Accepted paper:

Art, Authority and the Animal Lambency of the Penis


Gavin Younge (University of Cape Town)

Paper short abstract:

Prick-pride, the summit of male insurgency against women and populace has been used as a countervail against authority figures (especially the former South African president) by South African artists, black and white. To what effect?

Paper long abstract:

A shadow state, subject of a judicial enquiry into State Capture, was built in South Africa during the Zuma era. This paper details artistic strategies of disruption to disparage this rent-seeking state, by exposing figures of authority to ridicule. The state seeks to cauterise dissent, through censorship or punitive measures, and artists take refuge behind lambent strategies. The paper offers examples of insurgency - among them The Spear by Murray (2012), and Umshini Wam by Mabulu (2012). In Murray's case, the artist portrayed the South African president in a Lenin-like pose with his penis exposed. For his part, Mabulu showed the president in traditional Zulu attire with his penis clearly visible. Both these works engendered furious, racially atomised reactions. The first part of this paper summarises just how far the shadow state succeeded in capturing the treasury, the South African Revenue Service and SOE's. The authors of a recent book, Betrayal of the Promise details astonishing examples of the symbiotic relationship between the constitutional state and the shadow state, a relationship that delivers "a political project that enriches the few, subverts South Africa's democratic and constitutional system, weakens state institutions and expatriates capital overseas." The second, and principal part of the paper concerns itself with an assessment of the efficacy of these artist's utilisation of masculine ridicule as an effective strategy of disruption in bringing about a new social order. Do these actions represent the efficacy of these artistic re-orderings, or have they been contained by counter push-backs?

panel Art02
Breaking with the past: strategies of disruption in South African visual arts in the representation of a new social order