OF ANIMAL AND INVENTORY and exhibition of work by James Beckett at Blank Projects, Cape Town

Amsterdam and London – based artist James Beckett’s exhibion, Of Animal and Inventory opened at Blank projects on 31 August and runs till 29 September 2012. The opening include a concert of the piece “Rabbit to Score” (2006), performed by James Beckett, Robyn Farah, Robin Brink, and Garth Erasmus. Photos below, for more information: http://www.blankprojects.com/1208-james-beckett.php

Beckett was born in Zimbabwe and grew up in KwaZulu Natal where he studied at the Durban Technikon. He has been based in The Netherlands since being accepted to a residency at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in 2001. He was a previous participant in Very Real Time in 2003, and this exhibition is seen as an opportunity to share his impressive body of work as it has develloped over the past decade, with his context of origin.




Performance and video evening, Paris, 4 july 2012

On the evening of the 4th of july we finally organised the event in my studio involving the works of Amanda and Erik Moskowitz (US), Sung Hwan Kim (South Korea, US), Jared Ginsburg (South Africa), and a performance by Josh Ginsburg (SA). The event took advantage of the fact that Josh and Jared were passing through Paris that week, and in addition I had been planning for quite a while, to organise a screening of some of my favorite videos by Sung, Erik and Amanda. No curatorial theme, other than the spirit of the works, which one might describe as process orientated and performative, and the link that the artists and works shared, to South Africa.

While we were setting up that afternoon with the Ginsburg brothers, Josh received a text message from Cape Town, informing him that the space where they had placed their equipment in storage whilst moving studios, had been burgled the previous night, losing a great deal of valuable things. They were both shocked by the news but took it well. In my quiet studio space in the 18th arrondisement, Cape Town’s reality had entered in fuller proportions than anticipated.


Shana Lutkens and Jared Ginsburg

Installation view of Hoist, Deckchair (2011), by Jared Ginsburg.

The Story of Elfranko Wessels (2011), by Erik Moskowitz and Amanda Trager

Performance-presentation (for want of better words), by Josh Ginsburg.

transcript 1

Over the next few weeks, will be posting exerpts from transcripts of interviews and discussions which took place during the recent Very Real Time 3 residency. The first is a fragment from an interview with Roger van Wyk, made on 7 May 2012.

“Having done some exchanges with international artists, I think its quite often that we find as the hosts to European artists who are here having to achieve things in a fairly short space of time, that it’s a fairly strange relationship. Its made easier when artists are here on a singular mission and that’s clear, but when its linked into some sort of developmental objective which is meant to link into community of some sort, then its very challenging to make something meaningful out of it. One really needs long periods of time and lengthy opportunities for engagement to do something meaningful. So I found it really refreshing that Very Real Time had no direct outcome, was not staked around any kind of an agenda or outcome from the work and really left it open for people to engage in their own time and in their own way. Obviously it takes a while before they find their way and for people to find their feet and find things that make sense to them, but there’s something very refreshing about that. I felt that they were all pretty earnest and eager to find a way to do this engagement. I suspect that, although it might take longer, I think that they would have more interesting things to say and do about it, particularly if they have the chance to reflect back and complete the work in a later stage.”


Just like Tom Thumb’s Blues

April 09 2012   Bettys Bay Botanical Garden 2


The last few years i’ve mostly played songs on my own in my apartment to various plant life, which doesn’t really do much for musical confidence, especially when leaves start dropping off mid-song. So…i was very happy that Ludwig, (my Cape Town host / flatmate / new friend) was up for making music together.

‘Just like Tom Thumb’s Blues’ we recorded after having discovered a mutual appreciation for the musical greatness of Bob Dylan. The First line of this particular song goes ‘When your lost in the rain in Juarez and it’s eastertime too’ On the day we recorded, it was raining…it was eastertime…I’m not sure if we were lost or not and we weren’t in Juarez but just the fact that its a great song was good enough reason to start playing it. We had already been talking about recording some music together and decided the best way to start was with a cover of a song we both love…and it was also just an experiment to see what our voices would sound like together…so we only did a couple of takes…first i played the guitar track then we each added a voice layer separately which is why it’s out of sync at times, and then Ludwig added the violin layer at the end…but then it stopped raining so we went outside.

April 09 2012  Betty Bay Botanical Garden 1

April 01 Table Mountain 2


The Fish song

The Fish song: (Ludwig says he’s working on it at the moment to adjust the levels a bit and improve the sound quality…so hopefully i get the reworked version soon…although this version does sound a bit like we’re in a fish bowl so i guess maybe it’s kind of appropriate…)
‘Fish song’, i wrote a while ago and then we adjusted it when i was in Cape Town. The theme of the residency was ‘Inside Time’ and this song speaks a bit about time and memory. It is based on a true story. Mr Jones and Bobby McGee are two goldfish i used to know. At a certain moment, Bobby McGee became very sick. He had developed ‘fin rot’ which is apparently quite common amongst goldfish. Sadly, he died and Mr Jones continued to swim in solitary circles for some time. It is a sad song.

April 28 2012    Cape Point or The place where two seas meet


On the day that we recorded we set up all the equipment in the front room with the microphone in the middle. Ludwigs friend Ray came and we decided to make a band that would exist for one day…Our band would be called ‘Thursday’. For this song Ludwig played violin, Ray was on keyboard and percussion and i was vocals and guitar. It was a lot of fun and now i’m hoping that ‘Thursday’ will continue. Even though there’s now approximately 9696 kilometers between band members i think it can work.

I like the idea of recording a song and sending the audio files back and forth for each other to add to…or it’s nice to think that what may begin as a simple song can be sent from one point in space and travel across the world and return to its destination having been altered with each journey, so that one moment in time instead of fading becomes more and more layered and complete…

April 30 2012     On a plane…again


Claire Harvey


Back home. In the flight the night before last I read this page from Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurrier.

Then when I got home there was an email from Leonid with some photographs of the apartment he has been living in in the Jordaan in Amsterdam, which I also inhabited for the year of 2001.  His note : ‘Came across these pictures while putting together a project.  Might look familiar.  That dirt from under the linoleum… some of it is also yours.’

G. S.


Leo, your quote from The Idiot reminds me of a man I met long ago when I was raising money for some murals I once did at the Long Street Baths in Cape Town. He was a businessman who liked going to the turkish baths on Sunday mornings, who took an interest in helping to pay for the murals. He always looked very unassuming, but he was the owner of many large and small companies, and at the time was also busy going back and forth to Angola on some mining project. I later found out that a lot of things he did were quite improper. Noseweek, the magazine which follows corrupt business activities, began to follow him. He was the type of businessman who had no qualms about buying up a longstanding business and selling off all its different parts until there was nothing left. Shareholders were left with worthless bits of paper. Nothing was ever pinned on him however and his unscrupulous behaviour had a paradoxical effect on people, inspiring both horror and admiration, that someone could stop at absolutely nothing.

Your quote from Dostoyevsky, reminded me of visits to his office (he was unreachable to me by phone and to speak of anything I had to take an appointment with his secretary and come to his office on the top floor of one of the smaller skyscrapers in the city). He has always charming, showing me the views from the roof, or some strange cigars which were in the form of a spiral due to their preparation method of being twisted together in bundles of three to hold in the flavor – a friend had found these for him in Cuba. Now and then he briefly took a phone call.  I was aware that I occupied only a small part of his attention and his brain ceaselessly moving at a calm and steady pace from one thing to the next. On one occasion, I arrived and he asked me if I minded stepping out with him to do some shopping while we talked. We descended by lift to the parking, got into his SAAB, drove to the Waterfront where he purchased a rain jacket from Cape Union Mart for a hiking trip he was doing with his daughter on the weekend, we drove back to his office, concluded our business and he said goodbye. On my way out of the building I realized that the whole meeting had lasted 25 minutes and that this short period had been effortlessly carved into a complex and purely functional form with no fluff or hesitations. I found this very refreshing. At the time I was 24 and capable of spending large amounts of time dreaming, or allowing subjective thoughts to come in the way of actions, and so I tried to hold onto his kind of energy for a while after our meetings. I found out that he generally arrived in his office at 6am and at the end of the day drank quite a lot to slow down again (or maybe blot out something from his conscience), and this led to some bad car accidents. His idea for funding the second series of murals, was that a number of the wealthy clients, including himself, at the Baths would make an equal contribution of X amount. When he found out that the other men were only willing to make much lesser donations he started slipping out of his office every time I arrived for one of the meetings I had set up with his secretary.

Lately, when teaching I’ve experimented with creating a dense sequence of activities in during the period of a day, in an effort to collide different ways of thinking and functioning together in a way which might create some kind of acceleration in the students heads.

I can see what Kianoosh is saying and I find the elastic bands and cameras an interesting analogy and I like his questioning, ‘I wonder what role coming here has and what really changes? Should I expect change or simply accept the fact that things remain the same?’

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The shifting identity of Mr Motallebi

The cameras stuck back-to-back influencing each other’s movement – gyrating ceaselessly according the faultless laws of physics – seem to answer his question very nicely. I think this is what’s happening all the time in whatever place one finds one’s self in, one is bouncing in a web of elastic connections between one’s self and one’s surroundings, one’s movements and behaviors affect what is going on around one and this affects the way we perceive and behave in this place. We’re bound in. Our movement through space and time is not just a straight line; it also involves the evolution of our sense of self. Kianoosh may have similar preoccupations to those that he had in Amsterdam a month previously, but I find it unlikely that he still has exactly the same sense of who he is now as he did a month earlier. I have no doubt that something shifted in his head when he started hanging out with Jean and his friends, for example, I think something in his sharp analytical brain softened and became receptive to strange and not completely unpleasant things. In a different way, I’m sure there was some kind of change in Jean as well. Daniel Dennet has written and interesting text called ‘The Self as a Centre of narrative gravity’, in which he describes the self as a ‘convenient fiction’ which is constantly reinventing itself in each new social context as the brain seeks to create a vague sense of coherence to both itself and those around one.

Every movement has its repercussions for us and I think its pointless to try to decide at what point one’s actions are relevant, right, good art…rather the object is to try to find a degree of confidence in this web of relations and circumstances. Finding this confidence on a human or existential level is invariably the problem we face.

Gregg Smith