he curious conversation of screams that plays out between Nelmarie du Preez and her Gui (Graphical User Interface) took home the R100 000 first prize of this year’s Sasol New Signatures award announced this week. In the work, titled To Shout, two performers – one Du Preez and the other her virtual, male alter ego – reinterpret a work by performance artist Marina Abramović (whose collaborations with Jay Z and Lady Gaga was all the talk last year). In Abramović’s work she screams “aaah” and her partner, Ulay, screams “aaah” back at her.
In Du Preez’s To Shout, however, the artist creates a part-human, part-machine version of the work as she screams at a digital version of herself that answers in response. By collaborating with her “digital other”, as she puts it, she generates new ways for us to look at our virtual reality and, in turn, the real-life effects of virtuality itself. “The advent of social-media platforms has enabled people to create new identities for themselves, which can at times have no relation to reality,” said Du Preez in her submission.
This was a bumper year for the prestigious South African visual art award, now in its 26th year. The theme for 2015 – An Eye for Potential – set the submissions on a course to consider the future and the place of the arts in it. In The Final Moments of Emmanuel Sithole, runner-up Mareli Janse van Rensburg comments on the xenophobic attacks and specifically on the death of Sithole – the Mozambican national whose violent murder was caught on camera and published on the front page of the Sunday Times.
In the work, Janse van Rensburg weaves together ribbon-shaped slices of the unforgettable image into a textile, which she then shapes into a mask and photographs herself wearing.
She comments on how the media images of his death influenced her as an individual.
The merit awards for this year include Rory Emmett’s video work, Transcending, which uses a site-specific intervention to consider the notion of colour in the context of the ideas embodied by a “coloured person” and a “person of colour”. In the work, he dresses up as his avatar, Colourman, to dismantle a wall painted in different colours that the artist erected in District Six – the historic Cape Town suburb that was once a site of violent forced removals in the 70s under apartheid rule.
Nazeerah Jacub takes apart her hybrid heritage to discuss what she calls her “rather odd identity”. The work she entered, titled Identity Origins, is essentially an oil painting of a Muslim prayer mat, known as a Musallah. The deep ruby palette and faded lines imply something used and well-worn.
“The medium in which the carpet is represented is through painterly processes as a means of introducing the love for praying within a confined space and that of something which is frowned upon, so that the two may provide a compromise.”