Artefacts from the Sandpit and Other Lice
I find it absurd that we have become accustomed to being submissive to capitalist systems. We don’t question and we end up naively driving the corporate systems that suppress and exploit us. Corporations are putting the ideas and equipment out there, but we are keeping them alive.
In this exhibition, I subvert these systems, using satire to turn a serious matter into something absurd, incoherent, and humorous, alluding to a sense of bewilderment – the same bewilderment I felt when I heard that an insurance company was going to sue me over a car accident that happened years previously, while knowing that I could not afford this financially. The lawyers and the people working for insurance corporations are simply "doing their jobs", so one cannot really blame them. Still, these enterprise companies were building empires on the labour, money, and ideas of the poor and the middleclass. It has gone beyond the individual. It is a system and we are part of it - whether we want to be or not.
My exhibition, Artefacts from the Sandpit and Other Lice is a series of five animations with separate titles. In these animations I subvert the serious nature of this situation, turning it into playful and, sometimes, incoherent absurdities. The process of creating the imagery in my work was serendipitous at times; it mimics aspects of the methodologies and ideologies of movements such as Surrealism, Dadaism and Absurd Theatre.
Furthermore, I was interested in finding a process to activate serendipity by using the foundation of knowledge, insight and experience that I had already obtained. With a craft knife I hand cut images from books and magazines which I juxtapose over other images that I find visually aesthetic. Although my stop-frame animations are edited digitally, they retain a sense of the raw and tactile.
A Different Shade of Yellow was created by fusing World War I images with my felt experience on the day that I received the lawyer’s letter from the insurance company. It was also the same day that I found a book that became the visual basis for my animation. An Incoherent Moment between a Worm Who Might Never Fly and a Fish-Cloud That Just Drifts By was created from my confusion around this incident, and You Can Keep Your Cycling Ladders of Trickery and Lies was created when I started to analyse the experience regarding the way corporate systems work. Go Ask the Zebra-King Who Was Pulling on That String and Parowdigm developed out of my own photographs of the lonely and obscure spaces in and around my neighbourhood that I identified with, and I turned these into mini sets.
One motif throughout my animations is the cockroach. The cockroach running within the wheel has become my metaphor for how we as individuals run around in circles, getting nowhere, but unknowingly driving these large systems.
My intention with this exhibition was to subvert ideas around the way big corporations exploit the individual even though we have become the driving force behind it. I want to convey how absurd my experience was and how baffled I am by these systems that we have accepted in our society.
Molyneux, J. 2009. Chance and Serendipity: Locating the Sublime. Thesis, Griffith University, Brisbane.
www.occupywallst.org (Accessed 1 November 2013).
I am interested in the relationship between media images and the construction of reality in contemporary society. With the proliferation of media devices and media outlets, social life has become filled with media content at every level.
In his article, An A-Z of theory, Jean Baudrillard: Hyperreality and Implosion, Andrew Robinson explains that for Baudrillard, the media contributes to the destruction of meaning as it creates excessive information, which leads to the loss of meaning and ultimately the destruction and entropy of society (Robinson 2012).
In my video, Torrent (2013)¹, I allude to our habitual intake of information and aim to raise questions regarding our ability to process and internalize the tsunami of information we are engulfed by on a daily basis. Flashing information is superimposed onto the silhouette figures and becomes an inherent and internal part of them as they perform a simple daily routine.
Information has never been as accessible and available as it is today. We walk around in a world filled with media images and texts and we use this information to make sense of the world around us. Torrent (2013) explores the effects that excessive information have on contemporary society and how we relate to information.
¹ A torrent is defined as “a strong or fast moving stream of water or other liquid” or “an overwhelmingly large outpouring“(Oxford Paperback Dictionary Thesaurus and Wordpower Guide 2001: Sv “Torrent”)
Robinson, A. 2012. The A-Z of Theory/ Jean Baudrillard: Hyperreality and Implosion. Ceasefire Magazine 2012. Available at http://www.ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/in-theory-baudrillard-9/ (Accessed on 10/7/2013)
Curator’s statement: A torrent in the sandpit
We all live inside the terrible engine of authority, and it grinds and shrieks and burns so that no one will say: lines on maps are silly.
Catherynne M. Valente
(The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making)
The two artists whose animated films are shown in this duo online exhibition are both grappling with notions of how meaning is constructed in our society, raising questions about the role of systems and structures that steer our meaning-making pursuit. How do we navigate a path where the tension between a quest for meaning and an inherent meaningless world is a daily obstacle?
At first glance, Christel Liebenberg’s animated video Torrent (2013) shows an everyday domestic scene: a daily routine in an ordinary kitchen, a couple drinking their morning coffee. Except, instead of drinking coffee, the bodies are consuming a bombardment of broadcasted events, filling up with a montage of typical news footage.
With this video Christel is making visible the way we engage with excessive, low quality information in our everyday existence. It spills over us like a fluid, indecipherable and not really making sense. We pick up disjointed snippets, but the in-depth meaning is lost. It does not affect us or change our behaviour; in the end each person puts the coffee mug down as usual, turns away and departs to start the tasks of the day.
Hanne-Lizé Delport’s series of five short animations called Artefacts from the Sandpit and Other Lice (2013) was sparked off by a collective response to bewildering experiences in her own life, such as being sued by an insurance company years after a motor car accident, and knowingly that she cannot afford to pay the amount. Employing humour and satire, she subverts these experiences in absurd narratives where fish fall from the sky and a zebra moves on wheels. Hanné-Lize’s playful scenes are constructed from found print images, creating collages of hybridical characters.
As a two-person exhibition, these artists highlight two different aspects of the same issue. Whereas Christel suggests the loss of meaning through excessive, low quality information, Hanne-Lizé questions how meaning is constructed through systems in society. Both artists allude to a sense of absurdity.
The notion of absurdity in artworks as a response to the seeming meaninglessness of life has been recognised from as early as the farcical scenes of the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450 - August 9, 1516), such as his The Garden of earthly delights (1504), and continues into the 20th Century art movements of Dada and Surrealism. Like Dada and Surrealist artists, contemporary artists and visual culture use distorted, fragmented and hybridical images that defy rational understanding and comment on the perceived absurdity of current events and systems. The work of the fashion designer Alexander McQueen (1969 – 2010), and the artists Eva Kotatkova and William Kentridge are good examples of this notion.
In Albert Camus’ essay, The Myth of Sisyphus (1942), “ … absurdity is best captured in an image, not an argument: of Sisyphus straining to push his rock up the mountain, watching it roll down, then descending after the rock to begin all over, in an endless cycle. Like Sisyphus, humans cannot help but continue to ask after the meaning of life, only to see our answers tumble back down.” http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/camus/
The two artists in the Torrent in the sandpit exhibition use several conventions to suggest the notion of absurdity. Christel and Hanne-Lizé construct imagery through collage or montage techniques either digitally (as in the case of Christel) or hand crafted and then taken into a digital animation (as in the case of Hanné-Lize) to enable devices such as distortion, fragmentation, hybridity or subliminal visual associations which enhance strangeness. These techniques and their visual results serve as metaphors for the disruption of meaning in the videos of both artists.
In Christel’s Torrent, the bodies of the two coffee drinkers become fragmented by their transparent nature, blending with the news footage and their environment. They lose all sense of self and of a unique identity. The endlessness of the cycle is suggested in the action of the two figures: tomorrow they will drink their morning coffee again as usual, and again they will be filled up with meaningless imagery.
Whereas Christel’s video forms a complete narrative on its own, Hanne-Lizé’s series of short animations postulates a disjointed, interrupted narrative, much in the same way that she has interrupted imagery of animal and human bodies with her cut-and-paste collage technique. The action of Sisyphus’ endless attempt to push a rock up the mountain is evoked by Hanne-Lizé’s recurring theme of a cockroach, driving the wheels of a war tank through his incessant running.
The viewer of Christel’s Torrent and Hanne-Lizé’s Artefacts from the Sandpit and Other Lice is invited to engage with the imagery on a level beyond reason, and instead allow him/herself to be lured into a bizarre sequence of events that is sometimes delightfully funny and playful, yet speaking of the grand narratives of life.
The intention of the juxtaposition of the two artists in the exhibition Torrent in the Sandpit is to suggest two different ways that visual imagery could navigate the absurdity of contemporary meaning-making pursuits. The exhibition also comments on the reciprocal relationship between visual imagery and our quest for meaning in life.
If the world were clear, art would not exist