Die estetiese konkretisering van herinneringe in die konseptuele installasiekuns van Willem Boshoff
Swanepoel, Magritha Christiana
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This study focuses on the way in which Willem Boshoff aesthetically con-cretized the historical memories of Afrikaners and their influence on their notion of power and identity formation. For this purpose a selection was made of Boshoff’s language-based conceptual installations. During the colonial and apartheid eras South Africa had a long history, which was characterized by people in power who encountered other population groups from a vantage point of superiority implying subjection. This implied that the particular in-terests of the people in power were generalized across the whole of society and imposed on all population groups as generalized interests. Where the in-dividual interests did not correspond to the general interests of society in its totality, the interests of the individual were negated and ignored. It can there-fore be stated that the utopia of those in power became the proverbial hell of the other. The study emanates from Ricoeur’s plea for a critical and imaginative en-counter with history so that other perspectives on traumatic events can be developed. Such an approach creates the possibility of opening up the unreal-ized promises of the past for the present and leading to the future. It further proceeds from the assumption that if we are faithful to the past, we will also be faithful to “the more” of the past or that which transcends the past. My ap-proach is in line with that of Verbeeck, who – tying in with Ricoeur – ad-vocated an anachronistic encounter with and interpretation of history. What is meant by aesthetic concretization in this study is that Willem Boshoff conceptually expresses his artistic interpretation and visual manifestation of philosophical ideas on Afrikaners’ memories of power and identity. He makes real (real-ises) and gives shape to these philosophical ideas. For this purpose three dates in the historical narratives of Afrikaners were selected, which had an important impact on Afrikaners’ notions of power and identity formation: 31 May 1902 –The end of the Anglo-Boer War and the demise of the Boer Republics and the freedom of Afrikaners; 31 May 1961 – The formation of the Republic of South Africa under the leadership of the National Party, and 27 April 1994 – The first democratic elections in South Africa, and the Afrikaners’ total loss of power. The reading and interpretation of Boshoff’s installations were undertaken with-in the framework of Adorno’s dialectical distinction in his aesthetic theory be-tween the Inhalt and the Gehalt of works of art. Adorno regards everything that appears in the work of art, viz. everything that the artist gives form to, as Inhalt [content]. Gehalt, on the other hand, refers to the truth content of works of art, which according to him resides in the specific negation [German: bestimmte Negation] of the untruth of an inhuman society. For Adorno bestimmte Negation signifies a break both with that which exists [in other words a negation of the predominance of a false reality] and with the continuity between the present and the future [the salvation of the moment or element which holds promise of something, which goes beyond that which exists, and refers to something better]. In Adorno’s view works of art are tho-roughly historically determined. According to Adorno the history of society is sedimented in the material, the constellations and the form elements of works of art. What is meant by this is that the artistic material which an artist [in this study Boshoff] utilizes, is not only words, pigments, or rock, but is everything that is pre-formed by history that the artist uses. Because history sediments in the material and because the material of a work of art is taken from reality, but in a fragmented fashion, the work of art becomes a monad – that is auto-nomous and windowless, because the work of art, apparantly, has no links to or relationships with recognizable reality or with other works of art. I argue that the exposé of the memories of Afrikaners of cultural and political domination, with historical narratives as a source, and the influence of these on their visions of power and identity, offers a framework for the reading and interpretation of selected installations. In these selected installations, Boshoff offers immanent criticism of the above unequal power relations and con-comitant views of identity. Through striving for the harmonious and the good as ethical and aesthetic principles in his installations focused on social inter-action, he makes a contribution to the creation of a more humanitarian society.
- Humanities