This work depicts and exposes, both literally and figuratively, the extreme misery, the pathos and dehumanization of poverty. In a true sense, it is a picture of severe loss and finally a loss of human dignity. At the same time, there is indeed a hidden sexual message in the couple's nakedness and the presence of the baby doll on the mother's breast. It is the message that when earthly possessions are lost, there is still an obstinate will to live and love. A will which manifests itself to procreate as is pertinently apparent in many parts of the world that suffer the most enduring poverty, including our own country and the rest of Africa. The fact that the woman holds a doll could also imply male impotency in the face of social dystopia.
Richardt Strydom's winning work certainly has sparked much discussion and debate within Sasol. We are proud of our 19-year association with this competition and recognise the important position the competition has secured within the South African art calendar. There is no doubt that the important stature of the competition is also a product of the rigorous judging process and the high calibre of that judging panel.
Sasol has not in the past, nor plans in the future, to offer any form of censure or controls within the New Signatures judging process but we do believe we have a right to express a view on any decision by the judges, both to the judges and to the public.
We will naturally accept the decision of the judges. We also recognise that some members of the Sasol staff as well as some members of the public may be challenged or even offended by the piece and we feel it is both responsible and appropriate, that we distance Sasol from the artwork.
Sasol proudly supports the arts and our company art collection contains many very challenging works of art. While we support artistic integrity we also respect differing views on what is acceptable.
Sasol Corporate Affairs Manager
Nare Mokgotho - "conceptual intervention"
The central theme of my work is the ownership of public space and property in South Africa at present. As self explanatory as the term "Public Space" may seem, the reality is that stringent laws (whether legally or socially generated) are often imposed, by both the private and public sector, on public spaces which inhibit the way in which the public occupies these spaces.
My work often takes the form of public interventions and simple actions that question who the real owner/s of public space is. In one example of my work, using reflective cones and danger tape, I demarcated a section of a Street lane in a business district so as to limit the flow of traffic and I then advertised the space for sale.
Interested parties (in theory) could then call the number attached to the advertisement to enquire about the property for sale. As an extension of this, my proposed work for the Sasol New Signatures exhibition moves out of the public domain into the gallery but still seeks to raise questions pertaining to ownership, this time specifically the ownership of intellectual property. I propose that my name be inserted into every label of the works on exhibition and that I receive a special mention before the commencement of all performance works (without the consent or knowledge of the artists) so as to be credited as a collaborative partner in the creation of the works. In this way I question the (sole) ownership of an artwork by its creator. The work asserts that artworks emerge as a result of social engagement and interaction. It therefore, promotes social production of art as opposed to singular production and authorship. The work is also in direct contrast to individualized scholarship - a Western approach where individual authorship is power and claims to knowledge are competitive. This places my work very much in a post-modern frame that undermines the prevailing notion of artistic genius.
In my view, my conceptual investment into the works makes it only fair that I should be credited as the co-creator and co-owner of the works on show.
In conclusion, the proposed work opposes the long standing and exclusive acceptance of object-based art as art by the South African art community. My work also raises several other very important questions:
How far can one push the boundaries of accepted conventions? How accepting are artists when their very identities as singular creators and owners of the very work they produced are unsettled?
In my view I have answered the competition's calls for new and innovative work, though, I concede that in some ways my work challenges the precepts upon which the competition itself is hinged. It remains to be seen if the New Signatures Competition itself will, by including my intervention, challenge the accepted exhibition/gallery practices.