Joburg invades Venice

Joburg’s Biennale: Art collective The CUSS Group will be among the participants taking part in the unofficial Joburg Biennale at the 56th Venice Biennale

A free-wheeling group of South Africa’s leading artists and patrons are joining forces to launch an independent performance  exhibit alongside the South African Pavillion at the 2015 Venice Biennale.

This new Joburg Pavilion is according to the organizers, "in no way a response" to the controversy-riddled SA Pavilion, which is funded by the department of arts and culture to exhibit at what is arguably the world’s most important art fair.

Roelof van Wyk, one of the independent pavilion’s founding members, said the idea was to “show the arts establishment what we Africans are made of”.

The Joburg Pavilion involves 12 performance artists and works by 15 film and video artists, “all exploring what Johannesburg means to them”, Van Wyk said.

Athi-Patra Ruga, Anthea Moys, Bogosi Sekhukhuni, Kudzanai Chiurai and Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi are among those taking part.

The 56th Venice Biennale, whose theme is All the World’s Futures, opens on May 9 in the Italian city and runs until November.

Members of the Joburg Pavilion are concerned that the government-sponsored and run exhibition doesn’t showcase the scope of South Africa’s emerging artistic talent.

“Performance art and screen-based art, such as film, video and digital arts, are possibly the least commercial art forms, or most difficult to commoditise, in the South [African] art world, which is dominated by the commerce of wall- and floor-based art,” said Van Wyk.

But he said it was in exhibiting these less commercially successful varieties that a new side of South Africa’s exciting art scene would be given a chance to show their work, " we are looking forward to making a strong and surprising South African impact in Venice during the Biennale with the artists participating in the Johannesburg Pavilion performing in the streets of Venice, while  the artists in the SA Pavilion fly the national flag."

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