Ninth day in Johannesburg

Today my energy was low. I had a feeling some of the artists felt the same. I’m of course not sure if I was the one projecting this tiredness on them. The weather was heavy and cold, which can be one of the reasons for the lack of energy I was sensing.

The energy in the group depends on engagement. There are those artists who come more than once and whose regular contributions bring stability to the group; And then there are those who come only once bringing impulsive and fresh energy.

The regularity allows the artists to develop a rhythm, which will make them go in depth with the project. The artists express about different topics every day or choose a theme they research and even get experts in.  When artists come regularly for some days, it is possible to see the development of works and the progress in artist’s engagement. The artists create the dynamic energy that can turn in to positive addiction. When diving in to the regular rhythm, it becomes a new ritual that affects not only the artistic production but as much their way of reflecting and conceptualizing. It definitely also creates a very special group feeling, since all the artists are working simultaneously towards the same dead line. Even though they are not necessary working physically together, by having a same time frame work, they sync on the energy level.

Interruption of regularity on the other hand creates unpredictability and brings thus the flexibility to the group. New participants create a positive dynamic and new energy. Because they would not know the other artists and what debates have been taking place in the previous days, they would be able to enter the project with fresh energy and see it with new eyes. In this way we make sure the project does not get ingrown and only related to a closed group of people. I guess the-first-time feeling from the new participants, also reminds the other in the group about their own first-time-experience, and this gives a good circular reflection about the development of the project. Of course the project can develop into new unknown ideas as the participants engage and start shaping it each with they different contributions, but still it is a good think to be pulled back by the new participants to the start and be reminded about the motivation one has for taking part in this project initially. This is like a reinforcement that gives new life to the project.

I believe both energies are good to have when shaping a strong group. And the dynamics between these two streams of energies is what creates the vigorous development that characterless the project.

At the moment we have 6-7 artists from Denmark, who are staying in Johannesburg for one or two weeks so their participation is regular. We also have participation from artists who live and work in Johannesburg and some of them have been coming several times. The group is very good and the involving artists are very engaged. But we have not seen any collaborations yet. Even thought there were some intentions to create works together from the very beginning, we have not seen it happen yet. This could be a new time of energy and a very interesting development to observe.

 

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Eighth day in Johannesburg

The artworks from the everyday changing exhibition go to the Delay Museum. The Delay Museum is a collection of artworks that were all made in 24 hours reflecting on the emergencies of that day. Every time a new emergency art platform is activated in the world, a selection of artworks are being included in the Delay Museum collection that by now consists of more than 500 artworks. Because of the caravan like nature of the project, the artworks are made by artists from various countries and in different cultural, political and geographical contexts. With the growing collection, it will be possible to create an encyclopedic overview showing what artists have been worrying and expressing about in the last ten years.

As a curator, it is possible to make some very interesting cuts into the connection. For each cut, it is possible to make a new exhibition. Thematically it could, for example, be an exhibition on the growing xenophobia. We would be able to bring to light artworks that were commenting on xenophobic tendencies in a very early stage. The instant comments from the artists are connected to their intuition and can thus also revile dysfunctional tendencies that are still not formed into concrete problems. This is why we often see artists being the first ones to react to things being out of balance. Since the platform is encouraging fast tempo of producing art about emergencies, the rhythm of production is pulsing and more intuitive than conceptual. Another thing that stimulates the artistic intuition in the process is the fact that the mistakes are acceptable in this format. This gives the artists the necessary freedom to guess to sense and to visualize possible scenarios for the future.

The diversity of artworks in the collection would also allow us to interconnect the emergencies. Let’s say we are doing an exhibition on growing xenophobia. In that case, it would only be natural also to include artworks that deal with refugees as well as war industry.

There can of course also be made a sociological take on the collection. We could also do a curating that shows who was working with which themes or how many artists had similar concerns and in which countries more than others. It is also possible to study the different levels of censorship in the world. The artworks produced during the EMERGENCY ROOM in Vietnam have been made under different censorship condition then the EMERGENCY ROOM done in Moma PS1.

On the visual level, there is very interesting research to dive into regarding the aesthetic of emergency art. How do artists find visual solutions to express within one day? What kinds of techniques are being used formally and conceptually in order to create shortcuts?
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During the exhibition on Johannesburg, the Delay Museum is active parallel to the every day changing exhibition. The Delay Museum is growing for every day and will stay on display until July 31. To add, the South African contribution to the already existing collection will bring an important global element to the Delay Museum.

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Seventh day in Johannesburg

Today it was cold, and people in streets were walking faster and less relaxed. I was wondering how it would effect our daily exhibition changing and if there would be enough people during the debate.

It was as cold in the museum as in the streets. The artists were freezing, but there were all punctual. At 2 pm precisely they were standing with their artworks in front of the exhibition space waiting to get in and exhibit.

Suddenly a big group of energetic young people came in. The filled up the room. I felt happy to see so many visitors. As soon as the artworks from yesterday were put down and the new artworks were installed, we started the debate. The first one was on western countries closing borders for refugees; the second one was on Trump’s xenophobic influence on language in schools; the third one was on water crisis in Brazil, that is only talked about now during Olympic games as threat for athletes and not as constant threat for the people living there; the fourth one on education of children and how the gender is being connected to power in an early stage, the fifth one on legalization of drugs; and the sixth one was about Red Ants and eviction.

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The debate was amazing. The young people participated a lot.  We discovered that there were students and a school choir. There were some teachers involved too who stimulated the debate, but the students were so well formulated and engaged. I found it touching. They took each artwork seriously; they contextualized to their own world. For example, they did not relate so directly to Syrian refugees situation in Europe, but they could talk about xenophobia in their own country and the dynamics of people moving in Africa. The Trump’s rhetoric and hate-speeches triggered them to debate on racial questions that they knew a lot about from their own experiences here in South Africa. The water problems in Brazil was discussed through the lance of global economy and ecology problems caused by western companies in the southern hemisphere. They also debated about the legalization of drugs and how it will affect the black market. They all related to the gender questions when it comes to education and had made some great connections to the rape culture, taking place in the country. And the Red Ants army for eviction of homeless people, even though it was not known to all of them, created a good debate and reflection on gentrification situation they are experiencing in their city.

The room got very fast warm during the debate, and I was honestly impressed about how much thinking and reflection six artworks could produce. The dialog created between the artists, and the audience was just amazing and so meaningful.

After the debate session, our visitors wanted to sing a song for us. The sound and the presence of the choir in the emergency art exhibition was somehow magic. I almost dropped a tear.

I could see that today’s exhibition made young people walked out of the museum with new thoughts and the artists walked out of the museum with more belief in art. For me, this encounter is the vital exchange of energy that keeps the hope alive. Hope for possible change and hope for a better future. “The future is gold,” said my friend and artist Nina Wengel and if it is so, we have to keep our hope and believe in finding it.

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Sixth day in Johannesburg

“The exhibition changes in 5 min.” I could hear Thierry shouting while the artists were waiting in front of the exhibition space with their new artworks.

The ritual routines of the team
At 2 pm sharp, the doors were open. The artworks from the day before went down, and the new artworks were mounted. This change is called passage.
After the passage the artworks are looked at I silence for some minutes and then the debate starts. After the debate, the labels, with titles, sizes, and artists’ names are put under each artwork, and the exhibition stays frozen until the next day at 2 pm.
After the activates in the museum, which normally last 1-2 hours, some artists take a small break in the last hours of the sunshine before it gets dark, others start immediately to work on the new artwork for the next day. For dinner, we usually all meet up, and exchange impressions of the day. Both personal and professional experiences are important in this project. In the mornings, the artists work on their artworks, I do some writing and preparation with the museum, while Thierry does artworks, organizes the documentation, makes strategies and creates new visions. This is pretty much the daily routine of our team that little by little is turning into a ritual.

Speed and rhythm
There is some speed involved when it comes to art production because most of the artists are used to send more time on creating their artworks. But it does not seem like, working fast is hectic. Actually, this type of regular speed is not producing stress. The regularity creates a certain tempo. And just like with the music, where the drums might sound noisy, violent and disturbing at the start, but only until you go into the music and catch the rhythm. As more artists are taking part in the show, as more I can hear the rhythm of this format. It is not a homogenous musical rhythm I hear. It is a rhythm rich with diverse individual pulses.

Synchronizing
We each have our own rhythms, our individual heartbeats. Around us, there are other rhythms: the streets and the city are following certain tempi while the world, the planet, and the universe are following other tempi and understandings of time. When we create a shared space, we also try to define a shared time frame. This encounter demands synchronization. But what does it actually mean to synchronize? It has to do with precision. (We need to adjust our times to each other thus we need to agree on a specific time and be precise. In our format the change of exhibition happens precisely at 2 pm); It has to do with being simultaneous (Our actions need to occur at the same time. In our format, we make sure the artists are present during the passage. They cannot send their artworks, but have to bring them personally and debate about them); It has to do with agreeing and coordinating (There has to be a willingness to work together. In our format the artists, the organizers, and the host institution works as one team); It has to do with being in tune (We need to follow a given melody. In our art format we have a conductor, that would be the format owner Thierry shouting “The exhibition changes in 5 min.”)

Structure to create more freedom
As any other rituals and rhythms, there is a layer of spirituality that appears on top of the rules for routines and time calculations. This distinction between mechanic structure and the magic freedom is a very interesting fine line that characterizes this project. The art format is a predefined setting who’s purpose is not to create limitations but to stimulate artistic expression. There are rules, but they are only drawing the lines in order to bring forward the artistic essence and create focus. There is speed, but it is there only in order to create energy and fuel for a successful takeoff.
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Fifthe day in Johannesburg

We started. The artist entered the exhibition room at 2 pm and their paintings, sculptures and videos filled up the space very fast. Everybody was excited. Only one or two of the artist have tried this exhibition format before, so for the rest of the group the procedure was new. The people working at the museum, the press and the audience were there too. They were observing and taking notes.

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Once everybody was finished with installing, they bravely started presenting each their artwork. They would explain their motivations for doing the artworks and for bringing the specific topics into the debate. Everybody could ask questions. Artworks were dealing with a range of dysfunctions in the society such as racial issues, health issues, crime, refugees, war industry, land regulations, gentrification, etc.
I was filming and listening. I felt I was learning. It was a rich exhibition.

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Aesthetic and ethic motivation

What I liked the most about today’s contribution from the artists was the fact that they all took the task of focusing on the emergencies seriously and managed to produce some important artworks. There was a great deal of concern in the way they approached the project. They seemed to worry about the topics they made artworks about.

It made me think if this authentic preoccupation could be a criterion for art? Can the artistic judgment be done based on the motivation behind the artwork? And how do an artist’s honesty and openness affect the interpretation of the artwork?
From my (curatorial) point of view, an artist’s approach to her or his work is crucial. If there is a good motivation behind the artwork, the artwork shines. It is as if it gains an additional layer of glow; a glory that, in my eyes, makes it different from other artworks, that are not made with the same amount of true motivation.

These glowing artworks have, for me, a value that goes beyond the aesthetic and conceptual one. Somehow I would consider them good because of some ethnic qualities.

Ethic, from Old French éthique, from Latin ethice, 
from Greek (hē) ēthikē (tekhnē) ‘(the science of) morals’
,based on ēthos (see ethos).

But as soon as we start bringing the ethic into a dialog with art we activate the question: What is the connection with aesthetic and ethic?
From my studies, I remember that Plato was, in Republic having some of the earliest concerns about the aesthetic values when it comes to including them in the ideal society. He considered art to be a very strong tool that might be immoral to use without censorship.
I also thought about Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment and his definition of dependent beauty as opposed to free beauty.

Kalokagathia. From Ancient Greek καλοκαγαθία (kalokagathia, 
“nobility, goodness”), from καλός (kalos, “beautiful”) 
και (kai, “and”) ἀγαθός (agathos, “good”).

I was wondering how we can juxtapose the esthetic and ethic reading of artwork that communicates social and political injustice?
Formally there should be a natural connection between the two readings because both deal with forms of value. Ethics is the form of value that tells us whether or not people’s actions are good or bad. Aesthetics is the form of value that is tied with sensory or artistic qualities. I believe that art can have an effect on our ethical character and moral life, as well as our moral affects how we view aesthetic objects.

In this logic, we could also say that an artist’s motivation grounded in ethnic values can affect the aesthetics of the final artwork, through which the moral message might be transmitted to the viewer parallelly to the aesthetic experience.

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Fourth day in Johannesburg

The group energy
Two more artists from Denmark arrived today Nadia Plesener and Tobias Oscar Lehrskov-Schmidt. Together with Nina Wengel who came yesterday there are three. Suddenly on the street we unexpectedly met Haroon Gunn-Salie a South African artist who we already worked together with in Brazil. He also showed interest in joining the emergency art exhibition. Suddenly we were a group. And tomorrow the artists who are living in Johannesburg are also joining. It might become a small community which then could become part of an art movement. We don’t know yet what will happen and how the group energy will develop, but in that moment I could feel something that maid me say to Thierry “Ça marche.”, “It looks like it is working!”
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The synergy
Some artists from the grope will even work together on creating artworks. To do cooperation between artists is very interesting process. It is often both a personal and professional encounter. It is a synergy of different motivations, forms, styles and messages.

As I see it the synergy happens in couple of steps:

In order to create space for collaboration first there would be a moment of hold back and then contributing. This moment when the artists are holding back, observing each other and preparing for each their contribution to the collaboration, is fascinating. It is a moment of beautiful void that illustrates the potential; Just like a white peace of paper.

Then the exchange starts, each artist putting his/her contribution on the paper. Suddenly we don’t know any longer which contribution is whose. There is a moment of fusion.

Latin fūsiōn- (stem of fūsiō) a pouring out, melting.

When the collaborative work has becomes one work, then the magic happens. Suddenly the artwork doubles its value and size. It grows, becomes more beautiful and greater than the sum of the efforts put in to it.

synergy (pronounced SIN-ur-jee , from Greek sunergia, 
meaning "cooperation," and also sunergos, meaning 
"working together") is the combined working together of 
two or more parts of a system so that the combined effect 
is greater than the sum of the efforts of the parts.

The stimulating platform
In order to reach the level of synergy it is also important to open up to each other. And in order to open up we need to share.  In my opinion the EMERGECY ART platform is created for sharing: sharing of space, time and state of mind. The artists work in the same time, the same space and under the same conditions of looking for dysfunctions and producing art about it daily. Sharing is crucial for this art format.

Tomorrow is the first day of the emergency art daily changing exhibition. Every day at 2 pm for 2 weeks we are going to show a new exhibition and debate about it. The exhibitions are free and open for public.

I’m looking forward to see the works, because they are going to be reflections about what is happening around us at the moment; But I’m as much looking forward to feel the group energy and synergy between the artists. This energy will hopefully also spill over onto the audience, the museum and hopefully also beyond the museum walls on to the area and the city.

I believe that curating is more then organizing artworks in the space and writing communicative texts about them; it is as much about cultivating and handling energy. I find this very important because the energy created around the artworks and exhibitions might be the key to impact.

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Third day in Johannesburg

Innovation in schools
Today we visited a school called. SPARK. “It is a low-cost private school trying to educate a new generation of global citizens.” they told us. This school showed interest in collaborating with our emergency art project. They wanted to engage their children in critical thinking.  At the school, we were received by a school principal, and he explained us the schools unique pedagogic methods and the set of core values that the children have to follow not only in order to develop as students but as people and citizens. This school’s focus is innovation. Innovation fits well to the atmosphere I have been registering in this city not only this time but also during my visit here last year; the state of mind of wanting something new to replace the old.  “we focus on innovation” said the principal “our children learn how to think about ways to make the world around them a better place.”
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It sounded ambitious and positive but still I was a bit skeptical towards this new model because education is such a strong manipulation tool, and if it is not built on good intentions it can destroy whole generation of children. We tried to ask the principal about the purpose and motivation behind this school model, and he referred to their holding company called eAdvance. We wanted to understand more, but then we were invited to walk around the school and actually see the children in action. We stepped in different classrooms, teaching English, Zulu, mathematics, online class, and physical activities. What suppressed me positively was that the children were very awake. Actually, I could see that the students were very engaged in what the teachers were telling them. They had good energy, and they seemed both motivated to learn and happy to be in the school.
At the end of the meeting, we agreed with the principal to organize a collaboration in the form of a critical run for schoolchildren age 5 to 11, and the principal suggested a question for the run debate: What role do you think you can play to change the situation of the homeless?

Innovation in creative industry
Next two meetings took place in two different gallery spaces. Hazard and Kalaznikovv. Here too we cold feel the energy of innovation and the willingness to do new and different. There was no time used on convincing, but rather finding a way to realize. You could relay feel the forward-thinking speed and spirit of entrepreneurship among these young creative industry developers. I’m not used to that, but I could feel that I could get seduced by the efficiency and energy of this way of working. We got an impression that everything was possible. And somehow, even though we later might discover that it is not possible, I  this optimistic attitude, might bring the necessary positive energy to the working process. Some kind of motivating energy that no matter what would pay off.

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Questioning innovation
In the late afternoon, we had the first public presentation where Thierry Geoffroy and I were presenting our motivation for doing the emergency art project. Many of the artists who are going to participate in the exhibition starting on Friday came to hear more about this unusual art format, with every day changing exhibition focusing on emergencies. There were questions after the presentation. First Danish artist, Nina Wengel came and fast she was connecting to some artists from Johannesburg, starting a dialog about possible collaborations for the exhibition. The artists seemed to be ready, curious and inspired.

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I don’t know if what we are doing can be connected to innovation at all. I would not like our project to be neither innovative educational model or innovative cultural industry model. The spirit of emergency art, as I see it, should not be institutionalized or industrialized. It does present new ways of doing, exhibiting and understanding art but it should keep being an open format, not part of innovation industry. I have a feeling that as soon as something gets stamped as an innovation, it becomes a product that has a customer who is influencing its criteria and goals. I ended the day thinking about innovation. What kind of energy is innovation based on and what kind of energy is it cultivating? Normally I would be against innovation because I would be afraid that it is about replacing old with new, without consideration; because the innovation is based on efficiency without reflect on the side effects in the process such as exploitation; because the ambition behind the innovation is often commercial and can easily turn into greed, where the benefits of the outcome only reach few people. But even though I’m skeptical I could not help feeling this innovation spirit around the city of Johannesburg was bringing motivation, and motivation is a very important type of energy in the initiating phase, like we are in now, only a few days before starting a new emergency art project for the first time in South Africa.

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Second day in Johannesburg

We spent most of the day walking around the Maboneng area visiting different kind of shops.  There are maybe 4 or 5 streets that are safe to walk on, they told us. Some streets should be safe until 3pm, other streets until 6pm.

Religious posters showing that the world is good but the people in it are bad
We went to a shop for frames and posters (mostly christen religious posters and landscapes). The owner of the shop was there alone. We bought some posters. When we asked him about crime in the neighborhood he told us to take care. He is closing he shop already at 3 pm because after that hour it gets risky. “but, you just have to take care all the time” he said “the criminals are working all the time”.  When we asked him if he could point at the main problems in the world, he said almost religiously. “The world we live is good, it is the people within it that make it bad.”

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We went on passing many shops for shoos, domestic products and small shops for food. We also saw a market where you could buy some vegetables.

Gold digging tools
Than we stepped in a hardware shop. Here Thierry asked what kind of equipment is used for digging gold. The people from the shop laughed but soon there were demonstrating the gold digging process with a pick and a shovel. Thierry ended up buying a big pick and the men working in the shop told him, laughing, that he should come back and let them know if he finds the gold. We understood that there was not much gold left in this country. You find it only if you are extremely lucky. But at lest, as the men from the shop told us, we could feel safe on the streets now that Thierry was carrying a pick over his shoulder. “No one will assault you now that you are walking around with the pick”, they said laughing.

Fake leopard jacket
Next shop we visted on our way was a boutique for clothes. Here Thierry found a fake leopard jacket. He tried it and asked both vendors and some other costumers what they thought about his new look. “What would you think about me if you saw me like this on the street? What do I express with this clothes?” One of them said “It looks good on you”, the other one “You look like a nice men. Someone I would like to talk to” and the last ones said “When you wear this you show respect for the tradition”. With tradition he meant the zulu tradition that uses leopard pattern as symbol for pride. “Even white people were leopard patterns”, they explained to us.

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Some streets further down and very close to the Museum of African Design, were we are organizing an exhibition, we saw a shop for real skin. We walked in and got quite overwhelmed with the amount of different animal skins hanging around and different types of skin being cut and prepared for becoming products.  We did not find a leopard skin but the big zebra skin was very impressive. “Imagine that they kill this animals for their skin” said Thierry. Especially a smaller skin with an alarming orange color caught our attention. We went out and continued walking down the street.

Real working uniforms
Almost next block there was a shop with similar alarming orange color. This time it was not skin but cotton and polyester clothes. This shop was a place where they made and sold uniforms for kitchen, hospitals and construction workers. Thierry tried and bought an emergency orange uniform.Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 07.28.47


In the evening everything started being interconnected: The religion, the hope of finding gold, the African animals pride and the workers labor and significance of the colors.
Symbolically speaking we are all looking for gold. We do it with great deal of belief (almost a religiously) and with great deal of hard work (hands on work like construction workers). It can also be animal instinctive drive, driven by the power embodied in leopard skin.
Thierry and I are in Johannesburg with an art project; A project that wants to activate the critical thinking through artistic expression. It is a project that involves many artists and wishes to be a formula for changing the world to a place with more reflections, where people are more alert and wiling to take an action. Looking for this formula is like looking for gold. Maybe not in the concrete sense of digging for gold but more in an alchemist sense of looking for philosopher’s stone.

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First day in Johannesburg

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“So, can you tell us what is the emergency in Johannesburg at the moment in your opinion?” – I heard Thierry Geoffroy saying to the taxi driver even before we left the parking area at the airport.

It is not the first time I hear this question being posed. Especially when we com to a new country, Thierry would ask local people about the emergencies. That would be part of his artistic research. But no matter how often and in how many different occasions I have heard the question, the answers can still astonish me. It somehow always opens up to new discoveries and interesting information.

Lack of stability

This time, the Johannesburg taxi driver said: “The emergency is instability”…” we have some very unstable politicians here in South Africa, but I guess the politics is collapsing all around the world” he said “Just look at what is happening with Trump and Hillary in USA.” “Here in South Africa, there are the politicians doing the old politics and there are those who are trying to start new political platforms.”

New-old politics

The steering wheel is on the right side in South Africa, so from where I was siting, I could not see the taxi driver’s profile or his full facial expression, only his eyes in the back mirror “We can not wait anymore” he said. He explained that there are too many problems that only can be solved politically and that there is no time to wait for the old politicians to die in order to start changing the development of the country. The methods from “old politics” are not working anymore, because the surrounding world is changing, so the “new politics” has to find new ways. “We are not a banana republic yet, and I think we can develop a lot.” said proudly the taxi driver.

I tried to understand the different main political parties’ profiles. The ANC (African National Congress ) was representing what our taxi driver calls the old politics. They are politically correct with both white, colored, indian and black race represented as well as 50/50 gender balance between men and women. But they don’t deliver solutions to the new situations of the country. Then there are couple alternatives such as DA (Democratic Alliance) which is a second biggest party and EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) that is trying to bring the economy back to the black people.

Unemployment and chicken feeds

“Another big problem is unemployment. People don’t have money. A typical diet for many South Africans would be chicken feeds and many people can only afford to have one meal a day.” This is, what they call surviving class.
We asked more about the job situation. He explained that the companies were more willing to hire workers from Zimbabwe, Nigeria or Congo than South African because the foreign workers are not complaining about the working conditions. At the same time, they are very good workers with good working discipline maybe connected to their cultures. “Even myself, I have a small business, and I have hired foreigners to take my business to another level.“

Xenophobia

The unemployment is one of the main reasons for xenophobia he explained “He looked at me through back mirror” and said, “You know, when we talk about white – black conflict we say apartheid, but when we talk about black – black conflict we say xenophobia.” I nodded my head as to confirm that I understood. I could see in his eyes that this was an important problem for him, I guess because it is not only destabilizing the economy but also the way people live together. Xenophobia is inevitably linked with fear and fear is very fast representing itself in crime.

Both Thierry and I were listening carefully to our taxi driver from the backseat of the car. “you have a lot of opinions” Thierry said to the taxi driver “ did you ever consider being more active in politics.” “No..” he answered “..because it is too dangerous and you need protection.”..”in theory we do have freedom of speech, but in practice, you can not speak without protection. Many politicians have been victims of complots too. This is why our politics is lacking stability”

Safety as a currency

We were slowly entering the part of downtown which I new from my last visit to Johannesburg when Thierry and I came for the research. That is less than a year ago, but the neighborhood did not seem to have changed much. We are going to stay in the same building like last time. They used to tell us that this is one of the very few areas in Johannesburg where one can walk without fear. It is safe here they would tell us many times. Safety here is almost like a product. Safety has become the new currency. Especially when you look at the prices in this hipster like area comparing them to other more dangers parts of town, you discover that someone is earning big money on safety, and I don’t think that the people living in the streets are benefiting much from this business.
I’m going to spend at least 20 days here, working with artists who are going to express about dysfunctions. In the process, I hope to find out more about the transformation of this area.

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Sugar cubes and seduction

I spent some time in the countryside during this month and on one of the nearby fields, where I kept coming back for a walk with a friend, I saw a beautiful brown horse. I have almost no experience with horses, but I easily feel attracted to them. Instinctively, next time I came I brought a sugar cube in my pocket that I wanted to give to the horse. I wanted to do that probably because it is something I remember my grandfather used to tell me to do to when wanting to make friends with horses. But then I hesitated because my friend started asking me if my goal was to seduce the horse. Suddenly I felt very corrupt and even guilty. As if it was a crime to feed a horse with a little bit of sugar.

I got confused and started reflecting on seduction. The word seduction itself is as acutely, as far as I know, rooted in the word to lead, so it somehow does make sense to say that seduction is connected to power or to winning over someone. It has obviously also to do with leading someone away from the established, or what is considered to be a correct, path.

In the end, I did not give any sugar cubes to the horse, and while walking back to Holbæk Art School where I was staying as a teacher, I started wondering how much seduction is connected to teaching. My goal at the school was together with my colleague Thierry Geoffroy to introduce a new way of working with art, by leading students to look at emergencies in the world and teach them to express about these important issues in artworks, often produced fast in order to keep the pertinence. Since emergency art is based on a different way and speed of doing and presenting art, it definitely needed some seduction. In the very start, with reasonable arguments, we had to persuade the students that everything in the world is not going well, that their critical artistic reflections are needed and that it is important to act. Once they realize the alarming situations surrounding them, they started working passionately, led by the energy of necessity. They were seduced. In the process, many of the students got sentimental and insecure. They were going down a new difficult path, and both feelings of victory and crises appeared along the way. We needed to seduce them to continue; we gave them different artistic methods and tools just like giving them sugar cubes to keep their energy, will and hope alive. And it worked. They continued, and they did great artworks bravely engaging their thoughts and feelings in their artistic productions in an authentic way that I have not seen for a long time, not even among professional artists.

By walking in front of the students, leading the way and calling for them, we could show that we cared and that we wanted them to succeed. I think the seduction has a lot to do with this feeling of attention and desire. So maybe the students got seduced because they could feel we, as teachers, were seduced by them. Rather then a power game, I think seduction is a two-way communication; a tension that appears when there is an attraction from two parts. Just like with a horse: I wanted to seduce him because I felt seduced myself. To give sugar cubes to a horse should maybe not be seen as corruption, but rather an expression of desire.

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