Accepted Paper:

Manifestos against the white cube  


Nico Anklam (Humboldt Universitat)

Paper short abstract:

In times of radical social change at the end of Apartheid, artisit Kendell Geers appropriated tools of the historical avant-gardes and their revolutionary heirs as a way to explore the limits and the possibilities what the notion of an artist from the African continent might encompass around 1990.

Paper long abstract:

"A bomb has been hidden, somewhere within this exhibition, set to explode at a time known to the artist alone." This first sentence of a text-based artwork called By any means necessary (1995) by South African artist Kendell Geers (born 1968) sketches out some of the parameters within which this paper shall investigate his early oeuvre. Geers's work functions in the tradition of artist manifestos e.g., starting with Marinetti's Futurist version from 1912 to the letters claiming responsibility of (urban) guerrilla actions from the 1960s onward. Because Geers's objects, installations and interventions are embedded firmly within the art system, his work functions as something that "amounts to a terrorist attack", whose purpose is to cause "serious, if not structural damage to the Virginal White Cube".

Altogether, Geers attacks such constructs as the 'white cube' physically and intellectually by using strategies that draw upon traditions of the European avant-gardes of the early 20th century as well as their heirs of the 1960 by appropriating their aesthetic instruments. This paper will also shed light on forms of art production that could only emerge in moment of radical social change. Furthermore, this paper seeks to demonstrate how Geers's work not only draws strongly on iconographies of political revolution but also, through transposing them into the art system, unfolds their transgressive and utopian potential.

Panel P083
Revolution 3.0: iconographies of utopia in Africa and its diaspora