Assemblage Studios Launch Review

Assemblage is pleased to announce the launch of its latest initiative, the Newtown Artist Run Centre and Studios (NewARC) on Thursday 31 May 2012.

The NewARC was opened by the non-profit visual arts organisation Assemblage on 1 April 2012 and is the latest addition to the ‘cultural arc’ which stretches from Constitution Hill in Braamfontein, over Nelson Mandela Bridge, and into Newtown’s cultural precinct.

The space is a central hub for visual artists working in a variety of media (including painting, sculpture, photography, curating, writing, video and printmaking) and emphasises community, collaboration, sustainability and the sharing of resources, knowledge and skills. Assemblage will continue to run its current activities in the NewARC and resident artists can benefit from peer mentoring group sessions, workshops and talks, professional practice training, exhibition opportunities and international residency exchange.

As part of the launch of the NewARC, Mika Conradie will be curating a 5 day exhibition and talks programme, entitled Or As With. This title comes out of the exploration of what it means to ‘launch’ an object or an event and is derived from the term ‘or as with’ which dictionaries use in order to explain how a word can be used and propelled in and by real life situations. Artists will explore notions of the word ‘launch’ and all of its manifestations:

‘to initiate’; ‘to throw or propel with force’; ‘to hurl, fling or hurtle’; ‘to set or thrust a self-propelled craft in motion’; ‘to propel a vessel from one state of being to another’; ‘to make known to the public’; ‘to plunge’; ‘to catapult’; ‘to impel’; ‘to project’; ‘to instigate’; ‘to strike’; ‘to give impetus to’; ‘to make smooth or smoother, as if by rubbing’; ‘to pierce’ (Dictionary.com)

Please join us for a drink and pizza on Thursday 31 May at the NewARC from 18:00-21:00.

Opening address and the launch of a new art community concept will be at 19:00. After party from 21:00 at The Woods, Newtown.

Panel discussions relating to the concept of ‘launching’ a career as an artist, curator and art collective/organisation will take place on Saturday 2 June. (Programme to follow)

Address: 41 Gwi Gwi Mrwebi Street, Newtown (entrance on the north side of the building)

Thanks to our sponsors and partners: Primi Piatti, Gatsby Property Brokers, The Woods, IHC Consultancy

Mika Conradie currently works at the Market Photo Workshop as Archives and Research Coordinator and is busy completing her Honours in History of Art at the University of the Witwatersrand. She is one half of an independent publishing collective which focuses on using the alternative spaces provided by books and zines to research and explore everyday interactions with objects and concepts. The latest edition, ‘Manu[ ]Script: Prologue’ was created in conjunction with the Independent Publishing Project and the Goethe-Institut of Johannesburg. She has worked at the Wits Art Museum as Collections Organisation Specialist, assisting the relocation and reorganisation of WAM’s vast collection of African art. In November 2011 she co-curated ‘Zoo City’ at Constitution Hill. The exhibition was based on the novel of the same name by Lauren Beukes and played with ideas around transforming the space of a book into the space of an exhibition.

Review of the NewARC Studio launch by Shannon Ferguson.

NewARC: A Space to Watch

“Let’s give them another round of applause” Sam Nhlengethwa announced in his speech at the launch of the Newtown Artist Run Centre and Studios (NewARC) on the 31st of May to a crowd of over 300 people. Nhlengethwa was referring to the latest initiative of the non-profit visual arts organisation, Assemblage, spearheaded by Louise Van Der Bijl and Anthea Pokroy in 2010 . . . The crowd applauded with gusto.

Assemblage is about creating a platform for artists, writers and curators to show not only their work, which is  one facet of their initiative, but, to learn, share and engage with other artists through  peer mentoring sessions and workshops.  The focus is diverse and stretches across “community, collaboration, sustainability and the sharing of resources, knowledge and skills[1]”. The opening exhibition of the Assemblage studios was based on the theme “to launch” and was titled Or As With. The show itself was also a platform for emerging curator and writer, Mika Conradie. Conradie curated the show with a sensitivity to the fragmented nature of the Assemblage studio space, bringing together a remarkable fusion of work by creating a conversation between works on paper, video, painting, photography and sculpture. The exhibition showcased the work of artists who although serious about their practice are not represented by a gallery. Thus what Assemblage is showing is that young people, by pooling resources, imaginations and sheer pragmatism can produce new spaces to make themselves visible within the art world.

The NewARC studios are situated on GwiGwi Mrwebi Street, next to the dazzling red City Varsity building. The newly established Assemblage studios bring new life and business to the space, mixing self-motivated artists with students and business enterprises such as The Woods already in the area. The opening of these studios is an example of the new way young people are making their way in Jo’burg today, fusing passion with an entrepreneurial edge.

That said, Johannesburg is a large, complex and multilayered entity, where so many creatives struggle to find a foothold in the art world. Assemblage consequently seeks to create a dialogical space that engages the gaps between the young inexperienced artist and those who have reached the “summit” of success, represented by the few galleries that make up Johannesburg’s art scene.  In a way Assemblage is the “middleperson”, in that it makes art accessible by providing a base for artists to make work, to be involved in discussions and to exhibit. The launch exhibition for example utilised the art being made in the studios, but also allowed for artists not previously associated with Assemblage to exhibit thus, instigating conversation between artists in Johannesburg. Some of the artists included were CUSS COLLECTIVE (video), Danielle Wepener (painting), Louise Ross (painting), Minenkulu Ngoyi & Isaac Zavale (Printmaking), Shogan Ganas (television installation), Belle and Sissy (performance), Danien Esselen (sculpture) and Michelle van Straaten (installation).

On the 2nd June, the Saturday following the launch exhibition, a discussion with curator Portia Malatjie, the painter Nicola Taylor represented by Everard Read Gallery, curator of the show Mika Conradie and one  half of the brain of Assemblage, Louise Van Der Bijl, was held and open to the public. The conversation revolved around the concept of “launching” a career as an artist, curator and art collective/organisation.

Some of the points discussed in relation to this concept were: how do young curators define themselves and gain experience?  How do artists approach the art world after leaving university or even if self-taught, and what are the expectations?  How does one write proposals and find funding? What is the reality of gallery representation and the politics around the works that get to be shown? The discussion highlighted the many avenues creatives have to navigate within the art world in Jo’burg in order to keep producing engaging work and to be acknowledged.

Although Assemblage has been around for two years, it is itself a “work in progress”, still learning and navigating the industry and finding its own space as an NPO, artist-run centre and think tank. However, the exhibition reflected the immense potential of Assemblage and its capability to create new pockets for itself and all involved with it, to function in the art scene. The launch show was a success and I look forward to seeing how Assemblage continues to grow over time and fulfil its potential as a space that promotes and enables creativity in Johannesburg to flourish.

 

Shannon Ferguson

 

[1] http://www.assemblage.co.za/

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