STEVENSON is pleased to present SEX, a group exhibition curated by Lerato Bereng.
The exhibition is a set of ongoing responses to the question ‘sex?’ which was offered to artists as a curatorial proposition. Taking place in the gallery’s Johannesburg space, SEX is a kaleidoscope of positions unearthing sexual narratives from Johannesburg, South Africa and the continent. The exhibition examines the sexual timeline found in the South African media and the oral history of memorable spaces and moments in the past decade.
Sexually speaking, the start of this decade was marked by Jacob Zuma’s statement during his rape trial that he had showered after sex with an HIV-positive woman. Another milestone for South Africa was a wave of nationalism with the hosting of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. In this time of jubilation and hedonistic indulgence, sex seemed to be on many minds. 2010 was the year that Mapona Vol 1 was produced, the first all-black South African porn film. The film, which was discussed in the media and went semi-viral, according to its producer, ‘sought to promote safe sex and combat HIV’. In the same year, a nationwide debate around the temporary legalisation of prostitution ahead of the hosting of the World Cup ensued. AWB leader Eugene Terreblanche was murdered and the circumstances surrounding his death were allegedly said to have homoerotic undertones.
Simon Gush looks at the 2010 ruling by the South African Labour Appeal Court in which a sex worker won her case for unfair dismissal from a brothel. Gush has invited activist organisations Sonke Gender Justice, Sisonke Sex Workers Movement and SWEAT (Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce) to respond to the subject, and this will be presented in the form of a performative installation on the opening night, a discussion and the sharing of some advocacy materials on sex work as labour. Cartoonist Themba Siwela’s paintings depict fictional scenes from particularly black South African rural and urban contexts as a form of social commentary. Mame-Diarra Niang responds by way of sexual vibrations and frequencies that reference the viral ‘sex-solution’ flyers that populate the Johannesburg cityscape. Zanele Muholi’s video Being Scene depicts a lesbian couple in the act of sex. This moment of unhinged ecstasy speaks of a kind of sexual liberation that on paper, South Africa has honed, but in reality is met by brutal homophobic hate crimes and gender violence. Muholi will exhibit a hate crime time-line in the gallery’s fifth floor space detailing over a decade of murdered lesbians in South Africa.
Joburg-based collective FAKA draws from the city’s social clubs and restages a scene from a men-only sex club, addressing inhibitions and public acts of sex. Steven Cohen exhibits sex notes written on pieces of toilet paper that were passed through glory holes in the Wits University male bathrooms. As Cohen describes it, ‘the work wasn't made in anticipation of, or in reflecting about, sex – it was made during [the act] and not as art - the realisation of it as art came later’. His video piece relates to ‘violence, power, cruelty, extermination', and links a violent sexual act to the holocaust in a display of bestiality. Sabelo Mlangeni’s photographic series, The Garden of Eden, details a sex park in Berlin. The images are void of figures, and capture traces in space that allude to sex acts that have occurred or are happening in the moments of darkness.
Nandipha Mntambo responds to the 1950s study of human sexual responses by Masters and Johnson. Her lithographs capture the male and female sexual climax from the starting point of sex to the resolution period, with both roles being played by the artist in hermaphroditic compositions. Moshekwa Langa’s piece depicts a moment of masculine eroticism, expressing the vulnerability of intimate moments of self-pleasure, in relation to the presence of another – a kind of pubescent sexuality. Artu Peatoo is the genderless, fictional, collaborative-problem-child-artist-offspring of Robyn Penn and Richard Penn. The process of collaboration is organic, ideas are never discussed but rather unfold in mark-making. For SEX Artu Peatoo will present a pair of paintings derived from an interest in political commentary as well as the decorative and sexually explicit trends in art history.
Dineo Seshee Bopape‘s 2006 video, a love supreme, details the artist sensuously licking chocolate off a glass screen to John Coltrane’s 1965 song of the same name, alluding to a particular sensuality. Nástio Mosquito’s sound piece Desire is a sensuous voiceover that evokes the senses and titillates. Desire is a chapter in Mosquito’s expanding performative work titled Dogging which takes as its departure point sensual scenes and descriptions found in the bible. Mosquito has also created an audio walkabout referencing sexual stories and facts from South Africa which guides one through the show. Mitchell Gilbert Messina presents a set of exploding champagne bottles, alluding to a moment of jubilant ejaculation. A second work made in collaboration with Marianne Thesen Law looks at cyberspace as a platform for sex, ‘sex in a virtual dimension, or a shared imaginary space – exploring spaces of intimacy through interactions with technology’.
The exhibition seeks to cast a light on the subject in multiple forms including literature, archived online articles, sound and film. There will be a reading and screening room in the gallery’s fifth floor space which will include some African fiction works with a focus on sex and other texts including Sextme, a selection of short stories from African writer’s collective Jalada; a text by Lesotho-born writer Lineo Segoete titled Basotho Women Love Sex Too; and This Summer, an audio poem by Pamella Dlungwana.
A collection of video works will be screened as part of a special set of screenings during the run of the show. These include Of Good Report by South African director Jahmil XT Qubeka which was the first South African film to be banned since 1994; the iconic 1972 American porn film Deep Throat; and the inaugural all-black South African porn film Mapona Vol 1.
The exhibition opens on Thursday 21 April, from 6-8pm.
There will be a series of talks and screenings throughout the duration of the exhibition. Please refer to our Facebook page for updates.