Rethinking Kakotopia at UJ

The UJ Art Gallery will host a group exhibition entitled Rethinking Kakotopia, curated by Derek Zietsman, from 6 September to 4 October 2017.

The exhibition is based on the premise that transgressive visual interpretation of kakotopia should, but only sometimes does, play an important role in creating awareness of the crisis of exclusion and violence in the world today.

Kakotopia, from the Greek ‘kakos’ (bad, vile, ugly, and unhappy) and ‘topos’ (place), was the term used by English philosopher Jeremy Bentham to describe a negative state of society, an anti-utopia characterised by chaos and disintegration. The literature describes a kakotopian society as one where the citizens often live in a dehumanised state, with fear of the outside world, having lost respect for the natural world.

Rethinking Kakotopia encompasses visual explorations and commentary around the ongoing issues that surround our notions of identity and belonging in the contemporary world; how these notions often negate our ‘sense of place’. The exhibition explores stories of (amongst other things), corruption, emotive nationalism, xenophobia, belonging, nostalgia, sentiment, patriotism, freedom, and rage against the decimation of our fauna. The invited artists are asked to formulate reflections on the ability and psyche of people to survive and respond to the challenges of change; to move from kakotopia to utopia.

“The concept South Africa can be seen as an imaginative one,” says Zietsman. “It functions as a repository for our individual and collective memories; it carries symbolic meanings that influence our view of ethnicity; how we, as a society, become structured. South Africa embodies an imaginative structuring of peoples, which has recently become a rationale for exclusion, dispossession, [and] alienation of the other.”

He concurs that the artists can obviously not offer solutions – but they can present imagery that may serve as tools for reflection, debate and awareness. “The artworks in this exhibition should carry no single formula; the artists are expected to examine the ways in which South Africa’s past and present impact on our artistic selves, and embody our struggle to present valid commentary on the nearly-impossible tangle of cultures and emotions that is South Africa.”

About the curator:

Derek Zietsman holds a Bachelor of Visual Arts (UNISA) and a Masters in Fine Art (cum laude) from the University of Johannesburg – from whom he also received the Chancellor’s Medal for the most meritorious master’s study. In his art-making and curating, Zietsman primarily explores and comments on issues that surround our notions of identity and belonging in the contemporary world; how these notions often negate our ‘sense of place’, perceived by him as creating an existential angst in contemporary society.

Participating artists in this show are:

Janine Allen-Spies, Vusi Beauchamp, Kim Berman, Tanisha Bhana, Doris Bloom, Conrad Botes, Collin Cole, Mandy Coppes-Martin, Grace da Costa, Bevan de Wet, Christiaan Diedericks, Christine Dixie, Eric Duplan, Nicolas Durocher-Yvon, Verna du Toit, Paul Emmanuel, Heidi Fourie, Gordon Froud, Yannis Generalis, Pauline Gutter, Sandra Hanekom, Gerrit Hattingh, Helena Hugo, Paul Mantzios, Setlamorago Mashilo, Collen Maswanganyi, Jacki McInnes, Isabel Mertz, Gwen Miller, Lwandiso Njara, Leanne Olivier, John Roome, Daandrey Steyn, Richardt Strydom, Angus van Zyl Taylor, Minnette Vari, Diane Victor, Wayne Matthews, Sybrand Wiechers, Izanne Wiid, Derek Zietsman, Asha Zero


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