SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online

 
vol.42 issue1Red textures and the work of juxtaposition author indexsubject indexarticles search
Home Pagealphabetic serial listing  

Services on Demand

Article

Indicators

Related links

  • On index processCited by Google
  • On index processSimilars in Google

Share


Kronos

On-line version ISSN 2309-9585
Print version ISSN 0259-0190

Kronos vol.42 n.1 Cape Town Nov. 2016

http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2309-9585/2016/v42a1 

ARTICLES

 

Red Assembly: the work remains

 

 

Leslie WitzI; Helena Pohlandt-McCormickII; Gary MinkleyIII; John MowittIV

IUniversity of the Western Cape
IIUniversity of Minnesota
IIIUniversity of Fort Hare
IVUniversity of Leeds

 

 


ABSTRACT

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.


 

 

 

'It is our hope that the work presented here might constitute a beginning to what might be thought in the time of the after of colonialism. Onward therefore, from parallax to Kronos, and the work that remains'.1 It was with these words that we ended our introductory essay to the special April-June 2016 issue of parallax, the 'provocative cultural studies journal' based at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.2 In that issue, titled East London Calling, we published a selection of articles from the workshop 'Red Assembly: Time and Work' convened around Simon Gush's installation, Red, held at the Ann Bryant Gallery in East London, South Africa in August 2015. What we were not able to publish in that parallax introduction, because we had not secured permission from the copyright holder before the publication deadline, was a stanza from the lyrics of the song 'London Calling' by the rock band The Clash which had provided the inspiration for our musings.

London calling to the faraway towns

Now war is declared and battle come down

London calling to the underworld

Come out of the cupboard, you boys and girls

London calling, now don't look to us 3

As we now publish a second set of articles from 'Red Assembly' in Kronos, a journal based at the Centre for Humanities Research and the History Department at University of the Western Cape in South Africa that promotes 'innovative historical research about southern Africa' and that is particularly interested in 'integrating visual and textual sources',4 we are responding to the call from London not to 'look to us' but to instead think about the work that remains from the vantage point of the 'faraway towns' - Cape Town and East London.

This work is more difficult than it seems. For it is not simply more work, work that follows from Red Assembly: East London Calling, or even additional works. Rather, it is the work that arises as a responsibility in the face of what remains. Because this responsibility comes to bear on the task of both breaking off and continuing on, it points to an ambivalence that structures our entire project. As Freud insisted in Totem and Taboo, Ambivalenz is not about holding different views of the same object. It is about both hating and loving the Urvater - the forefather/originator/progenitor.5 It is about holding opposing views of, in our case, the discourse or discipline of history. On the one hand, our work here is pursued in a context defined by a deliberate effort to theoretically pressure, even stun history with the work of art. On the same hand, the work that remains unfolds here in a mode of writing largely, if reluctantly faithful to the generic protocols of Western historiography. It does so not to luxuriate in paradox, but to foreground the problem that cannot be factored out of any effort to protect what remains from devolving into the remainder, from devolving into an archive where what survives of our various encounters with Red is bound. In this peculiar sense the two journals assembled around 'Red Assembly' are marked by the parallax that names one of them. Their writings, their views, helps protect what Derrida calls le reste from becoming yet another thing to be indexed on the list of things. Working in this yes and no, in this no history and yes more history, is keeping faith with remains, however difficult.

Thus, the work is not and cannot be that of the remainder. Easier said than done. As Patricia Hayes and Andrew Bank reminded us some fifteen years ago when Kronos (no 27) first published photographs in a special issue on Visual History, the work of that edition of the journal was, among other things, of unsettling history as sequential time. Following Elizabeth Edwards, they maintained that photographs interrupted a linearity of history, where 'process and progress' were conflated, and instead opened up, through their more archaeological layering of time, possibilities of 'vertical samplings', 'sharp angles', the affective and the imminently unpredictable.6 Similar potential is posed by the work of art, and in our instance, Simon Gush's Red: to think about time and work, to think about the distribution of the events in relation not to history but to time, where time and history repeat each other differently. Our prompts to individual participants at the 'Red Assembly' workshop were to use the work of art, amongst other work, to think about altering 'the dominant direction of time'7 as progressive and sequential which has been the hallmark of understandings of history. For this edition of Kronos, a self-styled historical journal, that is named after the Greek word for time, the work that remains is to consider how Red might invite or otherwise provoke a disruption of the chronologies of history.8

But there is more. As the refrain of The Clash song reiterates, 'London is calling 'cause London is drowning'. If there is a sense of impending doom and a gathering catastrophe in the North, and the present conjuncture is eerily reminiscent of the battles of the 1970s and '80s, how then do the 'faraway towns' and the 'underworld' called to in the song intend to respond? What do we hear here when it is 'East London Calling' or responding? Our response casts the call as a demand to stay with 'the still-unsettled debate over history' and to ask, with Qadri Ismail, whether there are still more fundamental questions to pose to history and the discipline of History; and to consider whether, under the unsettling conditions of the post-apartheid, 'postcoloniality [can] throw its lot [in] with history', or put slightly differently, whether what is more urgent, or most tantalising, is that our work instantiate and intensify a specifically postcolonial critique of history.9

 

Grand theft auto

Given the rigours imposed by the structuring of our work, we feel obliged to consider an apparently disparate time and space to coincide with the publication of the special issue of parallax, Red Assembly: East London Calling. On 14 May 2016, an article appeared in East London's Daily Dispatch reporting, under the banner headline 'GRAND THEFT AUTO', that 'Mercs worth R4-m' had been stolen off the dock below the Mercedes-Benz plant on the Buffalo River in East London.10 Six 'boys' from 'the underworld'11 - 'thieves posing as employees of a local vehicle logistics company' - stole three luxury Mercedes-Benz vehicles from the East London harbour. Three of the six were in 'work uniform'. 'Only the three people who were wearing uniforms were allowed to take three vehicles,' a police spokeswoman said.12 A photograph from the newspaper's image archive of the massive container ship Glorious Leader in dock accompanied the story in the Daily Dispatch - even though this particular freighter was not in fact in the port at the time of the theft. Used as an illustration for, or copy of another, by-then-departed ship, it became an image of a generic atemporal space that was simply inserted into the newspaper's otherwise historical account of the theft. The discourse of journalism would appear to have discovered in this instance the very perplexities that are under scrutiny here - precisely in relation to an image. Why else would one find this story tagged under the sign of a video game, GRAND THEFT AUTO?

The Steve Biko Bridge, across the Buffalo River, affords a view of the dock from which the cars were stolen. The dock and the bridge are often dwarfed by ships like Glorious Leader that come up the river to load the cars that are lined up like 'bars of soap'13 below the Mercedes-Benz plant on the edge of the river, where, in 1990, autoworkers built a (red) car for Nelson Mandela after his release from prison, and soon thereafter, went on a wildcat strike. Twenty-five years later, in August of 2015, a Daily Dispatch newspaper poster on that bridge brought together event, installation and workshop with the banner headline 'Famous Mandela Car Gets Arty'.

Pared down to an eye grab, the words on this poster flatten a complex, dispersed set of events around the gift of the red Mercedes for Mandela (and the subsequent strike at the Mercedes plant in the same year) to a simple catchphrase. In a single rhetorical flourish the implied weight of history is followed by the lightness of art, naming a distinction between history as the real and art as representational.

And yet, the press release sent to the Daily Dispatch by the workshop organisers called this ordering into question, announcing that '"Red Assembly" revolves around the question of what it would mean to place [the] work of art at the centre of an historical reading'.14 In keeping with this reversal, the 'Red Assembly' workshop in East London did not start with the recounting of historical events - the making of the red Mercedes or the wildcat strike at the Mercedes-Benz plant that followed. Rather, it was called into being by a work of art and yet another theft.

The work of art,Simon Gush's Red, an installation initially staged at the Goethe Institute in Johannesburg (March 2014), was constituted around estranged reconstructions of the Mercedes car body, strike uniforms (by local designer Mokotjo Mohulo) and beds. These were objects of, but not from, the incident.15 A film (made with James Cairns) was a central part of the installation. It fabricates the story of the events of 1990 through interviews with representatives from management and labour, and by editing these with evocative video footage of contemporary East London, marked by an almost photographic stillness (see Corinne Kratz, Tom Wolfe, Patricia Hayes and Simon Gush).

We invited participants in 'Red Assembly' to respond to the different forms of expression invoked by the installation (film, photography, sculpture, oral and written text, sound/the acoustic, even critique). The idea was to initiate a discussion around time, work and art that would return us to questions of how particular subjectivities (racial, gendered, classed) are established and contested in the modern social. How do we move predictably and unpredictably - as art workers, historians, curators, activists, laborers - between assemblages of the aesthetic, the political, the social, the real, the spatial, the modern and, yes, the historical?

All presenters were asked to produce a 4 000-word paper that considered elements of Gush's work Red, which in the time leading up to the workshop and installation was only available electronically. Much of the work elaborated upon and included in the extended essays published here is based on responses to our prompts. For example, the ways redness is cast within material and political debates associated with capitalism and socialism, and the ways leadership and biography are configured in the politics of red assemblies (Ciraj Rassool); how one could think about this artwork in terms of a critical approach to cinema/videography and sound (Elliot James), to research and writing on documentary photography (Patricia Hayes), the making of meanings and values in museum exhibitions, in particular the work that processes of curation, exhibiting and assembling do (Corinne Kratz); research and writing on sound archives in the Eastern Cape (Sinazo Mtshemla, Gary Minkley and Helena Pohlandt-McCormick); work on music, sound and performance, in particular a reading of the film that forms part of Red which thinks through issues of aurality and performance (Brett Pyper); research and writing on race, museums and the image (Michelle Smith); formations of oral history, labour history and museums (Leslie Witz); the meaning and symbolism of clothing and uniforms (Hlonipha Mokoena); work on socialism/postsocialism and Russia/Soviet Union, and the role of the media (radio/sound, videography, interviews) in the constitution of knowledge (Tom Wolfe); and critiques of labour through art (Helena Chávez Mac Gregor).16

'Every new event in a story alters the events that generated it'17 and the installation Red is an event in this story too, as was our encounter with it, first in Johannesburg, then on the Internet, and then just over a year later, at 'Red Assembly' in East London, where the story arguably began or began again. At the workshop itself, participants were asked not merely to read their papers or reiterate their key arguments but also to reflect on their more immediate encounter with the installation, its images, soundscapes and texts. In these engagements with the work, in the writing of the papers at the time, and in their later elaboration for inclusion in the two differently positioned journals, we need to ask how much was actually disrupted, how productive it has been to place the work of art at the centre of a historical reading without merely instrumentalising it as a way to rescue history. Put differently, have we avoided the founding ambivalence of the project, or otherwise failed to put it to work?

The signs were auspicious. To not render 'Red Assembly' a simple point of departure, it was crucial to emphasise its dislocation of time and history by grasping this effect as put in play by a theft, not just of a vehicle from the East London dockyard, but from a monastery in Venice almost 220 years before Red assembled in East London. On 11 September 1797 Napoleon Bonaparte, whose armies had taken control of Venice, ordered the removal from the monastery at San Giorgio Maggiore of a painting by Paolo Veronese, The Wedding at Cana.

Having been cut up into several parts for the purpose of transport, the canvas was packed and sent to Paris The work was duly re-assembled and shown at the Louvre (where it still hangs today) on 8 November 1798. The masterpiece was never returned on the flimsy pretext of the difficulty of transporting it, and compensation was given in the form of a mediocre painting by Le Brun A few years after the Wedding at Cana was removed, the monastery was closed and the island of San Giorgio became a military deposit. For around 150 years it remained in a state of deep decay and abandonment.18

In 2006, the Cini Foundation, which had assumed control of the building for its offices and research, decided to contact Adam Lowe of Factum Arte in Madrid to make a digital facsimile of the painting that Napoleon had appropriated for the Louvre.19 A little over a year later, on 11 September 2007, 'the canvas was unveiled and the overall work of art consisting of the architecture and painting was fully reconstructed and could once more be admired by Venetians and the rest of the world'.20 What followed over the next three days was that artists, historians, literary scholars, environmental conservationists, theologians, scholars in sound and musicologists gathered in the monastery beneath this work of art that had been remade, restored and unveiled on 9/11 to discuss what it meant to conserve the past. Or, as the editors of the book that resulted from these discussions say, it dealt with how to move beyond the fundamentalism of origins and the authenticity implied in the work of conservation, 'how to inherit the past well, to re-produce and thus perhaps to faithfully betray'.21

So what started on 11 September 1797 in Venice, or perhaps even when Veronese painted The Wedding at Cana in 1562/3 - or even earlier, most likely some time at the end of the first century, when an oral tradition (or a mythological tale) of turning water into wine was inscribed into a text known as the Gospel of John - had, by some un-reconstructable set of circumstances, led to the opening of Red and 'Red Assembly' at the Ann Bryant Gallery in East London. The itinerary of our thinking had taken us (and not necessarily in this order) from a theft in Venice (1797), to a red Mercedes and a strike at a motor car assembly plant in East London, South Africa (1990), a colloquium in a monastery in Venice (2007), an exhibition called Red with different iterations in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown, and East London (2014-15), a workshop titled 'Red Assembly' (2015), and soon thereafter to another theft, this time from the dockyard in East London in the absent gaze of the Glorious Leader (2016). Theft here is more than something that set other things in motion; it is the effect of the dislocation that gestured to us from within the work of art.

As we noted in the introduction to the journal parallax, 'one might read the move from "Red Assembly" to Red Assembly: East London Calling in parallax merely as yet another stop in the itinerary of Red.' And there is the temptation to make this special issue of Kronos merely another stop in this itinerary, so that the articles presented here, in this journal, subtitled since 2008 Southern African Histories, will simply contribute to the dubious and problematical sense that 'History is just one damned thing after another'.22 But instead of repeating or reenacting history, and by deliberately placing parallax, the journal in the North, and Kronos, the journal in the South, into contact with each other, we hope to continue the work of probing how the new 'lines of sight' afforded by Red coax us into perspectives that are 'unpredictable and indeterminate, contingent and creative'.23 Are we writing from where we think we are? And when, where and how will a reading take place?

Meanwhile, in Cape Town during the same winter when Red was installed in East London, William Kentridge's 'The Refusal of Time' was installed at the Iziko South African National Gallery.24 Crystallising the titular refusal, the refrain 'Give us back our suns' resounded from within and across the soundscape of the piece. It reminded one of several crucial matters. First, that prior to the establishment of the Greenwich Meridian and world time, time was entirely spatial, that is, subject to the presumed, chronometrically registered, movement of the sun across any number of landscapes divided between night and day. Second, that world time is the effect of its metered standardisation, its measure. Third, that world time is perhaps one of the deepest and most provocative traces left by European colonialism and empire. The demand to have one's suns returned is a demand to solicit or otherwise rattle Eurocentrism. Finally, it is also, and the point is small but significant, to sense, within the earlier spatialisation of time, the remains of something infinitely other, something prior to the space time of this world.25 In an interview with Antoine Spire collected in Paper Machine, Jacques Derrida draws attention to the difference between the remainder and what remains (in French, le reste) comparing the latter to the cinder and insisting that what remains 'escapes all forms of prehension, monumentalization and all forms of archivation'.26

The 'small but significant' may not seem like much. But consider that the demand for the return of one's suns might usefully be understood to represent a wrinkle, a fold, in what the 'history' of science - as represented, for example, by Thomas Kuhn - has taken to be the 'revolution,' the 'rupture' represented by Copernicus', then scandalous heliocentric assertions. Indeed, heliocentrism is, quite apart from its theological and astrophysical implications, certainly one way to think the history of history as divided between something modern and something less so. Recall that Freud, in The Introductory Lectures of Psychoanalysis from 1916, used Copernicus (but also Darwin) to frame for his audience the historical significance of psychoanalysis as the completion of the Copernican revolution and its founding outrage against human narcissism, epitomised by Ptolemy who placed the earth at the center of the universe.27 Thrown into relief here, if only in passing, is the fact that both Ptolemy and Copernicus believed in a centre, they just disagreed about its location. To multiply suns and distribute them across all the nights and days that wander across the face of the planet is something altogether different. Among its many effects is its exposure of the troubling tie between time and history, a tie that loses touch with what remains in the reminder of the distinction between history and time.

Lines of sight such as this are not only effected by an 'itineration' as by a parallax view and installation. The first - 'parallaxing' - is the view and the apparent displacement of an object (of knowledge, of history, of art) afforded us from a different position or a change in perspective. In 'installation' there is the actual movement of attentive bodies that pass through and around the work of art in order to realise it.28 Both of these shape the way the two journals return to the same events, Red and 'Red Assembly', but from two unevenly distributed places within the global system of print capitalism and knowledge production. As noted in parallax, the work that installation and parallaxing both accomplishes and calls for is endless. How can we not continue it here, especially in a form whose name so insistently ties it to the passing of time, that is, to un jour - a day?29

If Claire Bishop is right to contrast exhibition and installation by insisting that the latter is structurally incomplete, that it requires the passage of subjects to realise its expressive effects, then calling Red in all its formal density an installation foregrounds the way it was always already open to the footfalls now circulating through the journals that have installed themselves in response to the invitation structured by its openness. This is not prostitution. Nor is this simply a group of artists soliciting critical attention at any price. Instead, it is a practice that has always presumed that its call will echo, that where this call originates cannot be distinguished from the open-ended series of places from which it will be received. Parallax and Kronos have responded to the structural call of Red, not by reacting to it, but by discovering this call in the very logic of writing, whether academic or not. If writing, through its proximity to the trace, always puts readers in the vanishing presence of what remains, and if the installation as a remainder, as a residue of what remains, includes such readers in its openness, then perhaps our suns are on the way back from the time and the history that eclipsed their differences. One can always write as if.30

 

Chronos, Cronus and Kronos

Kronos: 'named using the Greek word for time or, if one prefers, the name of the Titan castrated by Zeus so as to found the 'timeless' Olympian regime.'31 There is no indication in the first edition of Kronos - published in 1979 with an orange and white horizontal flag-like cover (reminiscent of the stripes on the South African flag between 1928 and 1994 that claimed Dutch antecedents) - of how the name was chosen. But we assume that, in this 'occasional publication' highlighting the work done by the Institute for Historical Research (IHR) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), it was the first meaning that was intended, thus writing the gods out of history. That history was defined in the time and the space of ethnically constituted primordial volke, with volkeverhoudings (volk relationships) as a research priority, and a presentation of a litany of contributions from each distinct volk. In line with the aims of the university, whose emblem included three proteas as symbolic of 'religion, culture and science', South African indigeneity and the Western Province as 'the centre of gravity of the Coloured Community',32 the emphasis was on the 'historiese bydrae van die Kleurlingbevolkingsgroep' ('the historical contribution of the Coloured population group') and an overwhelming majority of the articles were in Afrikaans.33 In an 'elaboration of the cultural logic of apartheid', these silos of ethnicity interacted with each other through a history of progressive, accumulative, inexorable, separate times.34 The historian's (seen by default as male) role, as articulated by the Head of the History Department at UWC, GDJ Duvenage, was to explain and analyse 'die oorgange, verbande, samehange en skakels tussen verlede, hede en toekoms' ('transitions, connections, coherence and links between past, present and future') in order that 'elke hedesituasie in tyd en plek as 'n unieke, eenmalige, onherhaalbare gebeure in eie reg verstaan kan word as die toekoms van sy verlede en die verlede van sy toekoms. ('every present situation could be understood in time and place as unique, one-off, unrepeatable events in their own right as the future of their past and the past of their future').35

But there are stories of Cronus (sometimes called Kronos) that are not about the universality of time as a progression. These are stories from Greek and Roman mythology that are about acts of castration in order to usurp an established order and also, once power has been seized, to prevent further challenges by consuming one's offspring: Cronus overthrowing and castrating his father Uranus, in turn eating his children who were potential rivals, his son Zeus being secreted away, surviving and in turn overthrowing Cronus, then taking power and imprisoning Cronus and perhaps castrating him as well. There are shifting versions of these stories, with aspects sometimes being suppressed and others highlighted, and claims and cautions to a wrongful conflation of two separate figures, Chronos as the image of time, and Cronus as attempting to wield and maintain power. To tell of Cronus (rather than Chronos) is to embellish narratives with conflict and guile. It is to speak of attempts to manipulate time, of the rearrangement of the time of succession, and struggles over the setting in place and disruption of sequences. Although he attempts to reach further back or under, Freud's global positioning of the Urvater, the founding figure of Ambivalenz is rather plainly gesticulating from the sidelines of this war zone.

If one insists upon telling a story of/about Kronos (the journal) as one which arranges sequences towards different futures, then one may start by moving from the small A2 publication with its orange and white flag type-cover to the substantially larger A5 version in 1990 with a light royal blue cover intersected vertically and diagonally with a huge bold white K. The new design was an indication of an attempt to secure a disciplinary future as a history journal rather than a bulletin or occasional publication of the IHR at UWC. And that history was going to be one that set its store by a regional specificity called 'the Cape', its time stretching 'van die vroegste tye af tot die hede' ('from the earliest times to the present').36 There were many more articles published in English, and Kronos acquired an official sub-title: Tydskif vir Kaaplandse Geskiedenis / Journal of Cape History. That started to unravel in the 2000s and a new future was set in place. The special Visual History issue of 2001 has been referred to above, and all subsequent editions have contained many images. From that moment on, with one exception, all articles were in English and a specifically selected photograph or a set of photographs became the dominant feature of Kronos front covers, replacing the large white K.37 Photographs in the journal have often included elaborate captions that highlight specific aspects of representation, evoking forms and situations of production and circulation. Another special issue, this time in 2008, formally signaled the shift out of Cape history with the subtitle altered to Southern African Histories. The plurality was not merely one of differing interpretations but of taking seriously the forms of history being produced across a variety of different genres. In the 'intellectual repositioning' of Kronos, the new territorial delineation was being claimed 'as a space for the work of authors in the wider regional framework to stimulate debate about the boundaries of local and national histories', just as the invocation of histories set a challenge to confront 'disciplinary limits'.38 In the shift from an ethnic formation, to a specific locality and then a regional delineation (and from the flag, to the K, and then the photograph on the cover), the future of history that Kronos displayed was always about setting its relation to time on trajectories that asserted different and distinct futures of the past.39

But even as we set such a narrative in place we worry over its claims, pathways, ruptures, beginnings, endings and selections. As we have attempted to think and work with the idea of Cronus we have implacably returned to the universal empire of time in Chronos. If there is anything that the film that forms part of Red alerts us to, it is to processes of narrativisation, contextual disjunctures and futures that are never foretold (see Witz and Rassool). Its aural and visual vocabulary constantly jar (Pyper, Hayes, Chávez Mac Gregor and Mtshemla/Minkley/Pohlandt-McCormick), enabling connections, contexts and juxtapositions, but then in the same gesture disrupting them (Kratz). There are openings to parallax views, lines of flight, readings and misreadings from the installation of Red into race and hunting, queer studies and museum construction (Vig, James, Smith and Witz).

But why stop here? Can we stop here? As if embodying an iteration of 'the faraway call' to which we are responding, the genealogy of Kronos itself appears structured by what we are calling the work of art. This genealogy into whose labyrinth we have stumbled threadless urges us to pose the burning question: Why, if Kronos is challenging the limits of disciplinary knowledge, has it not considered dropping the assignation of history? Can it circulate without it? The last words in the introduction to issue 34 in 2008 allude to this possibility:

Rather than taking academic disciplines and heritage as essential categories that can be delineated at the outset, it is how they come to be defined and re-defined, particularly in relation to each other, that needs to be examined. These questions about how knowledge is negotiated, circulated and contested amongst different constituencies, publics and academic locales are important to making histories. Furthermore, they also constitute the central challenges for repositioning the humanities beyond fieldwork and outreach, as new ways are found for rethinking the academy and the production and social organisation of knowledge.40

Perhaps a way to think about possibilities of rupture in Kronos is to go to two editions which we have totally left out of the story we have told thus far and whose front covers do not fit into any of the patterns which we claimed as identifiable. They are what was called the pre-millennium issue of Kronos, number 25 of 1998/99, and the following year's edition. They both had somewhat bizarre covers. On the brown-beige front cover of number 25, with a brick wall as background wallpapering, is a sepia toned photograph of Cape Town in the late nineteenth century: 'The YMCA Building adjacent to "Het Gesticht" in Long Street Cape Town (1884)'. The back cover features a rather indistinct photograph dated ninety years later of some young boys walking down a street with what might be apartment blocks in the background and the framework of a building under construction. This is identified as 'Dutch Reformed Mission Church, Kasselsvlei, Bellville (1974)'.41 Whether this is a reference to an archival source or a location in the photograph is unclear. Issue 26 has an even more unusual cover. It is in midnight blue and the title Kronos appears four times in lime-yellow lettering, cascading and fading in and out horizontally across the cover. A possible visual reference and similarity might be to the monochrome computer monitors of the 1980s. Although one of us was a co-editor of these issues of Kronos, there is no recollection of the reasons for the choice of these cover designs and photographs. They were as arbitrary then as they appear to us now.

In their arbitrariness and unconventionality these covers resonate with the serendipitous coming together of events and conversations that issued into the making of Red and 'Red Assembly', and to parallax and Kronos. What perhaps otherwise and initially might have seemed like forced connections have been deliberately explored together in the articles here. It is this 'coming together of contingency and conjuncture' (Vig) that complicates, through the work of art, the historian's impulse to craft coherent narratives from serendipity and coincidence, or, put slightly more sharply, to turn 'anecdotes [into] truth claims in narrative form'.42

But complicate how? What if instead of regarding the covers as either exceptional or incidental, we treat them as the pretexts for a rethinking of the critique of history to be found on the pages of Kronos? Our gambit can be tracked through two claims, both of which flesh out the proposition: what if we re-started the story here. Our first claim is that these two issues, especially number 26 in its midnight blue covering, took massive gambles with history. Ciraj Rassool confronted the history academy in South Africa with its aversion to heritage, arguing that heritage needed to be understood instead as a genre of historical production.43 In his provocation Noel Solani took on what he called the 'myth of Mandela' showing how a post-apartheid nationalist framework was creating a biographic illusion of the great reconciler. This was a provocation which finds its echo in the challenges that Red, the installation, and Red, the film, posed to the participants in 'Red Assembly' (see especially Rassool).44 Brent Harris and Veronique Riouful, similarly confronted emerging nationalist narratives, examining respectively discourses at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and in the making of Robben Island as a museum.45 And Premesh Lalu started making even more probing assertions about history and historiography, asking us to look at exclusions and representations not merely in terms of subjective bias, but to consider the forms of domination and subjection within disciplinary knowledge:

A critical argument in this paper, then, has to do with the disciplinary approaches and strategies that historians adopt to deal with bias and exclusion. In most cases, these are dealt with in objectivist terms so that the historian tactically strives for a corrective. The argument advanced in this paper asks us to consider which discursive and mediative strategies sustain bias and exclusion within larger projects of domination.46

What Lalu was insisting upon was an interrogation of how power is exercised through the discipline of history and how it is that this discipline creates its events, its subjects and the generic protocols for their analysis. Such an understanding of the formation and operation of disciplinary knowledge, Lalu claimed, 'throws the coherence of our intellectual claims into disarray'.47 And it precisely the assertions, provocations and risks that these authors took in Kronos 26 that set in place the dismantling of the Journal of Cape History and began in earnest to menace the disciplinary assumptions of history more broadly. As with Red, just over a decade later, many of the articles in that extraordinary issue of Kronos, were 'speculative reconstructions' that signalled an 'epistemological restlessness'. 48

But there is also a second claim. We feel compelled to assert a prior moment of a parallel publication with Kronos, in this instance with the journal History and Theory. In the latter a selection of papers that had been presented at South African Historical Society conference held at UWC from 11-14 July 1999 were published. Given the same title as the conference '"Not Telling": Secrecy, Lies, and History', this special issue of History and Theory suggested that not only are the dichotomies between telling and not telling, truths and fictions, secrecy and divulging not so clear cut, but that they continually work with and constitute each other.

We suggest further that history, like politics, is constituted as much through these mechanisms of 'not telling' as by the ways of telling. Here language, meaning, and discourse as much as political need, social position, and multiple and shared context and the related concerns with race, class, and gender all contribute to the not telling of power in and of history.49

Rather than taking up the position of doing history through the recovery of the telling (the fundamental assumption of oral histories, for instance, but also, as Hayden White insisted long ago, the fundamental drive toward emplotment),50 what was perhaps more important was understanding the not-telling: how both 'secrets and lies are produced, represented, and re-presented in public and private grammars of "not telling"'. This, the editors Gary Minkley and Martin Legassick said, might actually 'tell more'.51 And although the editors told us that the papers selected were those that 'pertained to the concerns of History and Theory most effectively' and had a 'South African content', while at the same time developing 'more general points about secrecy, lies, and history', there was no telling why some of the papers from the conference instead found their way into Kronos 26, alongside some other papers.52 That 'not telling' can be read in several ways: it could be that History and Theory and Kronos were understood to constitute different publics; it could have been an issue of the timing of publication; and, much less generously, it could be a reading that (inadvertently perhaps) saw Kronos as being just a diminished copy of the international publication in the North.

We want to resist following the last suggestion. Instead we want to argue that, in this instance of parallel publication, a precedent was set that we are following, a precedent of international co-publication, of opening up the reading with and against each other, of establishing parallax views. If Kronos 26 was already calling to those of us marked by the encounter with Red, this is because it had already thematised the dilemma and provocation of what remains beyond and before any remainder. This is the deep significance of its challenge to nationalist narratives, of unsettling the comfort zones of history as a profession and breaking down the foundations of disciplinary knowledge. Whether or not the publication of some of the papers from 'Secrecy and Lies' in History and Theory, published in the North, constituted a mere theft or an appropriation will have to remain open to conjecture here. Not because something left out may later be found, but because what is left in remains illegible, at least for the foreseeable future; that is, for the future history expects to encounter.

History projects time as the means by which to think its historicity, making it difficult to confront one without the other while, however indirectly, clarifying the classical recourse to castration (Cronus) as the way to figure a break in time that allows history to designate where it comes from. We say now, almost without thinking, that Freud is the 'father of psychoanalysis', but if he is, it is because he generated a filial sequence, a patrimony that castration - before the era of IVF - would have been thought to cut off. Put differently, the idea that one moment, one innovation, led to or generated another presumes a Kronos that is not a Cronus, but that is enabled by one. Something has to stop reproducing in order for something else to develop out of that unceasing cessation. Precisely because such questions are posed by the publication venue of these essays, it brings them into contact with the opening generated by Red, an opening through which art and history stumble upon one another's suns. Shakespeare put his finger on the matter when he has Hamlet protest, in the presence of his mother and the new king, that he is 'too much i' th' sun', punning in a way that twists together lineage and regime change in heliocentric terms. Not surprisingly, the time of the play comes virtually to a standstill.53

 

Theft, Gift and the Copy

Whether a distribution of the good(s) tends to leave the South with the dregs, perpetuating the development of underdevelopment even in the production of know-ledge, and whether such is the nature of the postcolonial, is something no one struck by the task of saying yes and no to history can avoid. After all, the discipline of history would appear to align itself with those discourses, such as anthropology or sociology, now thought to data mine in 'the fields' of their operations, and to 'gift' their partisans or adherents with the intellectual property (including, of course, careers and spheres of professional influence) generated by such mining. It is here that a return to the curious and vexing problem of our need to obtain copyright permission for the use of a few lines from the Clash's 'London Calling' may prove suggestive. It allows us, once again via the work of art and the work of history, to reflect upon the relationship between theft, the gift, and the copy. In this reading they are invoked, respectively through: Veronese's painting, The Wedding at Cana; the GRAND THEFT AUTO of the Mercedes from the East London docks; the gift of the red Mercedes for Nelson Mandela; the creation and return of the facsimile of The Wedding at Cana to the monastery at San Giorgio Maggiore, and the building of Simon Gush's red Mercedes.

In her essay in parallax, Red Assembly: East London Calling, Paige Sweet noted the proliferation of legal instruments and technologies to mark and demarcate intellectual and artistic property/ownership, prohibiting the direct copying of 'cultural goods' and especially song lyrics.54 This is justified, rightly so, through the invocation of the original artist's rights, but often and in keeping with capitalism's logic, always already captured by producers and production companies. From this perspective, many cultural goods are put out of reach of direct copying, which often increases the ways in which they are copied creatively, indirectly.55 Scholars and others for whom those cultural goods were intended (or who were the consumers of those cultural goods) have had to employ more creative, indirect means to use such materials - in our case through footnotes reference or citation (see parallax) - which has arguably, and ironically, diminished the power of the original work of art. This creativity is also evident in all of the articles presented here in Kronos.

But publishing the articles from 'Red Assembly' in two journals has obliged us also to think knowledge production across the North/South divide, across disciplinary boundaries and across institutional spaces. In parallax we asked 'about the place of journals in the world - not only about the inequities and conceits of the global system of print capitalism and knowledge production, entangled with each other and with the relative institutional location and reputation of each, but also about what exactly makes these/produces these as inequities and conceits.'56

Thinking the theft, the gift and the copy together here in Kronos makes visible a curious reversal, one in which publishing companies, highly capitalised purveyors of the knowledge produced in the academy - the product of intellectual labour not directly paid for (in most cases) - have also become the arbitrators of, and deflected the responsibility for, costly and burdensome procurement/securing of permissions onto the author. Ironically, without the intellectual production of the author, the product - the journal - would not exist. Materially, authors only indirectly 'profit' from the deals those publishing companies have made with universities and university libraries in the age of the declining profitability of hard-copy journals and as a result of the rise of electronic publication, a gesture of digital enfranchisement that promised without delivering a democratisation of knowledge production. In the US, academic publishing is only indirectly linked to advancement and financial gain for its authors through the system of promotion and annual review, while in South Africa, (article) publication is at the heart of a system of government subsidies for research at universities. The relative standing, both financially and institutionally, of universities in the North v. those in the South - with universities in the South not as well resourced to shoulder the cost or leverage combined funds to acquire expensive journal bundles - also means that the digitisation and economisation (to freely use Wendy Brown's concept: 'the conversion of non-economic domains, activities and subjects into economic ones'57) of journals further aggravates historic and geographic knowledge divides and access. University libraries, and therefore students and researchers, in the South are rarely able to afford the full slate of up-to-date journals in any given field that their counterparts in the North have access to, and are constantly requested to review lists so they can be pared down to essential data bases.

Sweet has suggested that the way writers (and especially historians) 'have dealt with reference suggests an anxiety about originality and authority endemic to the already-written (or the already-made)'. Once this anxiety translates to publishing houses and their concerns for transferring the care of copyright to authors in the interest of averting the costs associated with copyright, that 'anxiety about originality and authority' becomes commoditised. The path that Sweet lays out for the red Mercedes, 'from the commodity to the gift' for Mandela, is inverted to one in which the gift is turned into a commodity.58 But this is what prompted us to ask: Is history, precisely in its empiricist, quantitative drive, not posing as a copy? Is the discipline of history not a bid for ownership of this copy?

 

Red, 'Red Assembly', parallax and Kronos

While individual articles do not explicitly address each of these entanglements - although some do - the introductions here and in parallax attempt to bring out more clearly what the installation of Red, 'Red Assembly' and the work of the contributors in the medium of the journal has prompted us to think. There are many lines of flight such thought might follow, but here we have thought with four, grouped into pairs: theft - gift; copy - rights; time - history; Kronos - Chronos. And we have thought by way of parallaxing and installation, bringing these notions into new relationships with each other.

We identified above a reversal in this installation of the gift into the commodity. A second reversal is the one enabled via the theft, the gift and the copy with regard to conventional historical narratives which privilege the search for sources and origins. Instead, a difference between (the historian's search for) origination and (the artist's) originality59 becomes visible in a conversation (and the invocation of vision and sound here is deliberate) 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 have invited the displacements, detours, 'curious paths, assemblies/(dis)assemblies, 'impossible'60 copies of the work presented here, and made possible through Simon Gush's Red, the 'Red Assembly' workshop and the work/gift of installation and parallaxing. Does Red, now installed also in these two journals, have the potential to call the question of history into question? To gesture beyond 'histories' was the provocation to which art is neither cause nor effect. But 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.

Red Assembly built upon a set of institutional and intellectual relationships between the Flagship on Critical Thought in African Humanities, the Centre for Humanities Research (CHR) at the University of the Western Cape, the Department of Science and Technology/National Research Foundation (NRF) SARChI Chair in Social Change at the University of Fort Hare, and their collaborators. The latter included the African Programme in Museum and Heritage Studies, the African Critical Inquiry Programme (a partnership with the Laney Graduate School of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, with funding from the Ivan Karp and Corinne Kratz Fund) and the University of Minnesota Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change, all of whom we thank for their support. In addition, we want to thank the Andrew W Mellon Foundation, the African Critical Inquiry Programme and the NRF for their funding across various platforms that contributed to the workshop and the publications in parallax and Kronos. The views expressed here are not attributable to any of these funders. Of course 'Red Assembly' in all its forms would all not have been possible without the openness and willingness of Simon Gush to share his work with us and to subject it to such intense scrutiny. Last, but certainly far from least, we wish to acknowledge the steady heat put under the posteriors of editors and contributors alike by the extraordinarily generous readers who gifted us all with the example of what it means to nurture thinking.

'London Calling'

Words and Music by Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon

 

 

1 H. Pohlandt-McCormick, G. Minkley, J. Mowitt and L. Witz, 'Red Assembly: East London Calling', parallax, 79, (April-June 2016), 129.         [ Links ]
2 parallax, 79 (April-June 2016), inside back cover.
3 The Clash, 'London Calling' (England: CBS Records, 1979), http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/clash/londoncalling.html
4 These words appear in the front matter of all editions of Kronos from Number 32, November 2006.
5 S. Freud, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, vol 13. Ed. James Strachey. Trans. various (London: Vintage, 2001), 31 and passim.         [ Links ]
6 P. Hayes and A. Bank, 'Introduction', Kronos, 27, November 2001, 1.         [ Links ] They are drawing upon E. Edwards, Raw Histories: Photographs, Anthropology and Museums (Oxford: Bloomsbury Books, 2001), 3-5.         [ Links ]
7 R. Powers, 'Saving the Best Wine for Last', in P. Gagliardi, B. Latour and P. Memelsdorf (eds), Coping with the Past: Creative Perspectives on Conservation and Restoration (Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 2010), 163.         [ Links ]
8 Hayes and Bank, 'Introduction', 6. As is evident, this introduction by Hayes and Bank is tremendously generative for us in our formulations. Aspects of these initial ideas, amongst others, are elaborated upon in a forthcoming publication, Ambivalence, a selection of essays edited by Patricia Hayes and Gary Minkley on photography and visibility in African history.
9 Q. Ismail, '(Not) at Home in (Hindu) India: Shahid Amin, Dipesh Chakrabarty, and the Critique of History,' Cultural Critique 68, 1, 2008, 210-247.         [ Links ]
10 'GRAND THEFT AUTO: Thieves drive off dock with Mercs worth R4-m', 14 May 2016: http://www.dispatchlive.co.za/news/2016/05/14/grand-theft-auto-thieves-drive-off-dock-with-mercs-worth-r4m/
11 The Clash, 'London Calling'.
12 Daily Dispatch, 'GRAND THEFT AUTO: Thieves drive off dock with Mercs worth R4-m', 14 May 2016.
13 G. Minkley and H. Pohlandt-McCormick, 'The Speaking Crow or "On a Clear Day You Can See the Class Struggle from Here"? (Career Girls, 1997)', parallax, 79, April-June 2016, 189.         [ Links ]
14 'Red Assembly - Time and Work, Ann Bryant Art Gallery, 27-29 August 2015', press release, University of Fort Hare, 4 August 2015.
15 Gush asserts that the reconstructions 'are not historically accurate, but imagine the possibilities of moments when the factory was appropriated for alternative ideas of what production might be.' Simon Gush: http://www.simongush.net/red/.
16 From Letters of Invitation to 'Red Assembly', 2015.
17 Powers, 'Saving the Best Wine for Last', 163.
18 P. Gagliardi, 'Prologue. The return of The Wedding at Cana to the monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore' in Gagliardi et al, Coping with the Past, viii.
19 In 1803 Napoleon renamed the Louvre after himself as Musée Napoléon. See A. McClellan, Inventing the Louvre (Berkeley: UCLA Press, 1994).
23 Pohlandt-McCormick et al, 'Red Assembly: East London Calling', 126.
24 Iziko South African National Gallery, February to September 2015, http://www.iziko.org.za/calendar/event/william-kentridge-the-refusal-of-time, last accessed 3 December 2016.
25 Although found in Shakespeare, the homonym between sun and son, to which we will return, achieves a fresh pertinence here. The suns for whose return Kentridge is calling, are also the sons (and daughters) subjected to the Atlantic slave trade. A scant four blocks Northwest of the gallery in which 'The Refusal of Time' was installed stands the Slave Lodge. Even the faintest sensitivity to the logics of postcoloniality would cause this homonym to boom or keen across the Company Gardens that articulate the Iziko complex of museums. Bringing these sons back would bring back the times violently eclipsed by slavery. Do we dare? We warmly thank Maurits van Bever Donker for having put his degree in English Literature to such spectacular use.
26 J. Derrida, Paper Machine. Trans. Rachel Bowlby (Palo Alto: Stanford UP, 2005), 151.         [ Links ]
27 S. Freud, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. 16. Ed. James Strachey. Trans. Alan Tyson (London: Vintage, 2003), 284-85.         [ Links ]
28 C. Bishop, Installation Art: A Critical History (New York: Routledge, 2005).         [ Links ]
29 This draws heavily on our introduction to the parallax special issue, East London Calling.
30 See Anna Selmeczi's article on producing the 'as if' in relation to Simon Gush's artwork, Red. Anna Selmeczi, 'Art/work: Fabricating freedom or, thinking about instrumentality in relation to political art', parallax, 22 2 (2016), 219-234.         [ Links ]
31 Pohlandt-McCormick et al, 'Red Assembly: East London Calling', 128.
32 Minutes of senate meeting, University College of the Western Cape, 28 November 1961
33 J.L. Hattingh, H.F. Heese' H.C. Bredekamp and J. Joubert, 'Van die redaksie' ('From the Editors'), Kronos:
ń geleentheidspublikasie van die Wes-Kaaplandse Instituut vir Historiese Navorsing, 1, 1979, 1-2.
34 P. Lalu, 'Campus: A discourse on the grounds of an apartheid university', in P. Lalu and N. Murray (eds), Becoming UWC: Reflections, pathways and unmaking apartheid's legacy (Bellville: UWC, 2012), 38.         [ Links ]
35 G.D.J. Duvenage, ''n Teoretiese besinning oor institute as akademiese instellings', Kronos: Mededeling van die Wes-Kaaplandse Instituut vir Histories Navorsing, 8, 1984, 3-4.         [ Links ]
36 Editorial, Kronos, 17, 1990, 1.
37 That exception was Helen Bradford and Msokoli Qotole's piece, 'Ingxoxo enkulu NgoNongqawuse (A Great Debate about Nongqawuse's Era), which was a reproduction and translation, with an introduction, of a series of articles on the Xhosa cattle-killing by William Gqoba in the newspaper Isigidimi SamaXosa in the 1880s. Kronos, 34, 2008, 66-105.
38 Front matter, Kronos 34, 2008.
39 'Future of the Past' was the title of a conference held at UWC from 10-12 July 1996, co-hosted by the History Department and the Mayibuye Centre for History and Culture. It was 'fraught with tensions, heated debate and sharp disagreements'. See Leslie Witz and Ciraj Rassool, 'Making Histories', Kronos 34, 2008, 6.
40 Witz and Rassool, 'Making Histories', 15.
41 Front Matter, Kronos, 25, 1998 /1999.
42 Q. Ismail, '(Not) at Home in (Hindu) India: Shahid Amin, Dipesh Chakrabarty, and the Critique of History,' Cultural Critique, 68, 1, 2008, 210.         [ Links ]
43 C. Rassool, 'The rise of heritage and the reconstitution of history in South Africa', Kronos, 26, 2000, 1-21.         [ Links ]
44 N. Solani, 'The Saint of the Struggle: Deconstructing the Mandela myth', Kronos, 26, 2000, 42-55.         [ Links ]
45 B. Harris, 'Confessing the truth: Shaping silences through the amnesty process', Kronos, 26, 2000, 76-88;         [ Links ] V. Riouful, 'Behind telling: Post-apartheid representations of Robben Island's past', Kronos, 26, 2000, 22-41.         [ Links ]
46 P. Lalu, 'Sara's suicide: History and the representational limit', Kronos, 26, 2000, 100.         [ Links ]
47 Ibid, 101.
48 L. Witz, J.R. Forte and P. Israel, 'Epistemological Restlessness: Trajectories in and out of History', in J.R. Forte, P. Israel and L. Witz (eds), Out of History: Re-imagining South African Pasts (Cape Town: HSRC Press, 2016).         [ Links ]
49 G. Minkley and M. Legassick, '"Not Telling": Secrecy, Lies, and History', History and Theory, 39, 4, December, 2000, 7.         [ Links ]
50 H. White, Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1978), 66-70.         [ Links ]
51 Ibid, 9.
52 Ibid, 1.
53 W. Shakespeare, Hamlet, Scene 1, Act 2, line 67.
54 P. Sweet, 'The Renewed Work of Copies', parallax, 22, 2, 2016, 155. See also the guidelines from Taylor & Francis for 'Using third-party material in your article', http://authorservices.taylorandfrancis.com/using-third-party-material-in-your-article/: 'It is the custom and practice in academic publishing that the reproduction of short extracts of text and some other types of material may be permitted on a limited basis for the purposes of criticism and review without securing formal permission, on the basis that:
- the purpose of quotation or use is objective and evidenced scholarly criticism or review (not merely illustration);
- a quotation is reproduced accurately, either within quotation marks or as displayed text;
- full attribution is given.
However, a quotation from a song lyric or a poem, whether used as an epigraph or within the text, will always require written permission from a copyright holder.' [Our emphasis.]
55 Sweet, 'The Renewed Work', 155.
56 Pohlandt-McCormick et al, 'East London Calling', 127.
57 W. Brown, 'Sacrificial Citizenship: Neoliberalism, Human Capital, and Austerity Politics', Constellations, 23, 1, 2016, 3.
58 Sweet, 'The Renewed Work', 155.
59 Ibid, 156.
60 Ibid, 154

Creative Commons License All the contents of this journal, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License