Die karnavaleske as sosiale kommentaar : 'n ondersoek na geselekteerde werke van Steven Cohen
This dissertation presents an investigation into two so-called live art works – Ugly girl at the rugby (1998) and Chandelier (2001-2002) – by the contemporary South African artist Steven Cohen (1962-). These works are explored with reference to the manner in which Cohen (as self-declared queer Jewish freak) uses performance art as a form of activism in order to expose practices of marginalisation and suppression (oppression) of non-normative or so-called deviant subject positions in terms of gender, race and ethnicity. The analysis of artworks is guided by the discourse of the carnavalesque and performative conceptualisations of gender with particular emphasis on Cohen’s use of drag as contemporary form of masquerade in order to propose an alternative subject position. The argument is as follows: that Cohen, by setting up an extreme alternative to normative identity constructs, manages to destabilise existing hierarchies that are structured according to binaries as these exist in spaces (such as a rugby stadium and a squatter camp) in the South African context. This destabilising of binary hierarchies gives rise to the argument that the symbolically encoded nature of spaces known for associations of suppression, exclusion and marginalisation are wrought open so that alternative meanings can come into being by activating these spaces as multifaceted and chronotopic constructs. The conclusion is that Cohen contributes profoundly towards the destabilisation of identities and in this way also helps to propose invigorating and fresh views of gender, race and ethnicity in a contemporary South African situation.
- Humanities