Text by Katrin Lewinsky
The art exhibition Basic Reality is not a curated exhibition. As the artistic
positions existed prior to the invitation, it is the artists’ present context that
relates to this exhibition. The exhibiting group of South African artists provide
examples of contemporary art mainly produced in South Africa between
2010-2011. The exhibition exists alongside current creative processes and
contributes to their development within a public interface. It is at the same
time to be seen as a medium in itself, created and completed by the artists.
This exhibition is unique and can’t be repeated. Goodman Gallery takes the
position of a commercial production partner offering the artists advice and
In this sense Basic Reality is a conceptual exhibition. It is formulating a liberal
progress of reference for contemporary art. It contains a neutral perspective
towards the possibilities of exchange between the media art and public in
order to relate to and establish processes of reality.
In the following conceptual text a theory on reality is introduced as part of a
greater philosophical discourse and as a consideration for statements on
contemporary art, like this exhibition. For the interest of relating to the artists
and the exhibited artwork outside of the theoretical concept on reality, selfreferential
artistic statements form a main component of this exhibition.
Theoretical text as a philosophical background and basis of discussion
The world can be seen as completely catalogued and analysed and then,
almost as compensation, artificially regenerated as if this were the reality. And
it is by these artificial strategies that we, all being specimen of ethnology,
here, in a metropolis, in all forms of society, try to live with representations of
reality. This common state assumes that none of our societies know how to
manage their social self, their power, their reality.
In this sense, the real that we experience is not reality. A basis for the
development of various structures: a growth of the true, of the lived
understanding for anthropological structures such as religion, technology,
language etc. There is a utopian culture that is conditional to human
awareness of, for example, a return of the metaphorical without object and
substance; of creations of idealistic models such as melancholy, of myths of
origin and signs of reality; of truth, objectivity and established authenticity.
Furthermore, a frantic production of the real and the referential exists, greater
than and similar to the madness of material production. We create visible
continua, visible myths of origin as existential evidence for the ultimate belief.
We correlate to productions of systems, commodities, of political economy
and of over-production. This is the restitution of the real that society has
developed to remove itself from. This is a hyperreality.
This hyperreality implicates an anti-form to every principle and objective.
And thus also to an interesting current principle in our society: the code of
capital. Capital is a challenge to society. It was capital that was the first to
feed, throughout history, on the destruction of every referential, of every
human goal, which crushed every ideal separation of the good and the truth
and their counterparts in order to establish a radical law of equivalence and
exchange, its law of power. It was the first to practice abstraction, severance,
deterritorialisation, etc. If capital has generated reality, its reality principle
exterminates the use of value, of real equivalence, of production and wealth.
In this system another evaluating strategy is simultaneously manifested:
power. This capacity shall be mentioned here as for a certain period it has the
disposition to assemble only signs of an affinity and the figure of a collective
demand for its signs. Those signs are equivalent to a setting, which is not a
principle, and more substantially not an ideology, as ideology does not relate
to reality or power, only to its infidelity.
Reality is evident in modes of power, as it is real in anything that is situational.
While ideology aims to restore the objective process, especially those of
common standards, this causes pretentious problems with restoring the truth
beneath a setting. This dynamic leads to the reason why power is so in
agreement with ideological discourses, for these are all discourses of truth
that always establish a good and avant-garde quality.
Art, and contemporary art in this context, of the matter of reality and its
structures of acceptance, manipulation and anticipation in our society, has
the power to create realities. In the existing scenarios art is closer to reality
than any other form of artificial production. Art inherently expresses critical
conditions, abstraction and redemption of the status quo. As a creative selfreferential
system it is not dependant on any form of power, reality, hyper
structure and capital, on any existential and ethnological conditions. Art has
thus by its immanent reduced artificial conditions, have the ability to settle the
basic conditions of the society to participate and create reality. Every art
exhibition is an opportunity to experience the visualised expressions of this
Thabiso Sekgala (b. 1981 in Johannesburg, South Africa) was a photographer whose work explores themes of abandonment, memory, spatial politics and concept of home. ‘In photography I am inspired by looking at human experience whether lived or imagined,’ Sekgala once expressed. ‘Images capture our history and who we are, our presence and absence. Growing up in both rural and urban South Africa influences my work. The dualities of these both environments inform the stories I am telling through my photographs, by engaging issues around land, peoples’ movement, identity and the notion of home.’
Sekgala held solo exhibitions in South Africa and Europe and has exhibited in group shows internationally, including Les Rencontres D’Arles, LagosPhoto Festival and Bamako Biennale. In 2013 he had residencies in both the Kunsterhaus Bethanien, Berlin, and at HIWAR/Durant Al Funun, Jordan.
He studied at Johannesburg’s Market Photo Workshop in 2007 to 2008 and was awarded the Tierney Fellowship in 2010.
Sekgala died in Johannesburg in 2014.
Gerald Machona is a Zimbabwean born Visual artist with a Master’s Degree in Fine Art from Rhodes University and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Cape Town, completed at the Michaelis School of fine art. Machona’s work has been included on several prominent international exhibitions, which include the South African Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale in Italy, All the World’s Futures and at the 20th Biennale of Sydney, The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed. Machona’s work has also appearedin exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum in New York and at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town.
Machona works with sculpture, performance, new media, photography and film. The most notable aspect of his work is his innovative use of currency—particularly decommissioned Zimbabwean dollars—as an aesthetic material. Machona’s current work engages with issues of migration, transnationalism, social interaction and xenophobia in Africa.
In 2013, Machona featured in Mail and Guardian’s 200 Young South African’s supplemental and was selected by Business Day and the Johannesburg Art Fair in 2011 as one of the top ten young African artists practicing in South Africa. In 2019 Machona was included on the group exhibition Still Here Tomorrow to High Five You Yesterday at Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town.