This short interview was conducted by email between Mia van Schalkwyk and Mandy Conidaris in July 2013.
Why did this particular body of artwork come into existence?
When I moved from a small town to spend time in Johannesburg, I was overwhelmed by feelings of fear, anxiety and paranoia in my new urban environment.
Do you remember a specific trigger?
My creative journey was sparked by those very feelings, trying to find ways to explore and identify them, and also by the sense of isolation that these emotions led to.
Did you have any creative influences?
My work was influenced by Charles Maggs’ work R.T. as well as Gerard Bester’s Turnstile – not sure if I was coming or going.
What role did process play in your image choices?
My videos are self-portraits, because my concept was inspired by personal experiences. In all these videos I felt very uncomfortable. In An Altered Reality I remember being very afraid while taking the footage. The process of creating these videos was one of personal exploration.
Is there a particular metaphor underlying your work?
There are several visual metaphors, all dealing with the issue of fear and paranoia within an urban environment. During the editing of these videos, the layering processes became a metaphor for the irrational thought patterns that people may develop.
Do you feel that the work expresses your intentions?
During the process of creating these videos, I was often confronted with feelings of fear or paranoia, and I was forced to face them. I do feel that these videos express my intentions, as I had to deal with these overwhelming emotions during the making of these videos. I believe that urban fear is something many people are faced with and can associate with in some way.
How do you assess your images afterwards from the perspective of their meanings to you, namely the memories they evoke of your experiences and thought processes during the making of these videos?
These artworks certainly transport me back to that state of being overwhelmed by my experiences in Johannesburg at the time, and how unknown the environment was to me. I can recall very vivid moments of anxiety and fear. I especially remember filming in the streets of Johannesburg, and how absolutely real the possible threats around me seemed.
Is the work's significance to the viewer important to you?
Although my experiences were of personal nature, it is important to me that the viewer gets a sense of the overwhelming feelings being portrayed, and I hope that they can relate to these feelings within their own context.
THE WORK OF GERHARD BESTER AND CHARLES MAGGS
A short description by Mia van Schalkwyk
In Gerard Bester’s performance piece Turnstile – Not sure if I was coming or going
, he explores life in a constantly changing Johannesburg, and addresses the subject of public space versus private space, and the issue of security (Brodie et al 2007:50). In this performance Bester, dressed in underwear, is trapped in a turnstile for the entire duration of the performance (one hour), with a security guard beside him. He tries to get comfortable in this small space, portraying what he would do in his own home, reading the newspaper. This piece was performed in public spaces and deals in a satirical way with the subjects of insecurity, unease and fear in an urban environment.
In his work R.T, Charles Maggs explores the daily tasks we go through, and the thoughts that accompany these routines. While only his head is visible in the video against a dark background, he speaks and suggests an internal dialogue that takes place (Brodie et. al 2007:134). Different moments in our day set in motion different trains of thought. Maggs voices these thoughts and questions, repeating the phrase: “Have you got this fear that’s going around?” This fear that he speaks of infiltrates our everyday lives through thought, even in non-fearful situations.
Brodie, D, Goldberg, R, Magubane, Z, Posel, D, Bilva, B. 2007. Spier Contemporary 2007. Africa Centre. (Catalogue for an exhibition held at Spier wine farm, Stellenbosch, December 2007.)