Back to new art

The island (2009)

Analogue interactive installation with Lucifern Cold Green, enamels and black pigment on canvas and board

Floor space (366 x 244cm); painting (162 x 115cm)

The interactive installation is inspired by the UFS/ Reitz hostel race discrimination incident that depicted white male students discriminating against older black cleaners in a hostel-integration “ritual”. The incident has had profound implications for most South African universities, as many are now labelled as islands of racism. Its after –effects has caused immense anger amongst people, UFS students and staff members including myself, but there are many people including academics that are emotionally disconnected and who do not display any understanding of the hurt it has caused. While interviewing Matsepe Tsoai, one of the students that released the video to the media, I become more attentive to the way in which most black South African communities considered older woman as mothers and the extent of insult this incident have created. With this in mind I have painted my puffy son Ethan lying possessively, but also helplessly, in the arms of his nanny Liesbeth. The project deals with the complexities associated to historically rooted cross-cultural interaction that surround surrogate mother figure and child, or the slave-master relationship.

The interactivity implies experimentation with phosphor paint, developed by the head of the UFS physics department, Prof. Hendrik Swart. The paint is environmentally friendly since its “cold” green composition does not use energy to reflect a large amount of light. I have applied the phosphor paint on the top and inside the painting and on the floor space. The viewer can physically interact by standing on two engraved circles on the floor space. This action deactivates studio lights and reveals a spatial image painted in fluorescent, light activating phosphor. Interactive engagement with the image enables a transmutation process between viewer and image that causes an alchemically induced awakening that in turn enables spiritual and emotional connection between viewer, image and its underlying issues. During this process the floor space and circles fall away into a painted milky way playing on the disappearance of islands. I experienced a sense of restorative justice by creating this self-reflexive artwork, an experience I hope audiences will share.

Thresholds: Geognostic eye, violence, restorative justice, performance, analogue interactivity