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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

JAMES BECKETT (article first published : 2006-04-24)

James Beckett is to present the intriguingly-named an untitled exhibition of cut-up in the KZNSA Gallery’s Multimedia room.

The artist studied at the Natal Technikon in Durban from 1995 to 1999 during which time he won the Emma Smith prize which allowed him to study in Berlin for a year. He was accepted to the Rijksakademie Van Beeldende Kunsten and moved to Amsterdam to partake in the residency, after which he won the prestigious Prix de Rome for Art and Public Space.

Initially working with installation, sound has increasingly taken a more central role in his work. This has been a research-based activity with output ranging from radio documentaries to mock ethnic bands, as well as museum displays documenting the cultural and physiological effects of noise. The evolution in specific areas of the industrial revolution have also played muse; the foundation of synthetic colour manufacture and its relationship to BASF, and the cultural implications of vacuum tubes for the Dutch firm Philips.

This present exhibition is a return to physical installation and informed more by the techniques of music-making and text hence the use of cut-up. (As a technique developed by Burroughs and the like, cut-up is a form of text mangling resulting in new meanings beyond the author’s intent and control)

As with conventional cut-up, one would butcher a series of texts and combine them at random to form new sentences, phrases and constellations. In this instance, rather than the “cut” being restricted within a single source, it is rather applied between and across different sources. In this sense the cut-up is not applied on a micro level, resulting in a simple shuffle with a blunt result.

This scenario can best be described as a museum of concealed twigs for the blind.

The objects and devices used to conceal the twigs are not tied to an obvious use although they are reminiscent of 70’s spy culture, a by-product of the Cold War. The descriptions notated in Braille are European weather reports; undecipherable chunks of supposed text, lending significance to the accompanying objects more in respect to their quantity than actual comprehension.

Part museum, part information booth for the potential uncovering of concealed items, the “museum” appears to function as actual repository, its signage and finishings adding authenticity to its subject. With time the museum reveals its true subject; namely itself. This in turn can be seen as a reflection on the nature of representation and malleability within the mechanics of reason.

This is the first venue of a travelling exhibition put together in Durban. It will later travel to Cape Town then Russia (St Petersburg), Estonia (Tallinn) and hopefully Finland (Helsinki), to finish in the Netherlands (Amsterdam).

an untitled exhibition of cut-up runs at the KZNSA from April 25 to May 14. The exhibition would not be possible without the generous support of the Mondriaan Foundation of the Netherlands. For information on the artist’s earlier work, news and contact details visit www.jamesbeckett.tk




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