Writing Art History Since 2002

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KZNSA Gallery | Durban

A man lounges in a striped deckchair, his newspaper’s headline reading, “Moment the World Changed” blissfully unaware of the airborne beach ball, photographed the instant before it hits him. A brilliantly captured moment? Perhaps. Photographic reality is a sly and curious beast. Images may ring true but composition often lies, unabashedly, and with intriguing consequences. Such is the case with Dale Yudelman’s exhibition Reality Bytes. His compositions, Yudelman explains, are constructed from various photographs he has taken; the resulting 38 images are amalgamations of fact and fiction, illustrating satirical and, often, humorous moments set against a post-apartheid, urban backdrop. The nature of visual reality and our perceptions, even assumptions, thereof are teased and questioned. Yudelman plays narrator, offering poignant, if often somewhat obscure, social commentaries. His images provoke a second glance, worthy of a double take, pointedly to correct assumptions and establish possible meanings in his juxtapositions. A vagrant, wrapped in blankets, lying outside a linen store, or a backpack-totting child, shielded against rain by a see-through cover, echoing a bubble-wrapped Madonna shelved behind him.Unfortunately, I found Reality Bytes succeeded only in amusing the assumptive mind, not challenging it, as the artist intends. Perhaps a more thorough editing process might have sharpened the edges of this series. The repeated pattern of ‘reality quirk’, landscape format and 38 similarly presented works, reduced the potential punch of the series to a dull prod.Having said this, it was refreshing to view an exhibition where the artist does not take himself too seriously. Currently a form of photojournalism has found favour and been elevated to the status of fine art in many of South Africa’s white cubes. Yudelman’s manipulation, and subsequent recreation of reality generates an interesting dialogue with this voguish style. In contrast to those bittersweet chunks of reality, most of Yudelman’s bites embody a light-hearted spirit, and works such as Lucky, a picture of an ill-fated mutt, are seemingly produced for nothing more than a quiet chuckle.It was Yudelman’s video piece, Postmortem 2010, images of African boys playing soccer on dusty pitches, dubbed over with the opinions of three, white South Africans (recorded on SAfm) concerning South Africa’s winning the 2010 bid, that possessed a more promising depth. Set up in an arcade machine, this work provided a more resonant social commentary, alluding to Yudelman’s proven artistic ability, which the rest of the exhibition might otherwise not have done complete justice to.

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