Writing Art History Since 2002

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At a media briefing yesterday morning, the Department of Arts and Culture and the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown – commissioners and curators respectively of the 2013 South African Pavilion – announced the theme and some of the artists that will be representing South Africa at the 55th La Biennale di Venezia.


Curator of this exhibition, Brenton Maart, gives context for their choices: “To understand how and why histories continue to impact on the world today, contemporary South African artists are turning to the archive, and the chronicles of history here become the building blocks for creative action. Working with archives in a creative ways allows the artist to create work with the potential to (de)construct ideologies, and thus change the course of our contemporary world. In South Africa, specifically, artists may therefore be seen as activists in the evolution of democracy, and it is this evolution that is explored in Imaginary Fact: Contemporary South African Art and the Archive.”

“The voices contained in this exhibition are as rich and varied as those of the citizens of our country. They are bold and they are brave. Some are already celebrated internationally, some are beginning to make their voices heard. All are immensely talented and, as a nation, we are proud of them and of the opportunity to showcase them to the world.” said Minister of Arts and Culture, Paul Mashatile. The following artists have been contracted so far, to appear as part of the exhibition: Joanne Bloch, Wim Botha, Kay Hassan, David Koloane, Gerhard Marx, Maj a Marx and Philip Miller, Sam Nhlengethwa, Johannes Phokela, Cameron Platter, Andrew Putter, Penny Siopis and Sue Williamson. Some of the work represented will draw from the oeuvre of these artists, while some will be commissioned specifically for this exhibition.

“The painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, film, electronic and performance work on exhibition are as representative of the diversity of concerns as of the kinds of archive they access. The curatorial concept – artists who use materials of the past to comment on the contemporary – is poised as an assessment to show where South Africa is, and how far it has come, as the country approaches its 20th anniversary of constitutional freedom.” explains curator Brenton Maart.

“The exhibition is about the protection and preservation of our national heritage and the symbols and artifacts of that heritage.” said Mashatile. He continued, “It is also about using the arts to question and challenge our reading of the past, to reach a new understanding of it and to craft a new and inclusive narrative for our country.”

“We have no doubt that those who will be representing us at this year’s Venice Biennale, will do so with pride and distinction” concluded Minister Mashatile.
The 55th International Art Exhibition will take place in Venice from 1 June to 24 November 2013. The title chosen by Exhibition Director Massimiliano Gioni for the 55th Biennale is Il Palazzo Enciclopedico / The Encyclopaedic Palace.
The National Arts Festival is sponsored by Standard Bank, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Eastern Cape Government, Department of Arts and Culture, City Press and M Net.

Brenton Maart is an artist, writer and curator, and currently a PhD candidate at the Centre for Curating the Archive, Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. He holds an Advanced Diploma in Photography from the Market Photography Workshop,an M.A. in Fine Arts from the University of the Witwatersrand and an M.Sc. cum laude from Rhodes University.Previous positions include those as Director of the KZNSA Gallery, Exhibitions Curator at the Johannesburg Art Gallery, Exhibitions and Curatorial Consultant at Freedom Park Trust and Curator of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature Art Collection.


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