The exhibition interrogates the central role played by work in the construction and perception of our identities. The artist writes:
It is a conversation that often happens in airplanes. After I’ve avoided small talk for most of the flight, the person next to me will try to strike up a conversation as the plane starts its descent:
“So, what do you do?”
“I’m an artist.” “Really? And what do you do to make money?”
As it happens, I do have a job, like many artists, and make art in my spare time. This exhibition was entirely produced after and in-between work hours. This effectively means that I am an amateur artist. But despite the necessary role of work in my life, I locate my identity outside of my job, in my art. This arrangement is something that I think offers an interesting opportunity, not because I appreciate the value of an honest day’s work, but because it allows me to view my art as the productive labour of non-work – as an alternative to work.
“Work” brings into focus prevailing perceptions of work, including the ideological dimension which maintains that ‘work’ is morally ‘good’. Central to the exhibition is the video Sunday Light, which looks at the Johannesburg city centre as a site that is defined by the work day, and explores Sunday as a day of non-work. According to the script:
Johannesburg, like many big cities, is often described as vibrant and chaotic. This is true for the most part, but Johannesburg has another life that exists outside of the clichés we project onto it. Sunday in the city is not a day of trade, industry or consumption. Nor is it a day for business. As a result, it is a space in which the character of Johannesburg can inscribe itself. Johannesburg is a city that works and sleeps, and on Sundays it does as it will …
After the Work Stopped is a series of six static video portraits of work sites after-hours. The portraits are all filmed around City Deep, an industrial area located adjacent to the central business district. The videos capture the atmosphere of these deserted sites. Using a series of customised mirrors and filters, the headlights of cars passing unseen behind the camera are reflected back into the lens. The result is a choreographed movement of light that erases the image. One video will be shown each day of the working week. As part of the exhibition, on 27 June, Bettina Malcomess will host a series of interviews around work, labour and free time which the public is invited to attend.
Simon Gush, born 1981, lives in Johannesburg. He was a 2011 Fellow at the Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts, University of Cape Town, and completed postgraduate studies at the Hoger Instituut van Schone Kunsten in Ghent, Belgium, in 2008. He has previously held solo shows at Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg, in 2009, 2010 and 2011; and at Galerie West in the Hague, the Netherlands, and SMAK in Ghent, Belgium, in 2010. Group exhibitions include My Joburg at La Maison Rouge, Paris (opening 21 June 2013); Halakasha at the Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg (2010); the 2009 Luleå Summer Biennial, Sweden; and .za: Giovane arte dal Sudafrica at Palazzo delle Papesse, Siena (2008).