Willem Boshoff's exhibition Licked ran at Michael Stevenson Contemporary from Tuesday 26 August until Saturday 27 September.
Boshoff has been writing dictionaries and concrete poetry since 1977. He combines these two esoteric disciplines in the making of three-dimensional 'books' so large that one may walk around in them. His exhibition at Michael Stevenson Contemporary is a combination of such written visual poetry and three-dimensional encyclopędic installations. Boshoff's first dictionary dealt with colour terms and, over the years, he has prepared dictionaries of 'manias and phobias', 'morphology', 'psychological terms', 'rhetoric', 'the eye and vision', 'difficult English', '-ologies and '-isms', 'strange financial terms', 'monsters and demons', 'objectionable terms,' 'rude names' and 'winds of the world'. Many of these have become major installations.
One of these conceptual installations, Garden of Words I, is included in this exhibition. Since 1982 Boshoff has been studying the names of plants in nature and in botanical gardens across the world and compiled a comprehensive list for use in his 'word-garden' installations. This installation of plant names is a kind of 'futile hothouse of thousands of plants prepared for the end of time', says Boshoff.
Another installation on display is Ostrakon which comprises hundreds of potsherds with the names of all South African cabinet ministers under apartheid (from 1900 - 1995) scattered on the floor. The work is a synchronistic response to, and establishes a dialogue around, elitism, decay, the rise and fall of power, and culpability. Ostrakon is Greek for a shard of pottery, which like the psephos or pebble, was used as an instrument of voting in the ancient democracy of Greece. There, the potsherd was used, not only to appoint but also to expel, not only to vote in, but also to vote out. Once voted out, a representative was thrown out of town and stoned by the very pieces of ostrakon in evidence - a word at the root of the modern English word 'ostracize'. Related works on exhibition include mapworks such as Trying to vote and Psephocracy in which contested land is re-plotted in subversive pseudo-political contexts. Boshoff talks of ostracizing the ostracizers and says that there are no settlers, only the unsettling and the unsettled.
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