What I find the best South African newspaper, so far at least, is the Mail & Guardian. It’s a weekly paper, one I also read while in Zimbabwe. There, unsurprisingly, it was the best available newspaper by a very, very long stretch, with all serious papers being banned.
The M&G has an arts listing, focused on the area in which you buy the newspaper and since Gauteng is quite a happening place, the listing is extensive and always has a few interesting events.
One that intrigued me extensively was accompanied by a raving review from which I couldn’t make heads nor tails. Here’s a quote:
Organising Cities consists of an assemblage of some 2000 images constructed into a three-dimensional spray diagram system of connected city spaces floating above floor level. In this way, Hobbs (Stephen Hobbs, the photographer) elicits idiosyncatic juxtapositions between 22 cities from around the world, which, in turn, set up a visual play between their own skyline and that of the city beyond the gallery windows
Then the review goes on:
This promises to be one of the most spectacular and detailed photo shows South Africa has yet seen. Don’t miss it.
Now that we’ve visited, I get the picture (haha). The gallery, on the sixth floor of a narrow 9 storey flat in downtown Johannesburg has amazing views. On the 30 square meter balcony, or so, at the bar sponsored by Famous Grouse, all the very classy drinks were free of charge, the problem being that classy drinks take a long time to prepare, meaning the wait times were unpleasantly long.
The exhibition itself, well, I was seriously underwhelmed. A few of the walls were lined with black and white stills from, mostly, German cities. Most of the stills were not, in any way, above average, yet all of them were on sale for 2000 Rand (300 euros) each, in series of ten.
The heart of the show was something of a Mecano-like construction of 10×15 black and white photographs, creating something which vaguely resembled a three dimensional skyline. The pictures from which the skyline was created were taken in a number of cities around the world, including Rotterdam and Amsterdam, even though many appeared to be from South Africa.
Of course, it’s possible the construction was so clever it’s complexity went completely over my head, but I strongly doubt that. I walked in, when it was still relatively quiet, and shook my head in disbelief. Already then, I realised that a bald dude standing in a corner and eyeing me could have been the artist himself.
Later, we ended up talking to the artist and, indeed, it was the bald guy I had seen earlier. He asked me whether I was happy I’d come to the exhibition. Me knowing he’d seen me before, shaking my head, and me not being all that impressed, I couldn’t hide the pained expression on my face before finding the right word: “Quite”. Stephen Hobbs, the artist, appeared to be a bit too arrogant at first (“I’m one of the most famous artists in Johannesburg”), but he also appeared to be implying that, even though his pictures might appear to me as crap, he’s the one who’s making the money. A bit later in the conversation, he turned around a bit, changing into a more amicable individual.
At the presentation, one James Webb was responsible for the music, although some would say background noise. It’s called soundscaping and although at times it wasn’t all that spectacular, most probably because he continually got sidetracked by people wanting to talk to him, it was enjoyable enough.
There, looking out the open window across the center of the city, I noticed Webb using a software package for creating his music which used a networked diagram to display the sounds currently being played. It didn’t make much sense to me so I wandered over and politely asked for an explanation. It seems I now have something new to do on the long days here in Jo’burg when no good internet connection is available.
Meanwhile, the weather is slowly turning worse. Almost every morning still starts out sunny, allowing for us to have breakfast on the porch, but then, later in the day, clouds roll in and rain starts to fall. Yesterday night, driving back from the gallery, we encountered something of a tropical rainstorm.