in Association with the Dead Bunny Society
presents: ‘Death and Taxes’
Fried Contemporary Art Gallery is pleased to present a new exhibition of works by the Dead Bunny Society. The exhibition will open Thursday 21 January from 18:00 – 20:00 and conclude on Saturday 20 February 2016 @ 2pm.
“Art, like science, not only does not seek orders, but by its very essence, cannot tolerate them. Artistic creation has its laws – even when it consciously serves a social movement. Truly intellectual creation is incompatible with lies, hypocrisy and the spirit of conformity. Art can become a strong ally of revolution only in so far as it remains faithful to itself.”
Leon Trotsky, “Art and politics in our epoch”, published in the Partisan Review in 1938.
In a time when the arts seem to be ordered to serve the ideals of nation building, of job creation and of establishing social cohesion, the autonomy of the arts, free of the constrictions of a political reality, needs to be emphasised. As before and as in the time of Trotsky maintaining and preserving this autonomy has proven to be a constant endeavour, something that artists, arts administrators and everybody interested in the arts should strive for.
And should, for some reason, the arts opt to “serve a social movement”, as Trotsky suggested, then the obligation is to problematize the social problem; not to offer a social solution. This would be in line with Walter Benjamin’s idea that art can only have the correct political “tendency” if it has aesthetic “quality”.
This seems to be the position taken by the Dead Bunny Society (DBS) established in March 2015 and comprising four practising artists with a wide variety of artistic and curatorial experience: Dirk Bahmann, Stephan Erasmus, Peter Mammes and Neil Nieuwoudt.
For the first curated DBS exhibition in Pretoria Nieuwoudt has selected and excerpt from the Trotsky article as a brief for the participating artists “to interpret the text freely in whichever way or through whichever belief that they hold – be that anti-political, anti-revolution, pro-political, pro-revolution or any other way that they may interpret the text”.
As curator of this show, Death and Taxes, Nieuwoudt encourages reading against the grain as a subversive act, as a protest against reality and ultimately as an act that could form part of a really creative piece of work. He urges the participating artists to frame political and artistic forms as problems, to reframe tradition and to explore ways to depart from it; to interrogate contradictions between individual and society; to be open to possibilities; to be aware of the constant flux of form and lastly, possibly to engage viewers “to whom reading … would present difficulties”, to quote Benjamin outside the original literary context.
With flux in mind the title of the exhibition, taken from a letter written in 1789 by Benjamin Franklin to his friend the French scientist Jean-Baptiste Leroy in Paris, comes as no surprise: “Our new Constitution is now established, everything seems to promise it will be durable; but, in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.”
Although said of the US Constitution one should be wary of all sorts of promises made at any time and at any place. Bearing in mind that truly intellectual creation is incompatible with lies, hypocrisy and the spirit of conformity.
Johan Myburg, Independent Writer and Art Critic
| DIRK BAHMANN | STEPHAN ERASMUS | REBECCA HAYSOM | PETER MAMMES
RICHARD MEADE | NEIL NIEUWOUDT | MARC PRADERVAND | STEPHEN ROSIN
ELIZAVETA RUKAVISHNIKOVA | BARBARA WILDENBOER & ADALA MICHELLE PREVOSTDEATH AND TAXES | READ MORE ABOUT THE ARTISTS