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SOCIOLOGY: MASTERS 5033S: Page 3 of 5

Course Alias: 
Art and the Sociology of Popular Culture

Part 3: The Eye and Popular Imagination ( William Kentridge, Omar Badsha, Ari Sitas)

 3.1 The Epic and the Monumental

We have developed enough of a nuanced understanding of aesthetic acuity by focusing on the word and on sound to look at two inter-related but highly contrasting visual traditions of the first part of the 20th Century: the powerful imaginative and constructivist work of the Russian artists of the post Revolution period and the Mexican muralists. The former leads via-Alexander Rodchenko to documentary photography as well. The latter leads to a powerful current in public art that is vibrant everywhere to this day.

 Following Victor Magnolin’s take on the Soviet artists, The Struggle for Utopia- Rodchenko, Lissitzky, Moholy-Nagy- 1917-46, we can get a sense of the changing visual in architecture, installation, poster, graphic and painting that was involved in the pre- and the post-Stalinist era. The contrasts to Rivera, Orozco or Siqueiros are overwhelming. (Desmond Rochford, 1994, The Muralists: Rivera, Orozco, Siqueiros)

It is the distance of scientific monism versus a folkloric pluralism; between the geometric, algebraic and mathematical to the vegetative and polymorphous. And we trace how both traditions reverberated beyond their borders.

 3.2 The Documentary Photography of South Africa

One of the strongest visual traditions in South Africa in its relation to society is around documentary photography. Although it starts as a tradition of “bearing witness” to Apartheid influenced by realist imagery, it begins to get imbued with the sense of texture, agency and social history where its evocative and story-telling possibilities come to the fore. Although the work of the 1950s to the 1970s was important it is the conjunction between the rise of social movements in the 1970s and the creation of photographic collectives that starts a brand new track- here work of Afrapix, as in the Broken Barricades collection; of Badsha (Imperial Ghetto), Nunn, Rajgopaul, Weinberg, Ledochowski and many more, will provide the backdrop for a reflection on the interconnections between the eye and history.

 3.3.1 and 3.3.2- the choice here is between Public and Urban Art of the 2000s in South Africa and Art and the Popular in Africa. The former will be looking at the public art of groups like Jay Pather’s Siwela Sonke in Durban and Cape Town and the work of collectives like Dala and how they are reconfiguring popular spaces and how they relate to sedentary communities or communities in transit. What is their relationship to the public art of the 1970s and 1980s for example the poster work described in the late Jon Berndt’s (2004) From Weapon to Ornament. Orli Bass (2006) An African City- Performing African Urbanity, PhD thesis;The second current will be looking at three African artists, Sam Ntiro, Malangatana and Pitika Ntuli to explore the relationship between art, history, tradition and contemporary experience.

 (Omar Badsha, 1986)

(Pitika Ntuli, 2011)

 The Visual

  •  Victor Magnolin (1991), The Struggle for Utopia- Rodchenko, Lissitzky, Moholy-Nagy- 1917-46,
  • Afrapix Collective/Omar Badsha (1984) Broken Barricades, Cape Town.
  • Omar Badsha Imperial Ghetto, Pretoria: Unisa Press
  •  Chris Ledochowski  (2003) Cape Flats Detail: Life and Culture in the Townships of Cape Town. Pretoria: South Africa History Online & UNISA Press.
  •  Jon Berndt’s (2004) From Weapon to Ornament. Cape Town
  •  Rike Sitas and Dean Henning, (2007) A City, KZNSA, Durban
  •  PitikaNtuli (2011) Scent of Invisible Footprints, Exhibition Catalogue, UNISA: the University Press