Posted on September 18th, 2014
So much art, so little time. Falling somewhat behind in this blogging and we are all missing Alan who could not not come from Capetown, South Africa due to difficulties acquiring visas to travel.
Gavin Krastin presented an impressive work at Latitude 53 last night. On entering the space we encountered the artist, solitary and naked under a bright spotlight, his head encased in a large, bulbous mesh of plastic wrap connected to a long swath of the material that hung from the high ceiling and draped towards the ground. A neutrality of gender was communicated through the hidden, or suppressed genitals of Gavin’s towering figure. This adapted self was a conflation of impressions both alien and human, aristocratic and abject. Gavin’s body contorted in jagged movements which punctuated the stillness. These actions were particularly severe and unnatural throughout the abdomen. (Gavin later told me about the word in Afrikaans “gutvol”, meaning ‘a gut full of rage’.) The solar soundscape which accompanied this work echoed through space, and was punctuated intermittently by Gavin’s abrupt actions. (Gavin Krastin Photo: Irene Loughlin)
Gavin eventually reached the floor in an eloquently choreographed struggle with the materials, and escaped from the head encasement of plastic. Three small audio speaker voices spilled out into the space and mingled with the general soundscape. The first audio relayed an event that happened in South African Parliament a month prior, where the president was confronted for embezzling twenty-five million dollars in public funding to build a private estate. The second piece of audio contained a political speech by President Obama which detailed US support of Israel during the civilian bombings of Gaza. A third audio speaker emitted a British news report detailing the recent ISIS killing of an American citizen. This audio cacophony was all at once disrupted by an entertainment industry’s intrusively banal report of Kim Kardashian and Beyonce’s budding friendship.
Following this section of the work, Gavin was taped into a plastic bag with a breathing tube by his assistant, Karen. As he breathed through the tube, the plastic was sucked against his body and his flesh was reduced to associations with vacuum-packed objects or food. The emphasis remained on his head where a flat, pointed hood formed in the shape of a prehistoric creature. Within the open space of the gallery, the artist communicated a claustrophobia and tension, his body turned inward, as a vehicle of contemplation regarding the political situation in South Africa. (Gavin Krastin, Photo: Owen Murray)
Gavin later spoke of black economic empowerment policies in South African as effective means of redress in relation to the country’s history of apartheid. Such policies were generally supported by the younger generation of white South Africans who wanted to dismantle the social injustice and racism which had plagued their lives. They witnessed, however, a generation of older white men who alternately did not share their perspective and who were forced into an unwilling confrontation with their assumptions of privilege when they lost their seat of unquestioned power during the redress process. A confrontation with “the alien/ated other” whether in terms of citizenship, the right to equal work and pay, etc. became an unavoidable fact as these men lost jobs and privilege, experiencing themselves a marginal amount of the pain inflicted on people of colour in South Africa.