red</em> light: Reflections at the crossroads of history and art</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0259-01902016000100014&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The article suggests that Simon Gush's Red is an installation that projects two intersecting paths for anyone confronting it: the path of history, specifically the history of the freedom struggle in South Africa right up to the present day, and the history of contemporary art. The essay is an effort to articulate this position at a crossroads. I respond to the first path by engaging in an exercise of imaginative reverse-engineering. Red seems to invite the viewer to reflect on its own construction and how the different dimensions of its construction might be connected to political meanings and readings. Secondly, I engage in the more familiar work of interpreting an artwork, of saying what it means. I grapple with this task by explaining how Red evokes for me the philosophical problem of ordinary life, as it has appeared in various channels of reflection, from the transcendentalists through the pragmatists, through Wittgenstein and the ordinary language philosophers, through the microsociologists, and down to the present in writers like Stanley Cavell. I argue that a work like this, which operates in and through fragments, points to repair as a central process in ordinary life. The work stages repair by contrasting its object-fragments with filmed voices placed in carefully constructed dialogue with each other. On display is both the fragility of the everyday and the necessity of repair. <![CDATA[<b>Noƫleen Murray and Leslie Witz, <em>Hostels, Homes, Museum: memorialising migrant labour pasts in Lwandle, South Africa</em></b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0259-01902016000100015&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The article suggests that Simon Gush's Red is an installation that projects two intersecting paths for anyone confronting it: the path of history, specifically the history of the freedom struggle in South Africa right up to the present day, and the history of contemporary art. The essay is an effort to articulate this position at a crossroads. I respond to the first path by engaging in an exercise of imaginative reverse-engineering. Red seems to invite the viewer to reflect on its own construction and how the different dimensions of its construction might be connected to political meanings and readings. Secondly, I engage in the more familiar work of interpreting an artwork, of saying what it means. I grapple with this task by explaining how Red evokes for me the philosophical problem of ordinary life, as it has appeared in various channels of reflection, from the transcendentalists through the pragmatists, through Wittgenstein and the ordinary language philosophers, through the microsociologists, and down to the present in writers like Stanley Cavell. I argue that a work like this, which operates in and through fragments, points to repair as a central process in ordinary life. The work stages repair by contrasting its object-fragments with filmed voices placed in carefully constructed dialogue with each other. On display is both the fragility of the everyday and the necessity of repair. <![CDATA[<b><em>Dorothea Bleek: A life of scholarship</em></b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0259-01902016000100016&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The article suggests that Simon Gush's Red is an installation that projects two intersecting paths for anyone confronting it: the path of history, specifically the history of the freedom struggle in South Africa right up to the present day, and the history of contemporary art. The essay is an effort to articulate this position at a crossroads. I respond to the first path by engaging in an exercise of imaginative reverse-engineering. Red seems to invite the viewer to reflect on its own construction and how the different dimensions of its construction might be connected to political meanings and readings. Secondly, I engage in the more familiar work of interpreting an artwork, of saying what it means. I grapple with this task by explaining how Red evokes for me the philosophical problem of ordinary life, as it has appeared in various channels of reflection, from the transcendentalists through the pragmatists, through Wittgenstein and the ordinary language philosophers, through the microsociologists, and down to the present in writers like Stanley Cavell. I argue that a work like this, which operates in and through fragments, points to repair as a central process in ordinary life. The work stages repair by contrasting its object-fragments with filmed voices placed in carefully constructed dialogue with each other. On display is both the fragility of the everyday and the necessity of repair.