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The Art of Anton Kannemeyer
April 27, 2013 11:08 PM   Subscribe

Black Gynaecologist (2008), 'I love the white middle class ...' (2008), Say! if you speak English... (2008).
The works and life of Anton Kannemeyer.
posted by - (21 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Black Gynaecologist, it's worth noting, is the inspiration for the strange middle interlude in Die Antwoord's Fatty Boom Boom.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:01 AM on April 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


These prints remind of the Hitler Teapot guy. They were interpreted as ironic deconstructions of Nazism, until it turned out that the guy actually was a Nazi and everybody was embarrassed to have fallen for the whole "ha ha, only serious" thing. I don't have any reason to think that Kannemeyer isn't being seriously ironic, but does it really make a difference? Do your motives make a difference when you're making something that a racist would hang on the wall?
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:41 AM on April 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


If the narratives of race being enacted on the bodies of South Africans are inspired by a material culture of racism, is it legitimate to depict the problems with the soiultions posited by said material culture?
posted by PinkMoose at 12:59 AM on April 28, 2013


I don't see any irony in his work. The teapot guy lived and grew up far away in time and space from Hitler and his reign. This guy grew up in a caste directly connected to apartheid; the entire living and daily culture is tied to apartheid.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:00 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


He's also got lithographs of Yolandi and Ninja of Die Antwoord for sale. I gotta say I don't understand any of this.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:16 AM on April 28, 2013


Joe in Australia, you ask "is ironic or not"? Perhaps that's not the good question.
A very young Zizek explains why, talking about another ambiguous artistic act, Laibach.
posted by - at 1:49 AM on April 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


talking about another ambiguous artistic act, Laibach.

Wow, that explain both Kammemeyer and Die Antwoord for me.They are not ironic but are exposing the subversions that are a secret yet inherent part of the system.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:20 AM on April 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Unless I'm missing something, the first one isn't racist. It looks like it must be calculated to infuriate racists, though.
posted by DU at 2:55 AM on April 28, 2013


Do your motives make a difference when you're making something that a racist would hang on the wall?

"Do motives matter?" itself is a fair question when discussing art, I suppose, but the attempt to bias the question with a totally loaded follow-up clause makes me want to answer "no" even when I know it to be true. If your question is legitimate and fair, there's no need to persuade while asking it.

About the Hitler teapot guy: if you do a Google search of his name, and look at "images," you will see that he made similar teapots with the faces of Charles Manson, Amy Winehouse and leaders of North Korea and Iran, in addition to Hitler. It made me wonder, is there a coherent philosophy behind this stuff? It seems doubtful. And it made me wonder as well, did anyone ever bother to originally *ask* this guy about his personal beliefs? I'm guessing no. I suspect someone saw a ridiculous teapot, wrote about it, everyone "assumed" it was okay since no one was objecting and voilà, media sensation. Until someone bothered to do some homework.

This says more about our society than it does the artist - we challenge racist assumptions, but not our own assumptions about people's belief systems.

I did not hear about Kannemeyer until tonight, but a scan of his work shows that much of it is unambiguous - he's angered by apartheid, its legacy and the enduring thuggish attitudes of many Afrikaners - including his own father.

However, like many provocative artists, Kannemeyer is not just a simple propagandist for any ideology; he also investigates and raises questions that are troubling. He does this, too, in a sometimes troubling manner.

One of his pieces shows a "rich" (fancy dress and hair, pearls) white woman being held down and about to be raped by several black "savages" (drawn in old racist style, each "savage" has the identical face, build and expression.) She cannot see her husband, whose throat has been cut by another "savage" and who is probaly dead already (his pupils are "x"s), but she calls out to him, saying "Do something, Harold! These historically disadvantaged men want to rape me!!" (This picture is shown in the last link of the original post.)

It's an intense piece, and while I could see a racist person hanging this on their wall, my thought on that would be, well, racists are stupid by definition already, aren't they? There are a few of Kannemeyer's pieces I would be delighted to own, but this one isn't one of them. It makes me uncomfortable. I know I shall spend a lot of time thinking about it after I finish this post.

But I agree with the critic who writes, "[Kannemeyer] doesn’t say how things should be but, rather, ridicules them as they are in an effort to open our eyes a little wider."

Having had several perplexing conversations with a South African friend on the subjects of guilt, redress for the crimes of apartheid and a very uncertain future for South Africa, I'm beginning to have just the start of an understanding for what he's getting at, and how issues of guilt were handles differently in Germany after WWII, Bosnia in my life and South Africa, too.

Racists tend to be the first ones to talk about the will of God, a country's noble ideals, what's "right" for our kids and whatever else they can dig up to support a fundamentally moronic set of beliefs. I don't much care what silly misinterpretations they make or what manifestations of aesthetic choice their feeble skulls muster. If they hang a Kannemeyer above their fireplace in the mistaken belief that he's "one of them" and stare at it for a few minutes every day, it's just that much longer they're not out in pulic and in my face.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 3:04 AM on April 28, 2013 [20 favorites]


Very thought-provoking and difficult discussion about ambiguous artistic acts (I like the term). With subversives like Kannemeyer it seems that everyone and everything is open for criticism, even the wrongdoings of the oppressed. Add the fact that their commentary often is absurdist and it starts to make sense why they seem so contradictory and difficult to grasp.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:33 AM on April 28, 2013


Moulinsart Lawyers in the Congo for the win.

FWIW, where I live you can still buy Conguitos candy.

So no, the war on stereotype hasn't been won yet, despite the efforts of the vanguard of the irony army.
posted by chavenet at 4:49 AM on April 28, 2013


Dee Xtrovert : About the Hitler teapot guy: if you do a Google search of his name, and look at "images," you will see that he made similar teapots with the faces of Charles Manson, Amy Winehouse and leaders of North Korea and Iran, in addition to Hitler. It made me wonder, is there a coherent philosophy behind this stuff?

Yes.

It seems doubtful. And it made me wonder as well, did anyone ever bother to originally *ask* this guy about his personal beliefs? I'm guessing no. I suspect someone saw a ridiculous teapot, wrote about it, everyone "assumed" it was okay since no one was objecting and voilà, media sensation. Until someone bothered to do some homework.

Ahahah. Not so easy. The guy came from a group (UNPOP) that uses exactly the same techniques of Laibach, Kannemeyer, etc. But they are not afraid to show their right wing/nazi sympathies.

What is interesting here, it's not the artwork per se. But our reaction. We feel the need to draw a line between seriousness and irony. And we desperately need to know the real intention of the author in order to evaluate his artwork.

What we don't realize is that in that game we are both executioners and victims. Racism is only in the eyes of who observe and it's completely contextual. In the right context, we can use UNPOP artworks with the same polemic and progressive intent of Kannemeyer's works.

Laibach music is used at nazi manifestation quite often here in Europe, and they think that their interpretation is absolutely right. Like Liabach, UNPOP and Kannemeyer works show to us how thin and contextual is our ethical apparatus. We always need to find the bad guy and the good guy, and if the good guy do what what the bad guy would do, it's because it's "ironic". This same irony is used to keep our ethical standards clean.
posted by - at 5:46 AM on April 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


It will help to contrast this with the source material.
posted by dubusadus at 6:00 AM on April 28, 2013


Do your motives make a difference when you're making something that a racist would hang on the wall?

This kind of attitude drives me crazy. It's a kind of self censorship of language and image that seems especially popular in the US and UK that gives images a kind of magical power to be evil in themselves and as a result makes it impossible to make work about some subjects.
If you are afraid of images of the things you fear are you sure you're not just trying to avoid the discomfort of facing those things? Sometimes (actually, a lot of the time), art is about looking at things that are "itchy" in some way - that touch something that one finds oneself automatically turning away from and unable to look at , but that niggle for a reason you don't quite understand. These kinds of response to art misunderstand where art happens - you're reducing the "art" to the surface of the image itself - the "art" usually doesn't happen there, it happens when you experience it.

Lets start with the "black gynaecologist" image - it isn't really operating ironically because any racism in the image isn't inherent in the picture at all, it's in the reading of the image, and the clever framing of its title. The picture is forcing a kind of self reflection on its audience, who being apartheid era south africans would have likely found it a shocking image even if they were "liberal" anti-apartheid whites, and would have had to face that discomfort in their viewing of it. (I'm not meaning "shocking" here as "outrageous" - i'm more literally meaning they would have had a feeling of surprise and discomfort.)

The other images which use caricatured images of black people work in a similar way. The Liberals, for instance, really works at a very uncomfortable level - it makes it very hard to escape the discomforting realisation of ones own lingering racism to look at it. By making the black people much more caricatured than the white people in the image the viewer is only really aware of their blackness and otherness rather than seeing them as individuals. They're murdering and raping the white characters who we, as viewers, are relating to. Because we're relating to the white characters there's the sense that the black caricatures are the image as *seen* by the white people in the image. Just like the woman in the picture we're conflicted about how we should respond to the scene because our carefully constructed anti-racist impulses are confused. It feels like the return of a repressed racist fear of the avowedly anti-racist - the response of the woman in calling her attackers "historically disadvantaged men" in it's very determination to use the appropriate language is framing the whole thing as a matter of race. The discomfort we feel looking at the picture is exactly the same discomfort that makes her use this language - it's a fear of facing our own possible racism. That's why when you ask whether the motivation behind painting the picture matters when it's "making something racist to hang on a wall" you're asking the wrong question - in this case I think it's completely obvious that the motivation isn't racist (real racism wouldn't reveal itself so explicitly) - the question you should always ask is what your response to the image is, and what is your motivation behind that response. If your response is to say that the image shouldn't be hung on a wall (presumably it should be hidden away then, and not seen) - then what is it that you're really wanting to hide?
posted by silence at 6:16 AM on April 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


You can tell from the first one that the artist hasn't spent any time with his feet in any stirrups.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:25 AM on April 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Fascinating stuff. I wonder if The Liberals is a reference to J.M. Coetzee's "Shame", which has a very similar scene (presented somewhat more naturalistically).
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:44 AM on April 28, 2013


I don't know, this stuff can't be hung on a wall (who would?) and you can't piss in it... Seems a little cliched, especially the Liberals piece and the Tintin knockoffs. Shocking doesn't necessarily make for fine art, although Hitler teacup guy is amusing in a twisted sort of way (how he got away with it, that is).
posted by KokuRyu at 7:00 AM on April 28, 2013


I don't know, this stuff can't be hung on a wall (who would?) and you can't piss in it...

I'd hang The Liberals on my wall in a snap. Not sure my wife would be so keen, though.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:30 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't tell if Laibach has made me dislike Queen even more or made me appreciate them. Who would have thought all the triumphalism in Queen is eerily fascistic, Laibach I guess.

Great post, introduced me to several interesting things.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:56 PM on April 28, 2013


I think another clue to how he's intending his art to be viewed is the fact that most of the white men he draws have the same distinctive sideburns as Kannemeyer himself. It seems to me that he's not only highlighting the racial narratives that exist in white culture, he's also acknowledging that on some level he's complicit in perpetuating them.
posted by capricorn at 8:03 PM on April 28, 2013


This is kind of a banal observation, but I'm glad the world has institutions that support challenging art. I'm not sure the artist would have an easy time on Kickstarter or that his paintings would do well as prints on woot.com shirts.
posted by Nomyte at 5:49 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


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