Die frats as eksotiese objek : hibriditeit in Jane Alexander se installasiekunswerk African Adventure
De Beer, Elizabeth Maria
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This dissertation presents an investigation into the notion of the freak in the guise of exotic characters as these appear in the strange creature-figures in Jane Alexander’s (b. 1959) installation artwork African Adventure (1999-2002). The installation artwork reveals issues pertaining to the way in which the exotic nature of the freak is made manifest in its hybrid spatio-temporal nature, with reference also to the understanding that freaks are often presented as strange yet awesome consumer objects. Alexander’s view of art and her oeuvre are contextualised within the South African milieu which is characterised by change, and laced with utopian as well as dystopian sentiments. The interpretation of African Adventure is theoretically entrenched in certain key concepts: the freak, the exotic, and hybridity, as these are made manifest in the reading of the characters, time and place presented in the installation artwork as allegorical reflection of contemporary South African society. The exploration of the work’s spatio-temporal dimensions are guided by establishing a link between, on the one hand, the desire for experiencing the thrill of the unusual (both in terms of a perspective of a colonial safari as well as the contemporary tourist gaze) and, on the other hand, a number of problematic issues in contemporary South African society. I demonstrate that the South African landscape, people and most likely also history are regarded as exotic – with the freakish associations this implies – also because post-apartheid South Africa has the status of a rarity that can be experienced as an adventure landscape. I further demonstrate how the freak’s exotic figuration ironically reverses the experience of empowered looking, with reference here to the notion of spectacle. In a space where contradiction is exposed for contemplation, this ironic reversal in its hybrid embodiment is understood as a space of reconstitution. In this manner, the presumed notion of a stable South African collective is challenged; South African society comprising of so many hybrid identities is rather understood to be the sum of contestible information where the possibility of fragmented experiences of chaos and reconciliation can coexist. As such, cultural reconstitution and renewal are not based on the exoticism of multiculturalism, but on the articulation of a culture’s hybridity.
- Humanities