Each year, Grahamstown is enveloped by a coat of festival posters, banners and bunting. This coat, held together by bits of prestik and sticky-tape, forms a tenuous mask for structures (such as the university currently known as Rhodes and the 1820 Settlers Monument) which saw their foundations laid in commemoration of colonial exploits.
While the National Arts Festival provides an 11-day platform for South African and international artists to present their work to large enthusiastic audiences, the Festival is also significant in terms of the lens it offers for exploring the structures of privilege and oppression that have been so comprehensively woven into the fabric of South African society.
Out the mound of the obsolete and discarded posters, Semi-Gloss emerges from the heap, interrupting Grahamstown’s public spaces, disrupting conventional narratives and telling real and raw local stories: by Grahamstownians, about Grahamstown, in Grahamstown.
Semi-Gloss transforms the discarded posters of yesteryear into living, breathing ‘sculptures-with-a-heartbeat’. It will also feature a short film documenting local artists’ experiences of making art in a violently segregated cultural capital.
The work reimagines a shifting notion of the town and the structures which underpin it. Semi-Gloss picks away at the peeling lamination on the ‘glossy brochure’ of Grahamstown and its festival.