Simon Gush


6 August - 26 September 2009

Michael Stevenson is pleased to announce a first major showing of work by Simon Gush.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is a video of a five-a-side soccer match played on railway tracks, titled In the Company of. The work was filmed in Belgium, where Gush currently resides, and the two teams were largely made up of immigrants to that country, as is the case with so many European soccer teams. Here the players must continuously adapt to the unusual circumstances of a terrain full of obstacles. According to Gush:

The idea underlying this body of work is that antagonisms cannot be overcome or solved and we therefore need to find ways through which they can be renegotiated. This piece is about two teams constantly repositioning themselves in relation to each other and the playing surface of railway tracks. The game has a result - that is, a winner - but not necessarily a conclusion.

Two related works are Underfoot (Vooruit), a video of a performance in Ghent, and Underfoot (Cape Town), a performance on Saturday 8 August as part of the exhibition. In these pieces, two ballroom dancers perform on a floor covered in Coca-Cola. The work was inspired by a little-known event in the 1950s when an American basketball team, scheduled to play in a ballroom in Germany, found the floor too slippery and decided to cover it with Coca-Cola to make it sticky. This work, Gush suggests, looks at the process of ongoing negotiation that takes place when different cultures come into contact and interact.

A subtheme in the exhibition, evident from the two videos, is how art and culture might contribute to or challenge the present state of affairs. A work titled Longer Than Before entails the gallery opening on Sundays between 2 and 5pm for the duration of the show. Here Gush reflects on the implications of market-friendly liberal democracy for the dissemination of art. Regular gallery hours exclude a large part of the potential audience because they have to be at work, which is especially problematic in a country like South Africa, where commercial galleries have de facto taken on an almost institutional role

The implications of labour in a capitalist environment, brought into focus by Longer Than Before, become a second subtheme of the exhibition. Eight Hours, Residual Stress, PTO (16 November 2009) and a series of text works all take labour relationships as their point of departure. The continuous negotiations that take place both formally and informally between employers and employees can be seen as a metaphor for the contested and unstable relationships between political identities, cultural traditions and inherited structures.

Born in 1981, Gush graduated with a BA(FA) from the University of Witwatersrand in 2003, and in 2008 completed his postgraduate studies at the Hoger Instituut van Schone Kunsten in Ghent, Belgium. In 2007 he exhibited at Michael Stevenson as part of the side gallery series (see Salute), and held collaborative exhibitions with Dorothee Kreutzfeldt in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Recent group exhibitions include the Luleå Summer Biennial, Sweden (2009); Die Keuze van Koen van den Broek at Indian Caps, Antwerp (2009); Self/Not-self at Brodie/Stevenson (2009); Test Patterns: Recent video work from South Africa at San Francisco Camerawork, San Francisco (2009); and .za: giovane arte dal Sudafrica at Palazzo delle Papesse, Siena (2008).

Gush exhibits concurrently with Wim Botha, Zineb Sedira and Serge Alain Nitegeka.

The exhibition opens on Thursday 6 August, 6-8pm. The gallery is open for the duration of this exhibition from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm; Saturday 10am to 1pm and Sunday 2pm to 5pm.

Gush will give an introduction to his work followed by the performance Underfoot on Saturday 8 August at 12 noon. Entrance is free and all are welcome.