Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Breaking down the Media Whores

This is report of aesthetic nature, specifically an article about a young lady who is putting an indelible stamp of innovation on contemporary ideologies. Meet Larita Engelbrecht, a visual artists living and loving in Stellenbosch who has an obsession that’s currently in excess. Visual excess in overdrive.

The year of 2010….. Self-defeating innuendos from MNCs structure our lives and everything is in overload. “Consumer culture [engulfs] us…..we’re in an ‘Economy of Attention’…and I seek to ask this question: What is the space of the imagination in the digital era?”

A girl who will always beg to differ, Larita is an academic of the arts, “a social and cultural critic, entrepreneur, marketer, curator and collaborator all rolled into one”. Her choice of medium is an application of digital media in combination with multi-media, sculpture, drawing and installation. She’s an artisan that has embraced the digital age and yet in doing so challenges the intrusion of technology and its superfluous upkeep.

Who do you aspire to?

I find myself bouncing between opposite poles of the art world – academic and commercial. On the one side I aspire to the work strategies of someone like Kathryn Smith On the other hand I have respect someone like Takashi Murakami, who oversees the production of his highly collectable fine art and design products.

What artist – local and international – inspires you?

Locally, I love Minnette VĂ¡ri’s video and print work. Internationally I draw inspiration for the Surrealists of the 1920’s, and many contemporary video and installation artists such as Matthew Barney, Tony Oursler, Nathalie Djurnberg and Steve McQueen.

The realm of aesthetics – art – how does it influence your life?

Art provides new ways of looking at the world, and new ways of looking is needed to understand the constantly shifting socio, political and cultural circumstances we find ourselves in.

How has your work evolved over the first few years? Where do you see it heading?

It is still very much in an embryo phase, I see it evolving into design projects, bigger installations, and projects beyond the limits of the gallery walls.

Your most recent exhibition at Salon91 “On the Uncanny and the Unconscious”– when and how did this concept/project take form?

Wessel Snyman and I wanted to exhibit together – he makes intricate kinetic sculptures and prints, and I made visually ‘excessive’ works by restaging old paintings. Together we both create works that are somewhat surrealist, that is uncanny in the familiarity of the images, but dream-like in the way that it is juxtaposed. My work developed form an obsession with Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights.

You have mentioned before about your art as “a playful comment on contemporary society”. How did you connect Bosch with contemporary society? What as the underlying emphasis?

Well, I view society as raging in a chaotic battle for attention all the time. By restaging the classical painting by Bosch, I am saying that his concerns (of representing an ‘utopian’ view of a world untouched by the Fall) are still there, but has evidently shifted into a realm where we do what we want to anyway, but certain social constraints still remain. When will the overload of information thrown unto us reach a saturation point? My underlying question is to ask whether there will be a ‘digital turn’ as with the ‘photographic turn’?

The women figure – sexuality – is it something you explore in your work? Why?

I try to avoid a feminist approach to creating work, but sexuality is something that inevitably seems to surface. The female body has been a site for much contestation throughout the history of art, and being a female creating performance work, it is unavoidable that I also contribute to this tradition of the female represented a sexualized figure.

By restaging bodies dressed in fleshy coloured stockings I am trying to avoid eroticizing the figures, but because of our inherent knowledge of the classical nude figure in art, it is somewhat of a failed attempt, and the figures remain sexualized even in their attempted ‘cover-up’.

Let's leave it there, for now.

With her dream project involving “organic pigment, a number of helicopters, a team of photographers and the Victoria Falls”, this is the girl who will take South Africa’s creative industry outside the galleries. Repertoires of land art and installations. Bigger ideas and bigger budgets. Poking fun at mediated conventions and ad agency fucks, Larita’s work reflects her creative scope and her wonderfully brazened ideas. Miss E’s artistic thirst is engrained in her soul, becoming both a tool for expression and her indulgence of passion.

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