Where has exploring the theme of 'ansisters' taken you?
I have found myself reluctant to take the ancestry route and instead concentrated on women that have influenced my adult life. I believe that our relationships are formed many lifetimes before our recent birth and beyond our immanent death. Our fleshy existence is a temporary inhabitance. Contemplating the impact significant individuals have had on my life is something I've been doing for a long while. Ansisters has given me the opportunity to express and contemplate my sense of gratitude and awe.
What are your thoughts on the world we've inherited from our ansisters?
As a natural science student I used to often go into apoplectic rages about how incredibly short-sighted and frankly idiotic we are as a species when it comes to nurturing our environment. Then one day it occurred to me that the earth has been through this cycle many times, with greater sweeps of destruction than we as a species could ever bring about. Saving the environment actually had little to do with us caring about the Rhino, or the Elephant, or the Whale, or the Whelk as my fellow students used to joke. The simple truth is that if we don't take care of our environment and ensure the prosperity of animals like these, our own existence will be extinguished.
Our incredible lack of respect for our proximate and distant surroundings, and especially for ourselves, is what will ensure a path to self-extinction.
It is said that the profit motive drives us towards making destructive and short-sighted environmental and human resource decisions. That as long as money needs to be made, our environmental concerns will not be addressed. What completely blows my mind, is that few seem to realise that inconsiderate and short-sighted behaviour results in an overall loss in profit potential. That nurturing these 'assets' would result in greater financial gain and success.
It's not about profit – it can only be an insane desire for self-annihilation.
So, where I stand today as an artist is that I want to be reminded of my humanity. I want to hear the voices that care and consider and try to understand. I want to listen for the energy that nurtures and feeds, that loves wholeheartedly, that understands generosity and hope and faith. I want to remind that everything and everyone counts and matters. That how we put out, is what we get in. That the detail of sharing a stranger's smile is infinitely more rewarding than the frozen grin of material gain.
Do you feel you have a message from your predecessors? Or have you come to some insight in the process of investigating them? If so, what is it?
I am convinced that I have a whole cacophony of deceased family members, friends and spiritual guides that whisper their perspectives onto any of my given moments. So I believe that we're constantly being 'messaged' by them, like spiritual sms' targeting our sixth sense and instinctive truths. My beliefs are formed by the sum of my life experience and their opinions. I berate/consult/ignore them on a continual basis, just like any living family member or friend. I believe they come with their own set of disagreements and misconceptions. That they are not that much different to our living counterparts. How else can it be that we make the same mistakes generation after generation?
There is no doubt that we inherit behaviours and thought patterns that were concocted by a predecessor several generations ago. So, in a way - I am that message. A child carries forward the messages passed down from previous generations.
Why do you engage in this creative collaboration?
For me it is an opportunity to work with an incredible team of creative and kind-hearted women who care and want to effect a change in how we operate in this world. It is a breath of fresh air to be part of a creative process that nurtures our individual ability and focuses our attention as agents of social change.
What are you hoping to communicate through your intended artwork?
I am interested in a kind of contemplation that appeals to our sense of soul rather than intellect. My work is less about concept and word, and more about poetic stillness.
Sacred Spaces is about re-enacting these moments of contemplation recorded whilst on a trip to connect with an old friend that had passed away earlier that year.
I wanted to capture spaces with my video camera that I could re-enact online through the internet, as well as through video projection. Like snapshots on a holiday, they are a kind of remembering.
Within the context of Constitution Hill, they occupy a series of prison cells and become the hopes, fears and isolation of inmates previously incarcerated there.
In a sense our circumstance builds walls around our individual possibility, and we retreat back to an imagined space where we can control the outcome. Constitution Hill is a powerful reminder of where we come from and where we are as people. It is my hope that these video images will act as a conduit to remembering our individual and collective selves.
Please describe this artwork/production/play/song/series of poems that you are busy with.
Helen's Bowl Video Work as part of Bowl Installation
Helen Timm passed away in 2004. An old friend and accomplished artist, I know she would have loved to participate in Ansisters. So much of what I have come to believe is as a result of her endless monologues on the gentler shades and softer tones of life beyond empirical science.
In Napier she was fulfilling her dream of living as a painter. I visited there after she passed away and stayed in a guest house she helped manage. It was full of her presence, amongst which were paintings I had watched her complete when she still lived around my corner.
Outside there was an enamel coated bowl catching the overflow from the geyser. It's chipped edges and old decoration reminded me of Helen and I became convinced that she had put it there. In its centre a rock to weigh it down and cushion the blow of the drops.
I guess it reminded me of Catholic classrooms and rituals of signing wet crosses over our bodies. Each classroom had holy water at the door. Or maybe the hypnotic regularity of the drips focused my mind into less travelled spaces. But I loved that bowl, and somehow through it felt a connection with her, felt her body lean over and place it there, felt her search for the rock and drop it in its centre. I could tell that she was happy I had come to see her place, had come to meet her last home, had come to greet her dogs whom I'd forgotten I knew.
Sex Video & animation as part of bowl installation
The experience of being near the ocean is always a sensual one. Digging into the wet soil to excavate a vessel equally so. I knew I was there to document a bowl ritual. I knew I was there to honour an old love – an ansister. I knew her ashes had been strewn into the sea. So we made love. Her in the sea, me on the beach. Without particular gender, without particular sex. Just to be together in thought and rhythm, leaving the vessel to be consumed by the final act of waves coming in from the sea.
fe(male) Ceramic bowls and children's putty
A playful pun on the popularised Yin Yan principle: within light, there is darkness – within darkness there is light. Within male, there is female, within female, there is male. In this case the male symbol vessel was smashed and placed into the female symbol vessel, grinding down a bit of the dominant male culture and medicating it to the suppressed female culture.
It is inevitable that a project like Ansisters will stir up notions of gender wars. As a lesbian who is attracted to the straighter female sex and is married to a separatist feminist, I always find myself at curious edges of disagreement. Time, love and desire have given a sense of perspective of what it feels like to be a woman, and sometimes, what I guess it must feel like to be a man. When all is said and done, patriarchy as a concept is upheld by a society, rather than a particular gender group. Without doubt the male gender is given an enormous advantage over the female gender, but to blame a penis for all the trouble may be bit short-sighted and counter productive. What needs to be changed is the shape of our power, not our genitals.
Walking through Constitution Hill one wonders what spaces the prisoners went to in their heads when reality became unbearable. When shooting these video stills I was conscious of trying to create sacred spaces. The following is an extract after a visit to Constitution Hill:
'you try to be gracious about the walls that look like old houses - you try to sense the dreams and nightmares that got stared into them - you try to silently greet the souls that haven't left - stunned by the presence of lip gloss and glitz - somehow you wish a guide would lead your step - remind your heart - point out the hole that swallowed a certain percentage of soul'
PORTRAITS OF THREE WOMEN
Following the tradition of portraiture using video and digital manipulation, I honour three women.
How has your creative journey before this project prepared you for taking part in this?
As a digital and multimedia artist, I am particularly concerned and interested in how we are carrying our humanity forward into the digital space. As global online communities gather to exchange thoughts, ideas and commerce – it is my concern that artists should be present to comment on and reflect our global internet experience. Artists rarely occupy this space as traditional art training still revolves around techniques of hand drawing, painting and sculpture.
By building the FACE website, I have an opportunity to explore building an online activity centre which comprises the public as well as the private voices of all the participants. People who would ordinarily not have access to such a forum. My hope is that the website will reflect online artworks as well as artworks situated in the physical spaces.
Please tell us a little more about where you've been, what you've done creatively speaking.
On completing a natural sciences degree, I pursued a career in graphic design where I became proficient on the computer. After several years of working in the publishing industry, I started teaching creative process and digital skills at a design school. I now work as a freelance new media creative and educator. I am also a professional UNISA student completing a degree in Visual Arts.
In particular I am interested in creative process and concerned with the misconception that creativity is not an integral and essential part of scientific discovery, innovative thought and social well-being.
sterkfontein caves visit
walking through these caves, thoughts of you bounce back and forth with echoes of breathed conversations
and silent shufflings down passages more ancient than our extended imaginations
standing in the chamber where post-apes cooked contemplating our futures and dying in the attempt
for a moment we stand before each other across time - i : fat, hairless, bleached and giant - you : the size of chimp with eyes of equal curiosity
your simple concern for the next meal and when - mine for the comfort of my pampered soul
to think that we've both looked at similar stars in different positions - your gaze still traveling light years ahead across space
your eyes become mine and another's in another future time
your bones deeply embedded in the memory i keep forgetting
let me reach out my left hand backward and my right hand forward
and connect what brought me here, to what i bring to the future
Posted 20 June 2005, www.face.org.za, author: katty vandenberghe.