Willem Boshoff’s The Blind Alphabet – Letter B: Babery to Bigeminate, a digital experience curated by Annali Cabano-Dempsey, Curator of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) Art Collection, and Niel Nortje, Manager of the MTN Art Collection, opened online on 4 November.
This online documentary project presents a fresh approach to Boshoff’s The Blind Alphabet (1991), made of wood, steel and aluminium, and more specifically forty wooden forms representing the letter B in The Blind Alphabet as part of the extensive MTN Art Collection.
This project in its online form and the exhibition, to be hosted by the UJ Art Gallery in real space and time during 2021, was made possible by a generous sponsorship by the MTN SA Foundation and a supporting grant from Business and Arts South Africa (BASA).
The opening of this exhibition coincided with the launch of the Moving Cube, the UJ Art Gallery’s newly developed online platform. This website offers content such as 3D virtual exhibitions, 2D documentation, educational programmes, online walkabouts, video interviews with artists and curators, media reports, archival material and opportunities to read and learn more about artists and their respective oeuvres.
Viewers can enter a fun-filled competition from today until 19 November 2020. Entrants can learn more about Braille text and Morse code, create a sculpture, write and illustrate a story about sensory deprivation and draw a self-portrait while blindfolded in four different activities. The most outstanding entries in each category can win a Samsung Galaxy A6 tablet and spot prizes will be awarded to runners-up. Please keep an eye on @Facebook and movingcube.uj.ac.za for more information.
The opening and launch event also saw the announcement to the winner of the Emerging Artist Development Programme, by this time a well-established programme linked to the collaboration between the UJ Art Gallery and the MTN SA Foundation. This programme affords young artists the opportunity to showcase their talents and interpretations linked to a given theme relating to the MTN and UJ collaborative exhibitions.
Pretoria-based artist Selwyn Steyn was announced the winner of the Emerging Artist Development Programme. Steyn (23) completed his undergraduate degree in architecture at the University of Pretoria in 2019, ending as top design student and winner of the Pretoria Institute of Architecture design award in his year. His passion and focus however has always been conceptual art.
The Memetic Sculpture: A Speculation on Cultural Contagion, 2020, stained meranti-wood, galvanised steel bolts, aluminium wire, paint, scooped up the coveted first prize of R30 000, and according to Cabano-Dempsey, one of the judges, it was the prowess of the work, both conceptually and in execution, that impressed the adjudication panel. “Steyn’s Memetic Sculpture, with integral digital coding, allows for ‘an edition of infinite size’ – an apt democratic strategy in the time of a social isolation – and resonates with Boshoff’s approach to disenfranchisement,” she says.
In his Artist Statement Steyn proposes “an artwork which if scanned redirects the viewer to all information necessary for the viewer to replicate the work in question. The artist fully relinquishes intellectual ownership of the work, hence the work is an edition of infinite size.
“The project speculates that the work could in theory traverse the globe, where each additional sculpture generates new potential for the work to be replicated elsewhere. The work represents an amoral meditation on how the virulent spread of myth, narrative and ideology determines the fabric of our collective existence.
This in essence posits metaphysics as the primary agent acting upon the concrete world. The process of creation of the work was informed by the congruence found in the development of ideas and language: additive, iterative, seemingly constructed, but often generated organically. This is done whilst acknowledging the symbiosis between the two: language as medium for exchange of ideas or, as often speculated by the school of linguistics, language as precursor and determinant to culture.”
Steyn’s work also corresponds with that of composer Jaco Meyer who wrote a set of accompanying music for Boshoff’s forty wooden forms, drawing on and inventing a tonal vocabulary to translate The Blind Alphabet into music. Meyer’s addition to The Blind Alphabet can be accessed through a QR code added to each of the forty physical sculptures in this collection – to be accessed by the visually impaired through cell phone technology.
As a first since the inception of the Emerging Artist Development Programme the judges decided to introduce a runner-up and Pretoria based artist Frans Lucky Phooko was awarded this prize for his painting Braille Word Search Puzzles. Phooko (33) is a graduate of the Capricorn FET College in Polokwane where he obtained his Diploma in Art and Design.
“Phooko developed a challenging and engaging Braille puzzle for the visually impaired to encourage vocabulary and tactile skills,” says Cabano-Dempsey.
Phooko will receive a Samsung Galaxy A6 tablet courtesy of MTN in addition to the R3 500 prize money as one of the ten finalists.
Apart from the online exhibition the artworks by the ten finalists will be exhibited in 2021 alongside the Willem Boshoff artworks as part of an envisaged actual space and time exhibition in the UJ Art Gallery.
The ten finalists in alphabetical order are Lana Combrinck, Neo Diseko, Xanthé Jackson, Miné Kleynhans, Tré Mkhabela, Oratile “Papi” Konopi, Franz Phooko, Alexa Pienaar, Tristan Roland and Selwyn Steyn.
The judges – Niel Nortjé (MTN), Katlego Lefine (MTN), Annali Cabano-Dempsey (UJ), Mia van Schalkwyk (UJ), and Mpho Mazibuko, Angelique Bougaard and Ndaya Kim Ilunga (three mentees in the current MTN & UJ Mentorship Programme) – were applying the use of innovative and creative ways of multi-disciplinary approaches as a dominant consideration in determining the list of finalists.
NOTES TO THE EDITOR
For more information contact Annali Cabano-Dempsey at email@example.com or Mia van Schalkwyk at firstname.lastname@example.org or access the UJ Art Gallery’s website at movingcube.uj.ac.za
High resolution images of some of the artworks are available on WeTransfer.
ABOUT WILLEM BOSHOFF
Willem Boshoff is a respected South African artist known for his ability to push the boundaries of conceptual art. He has exhibited at the UJ Art Gallery on numerous occasions and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Johannesburg in 2008.
Fascinated by words, taxonomies and coding, he is painstakingly creating new dictionaries, continuously adding to his collection. He considers language as the vehicle of knowledge and information, but also, ambivalently, as an instrument in the service of power agencies, as the symbol of the transient nature of knowledge and the loss of shared myths.
ABOUT JACO MEYER
Jaco Meyer is a Johannesburg based composer and academic. He obtained a PhD in Musicology from the North-West University and a Licentiate of Trinity College London in Composition. As composer he received many commissions and his music has been performed by international musicians, ensembles and orchestras. His research on music analysis, music theory and perception in music has been presented at various international conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals.
ABOUT UJ ARTS & CULTURE
UJ Arts & Culture, a division of the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture (FADA), produces and presents world-class student and professional arts programmes aligned to the UJ vision of an international university of choice, anchored in Africa, dynamically shaping the future. A robust range of arts platforms are offered on all four UJ campuses for students, staff, alumni and the general public to experience and engage with emerging and established Pan-African and international artists drawn from the full spectrum of the arts.
In addition to UJ Arts & Culture, FADA (www.uj.ac.za/fada) offers programmes in eight creative disciplines, in Art, Design and Architecture, as well as playing home to the NRF SARChI Chair in South African Art & Visual Culture, and the Visual Identities in Art & Design Research Centre. The Faculty has a strong focus on sustainability and relevance, and engages actively with the dynamism, creativity and diversity of Johannesburg in imagining new approaches to art and design education.
ABOUT MTN SA FOUNDATION
MTN SA Foundation is a corporate social investment wing of MTN South Africa, a subsidiary of MTN Group. Launched in 1994, the MTN Group is a leading emerging markets operator with a clear vision to lead the delivery of a bold new digital world to our 240 million customers in 21 countries in Africa and the Middle East. We are inspired by our belief that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life. The MTN Group is listed on the JSE Securities Exchange in South Africa under the share code “MTN”. We are pursuing our BRIGHT strategy with a major focus on growth in data, fintech and digital businesses.
Visit us at www.mtn.com or www.mtn.co.za, or follow us on Twitter @MTNza.
ABOUT BUSINESS AND ARTS SOUTH AFRICA (BASA)
Constituted in terms of the Companies Act, BASA is registered as a public benefit organisation (PBO) and is accountable to its stakeholders. The BASA Board of Directors comprises Chair Charmaine Soobramoney, with Deputy Chair Mandie van der Spuy, and Kojo Baffoe, Kathy Berman, Devi Sankaree Govender, Ashraf Johaardien (BASA CEO), Hilton Lawler, Andre Le Roux, Khanyi Mamba, Zingisa Motloba, Carel Nolte, Dr Yacoob Omar, and Mirna Wessels. For more information please visit www.basa.co.za to become a BASA member, click on the ‘JOIN US’ tab at the top of the home page.