Ouma Lunches: a research experiment by Clare Butcher

Ouma lunches - Lunch 2, August 12th 2011


August 12th 2011, Studio, Old Medical Building



Starter: Tomato and Bean Salad

Main: Green (not green!) Mielie Chowder, Toasted leftover poppy-seed bread

Dessert: Small or large chocolate tarts with marmalade, Carrot cake from Jessica (family recipe)

Beverage: Warwick First Lady, Cab-Sav.


CCA colleagues:

Jessica BrownAndrew PutterGeorge Mahashe Jon Whidden

Meal* Other ingredients (some thoughts and comments shared in the interim):


From: Clare Butcher


Subject: re: meeting about the exhibition next week

Date: June 1, 2011 11:28:45 AM GMT+02:00

To: George Mahashe, Andrew Putter, brenton maart, Joanne Bloch, Jessica Brown, Niek de Greef, carolyn.hamilton, Pippa Skotnes

Hello A Team!

Just wanted to touch base with you about exhibition plans before we scatter at the end of semester…What I'd like to hear is if anyone has had major epiphanies, changes in direction, ideas for collective action, strategies etc. Basically, bring something you'd like to talk about and I'll do the same. Attached for your interest is a wonderful text by Pad.ma: an South Asian video archive platform who are pretty dynamic and have some incredible insights into preemptive archival interventions, here!

Best wishes



From: Clare Butcher

Subject:re: Follow up on next year's exhibition - some thoughts to mull over

Date: June 21, 2011 9:46:16 AM GMT+02:00

Dearest colleagues,

After a good chat with Andrew last week he urged me to send along some of my thoughts to our group just to perhaps start a bit more of a directed conversation around the exhibition. The conversation also followed a good meeting with Nadja at the gallery - where she informed me what equipment and other support she can offer us. It's a nice space, and there are many possibilities. Which brings me, I suppose to some of the following points:

One (sort of) point:

The space is very beautiful, and...rustic. Particularly the wooden floors and ceiling of the "upper room" make for a potentially antiquated atmosphere. This resonates of course with the propensity for beautifying the work of the archive. It's so easy to slip into a nostalgic aesthetic when resurrecting the bones, casting light on the dust, spectacularising the ruins, further cluttering the existing material profusion etc. I know this is not always our objective, but often this happens unwittingly because it seems to be something of a default position. Perhaps one could say this was a code for archive, like in film language where you can rely on certain tropes to communicate a particular meaning in the fastest, neatest way as possible so as not to break the spell of the filmic world.

For our exhibition, I want us to think about ways of showing our process which streamline and almost essentialise the tropes of the archive. How can we bring all these vectors of meaning to their most basic forms which still maintain a context, a story, still acknowledge themselves as archive; but in doing so, reflect on those tropes and the world being created through our presentations. A nice phrase from our Isabel Hofmeyer reading a few weeks ago is 'methodological fetishism'[1] - which she uses to differentiate between the study of a thing itself and the study of the ways of studying it. How can we make a fetish of our own methodology in a way that allows us to then play with and change the nature of encounters with the investigation, production and documentation of bodies of knowledge.

I just saw some great exhibitions at the Reina Sofia of their permanent collection and how they've used both a heavy architectural space as well as, obviously, quite a ladened collection. Really refreshing and simply-themed rooms. Around the Guernica you could almost measure the "aura" to 5.5m radius - though there was nothing stopping people coming any closer, the work just seems to have this presence....kind of nice to play with those strange spaces of encounter....which brings me to my next point.

Another (sort of) point:

About that world and those encounters that we are seeking to build. Let's make this an experiment in punctuating our projects using different levels or forms of encounter. How can we manipulate the invisible time and space around and through the displays which make for intimate, collective, private, public, slow, quick, painstaking, almost effortless, surprise, determined.

I just saw a great exhibition as part of Spain’s PhotoEspaña *2011 festival which Hou Hanru curated (entitled ‘The Power of Doubt’ or El Poder de la Duda)[2] where he really just challenged the validity of 'photo festival' in a productive sense - turning to look at artists that were already considering the positive possibility of photography as a medium amongst many which fictionalises, sensationalises, beautifies. The exhibition really just presented artistic doubts in various contexts (often quite politically/historically fraught) from which these artists are working. There was a great routing system through the exhibition and at one point you were confronted with a whole wall of mirrors which expanded the space, reflected some of the works doubly and also made you a part of the exhibition composition. It was such a beautiful, elegant way of integrating the concerns of the show into a structural non-work. The simple solutions (as in this case, the mirror wall was just a part of the room I believe) are often the best. And that's what I'd like this show to be - simple, strong encounters with our processes which are not finished, but invite another public, other publics, to become part of them for a time. Encounters which then refract, refocus, make anew, the projects we've already started.

Enough rambling from me. Just some thoughts to keep us going and thinking.

All my best





While slurping up soup, we welcomed new-comer to the CCA, Jon Whidden, while reigniting some ideas concerning our mid-term joint-exhibition at the Michaelis Gallery in February, 2012. Many were able to share concrete forms and concepts they would like to develop – the use of video, timelaps, contact sheets and other technical devices – ways of activating the various archives we are constructing and framing, which we had been mulling over in the weeks since our last meeting.

Andrew referred to the Pad.ma 10 Theses on the Archive once again, and asked how we might construct and present a set of varying positions, or declarative statements on the archive in the way that we exhibit our works – ways which ask how curatorial strategies might act otherwise. I suggested that we might look back on the discussion held in the most recent Archival Platform workshop (July 27-29) in which, through our own written submissions, we had already presented a number of positions such as the curator as "trickster", as "lover", as "sympathiser", as "bureaucrat". Perhaps we could use these as both jumping off points as well as framing devices – the trickster for example, said George, could disturb images, or traffic them illicitly, making them "jump". And by framing I imagined that we could also consider a series of texts surrounding the exhibition which act as micro-theses from each of us, or rather hypotheses, in which we present our positions as different curatorial role-players on a more general level, not only in relation to the immediate content and context. Andrew suggested we even use a typographic language to couch this, in which we present these projects as exercises and by doing so, look on the archive with 'fresh eyes', or 'sabbath eyes' *as used by Jan Verwoert, quoting Adorno in his "On Future Histories. And the Generational Contract with the No Longer and Not Yet Living and the Pan-Demonium of Irreverent Styles of Nostalgia."[3]

By discussing the idea of publications and other practicalities in relation to the length and timeframe of the exhibition, we realised that in fact there are multiple temporalities to an event of the type that is an archival exhibition. And in subsequent reading I came across a well-constructed explanation of how these event temporalities work in the writing of Maurice Roche in Mega-events and Modernity: Olympics and Expos in the Growth of Global Culture.[4] Here, Roche outlines what I would call the “rings” of time surrounding any complex event or complex of events – involving ‘important elements of “official” public culture’ and I am sure, unofficial by default.[5] These events, because of their transitory uniqueness (i.e. they happen once, for a short time and compress a number of spaces and times into themselves in terms of the history and culture they display), are multi-dimensional: they contain “conflicting” elements of the modern/non-modern, national/international, local/non-local, urban/mediated.[6] No matter how “located” an complex event of the kind that he defines as ‘mega-events’, it will always be mediated and circulated just as the objects on display in an expo have been brought together from other locations.[7] How does this then effect the embodiment and immediacy of the event? As well as the levels of participation and spectatorship?

Roche’s book is attempting to model a kind of "sociology" of events, to come to terms with their ‘pervasive presence’.[8] To do this, he introduces the need for a multi-dimensional methodology in the apprehension of these multi-dimensional constructions. This multi-dimensional method is founded on the multiple temporalities which the event inhabits. Roche identifies these temporalities as: the event core (the immediate past, present and outcomes of the event itself); the medium term time which leads up to and out of that immediate setting (the 'pre-event' and the 'post-event'); and finally the event horizon, the point to which the long-term motivations building up to, and effects resulting from the event, expand – what structural changes came about and how might we periodise the event in history etc.[9] These differences in time basically separate the 'lived and long-term' experiences of an event – the dramatic and the dramaturlogical in other words.[10]

To exhibit any archive we must constantly allow these dimensions to reflect and refract each other: the dramatic capacity of the material and the event of exposing them in an arrangement (exhibition) and the dramaturgy of that arrangement in terms of the material's future life as well as the practices of exhibiting such materials.

Event horizons, after some Googling, present themselves as mostly relating to black holes in space. Meaning Space, with a capital S. An easy Wiki search tells us that

In general relativity, an event horizon is a boundary in spacetime beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer. In layman's terms it is defined as "the point of no return" i.e. the point at which the gravitational pull becomes so great as to make escape impossible. The most common case of an event horizon is that surrounding a black hole. Light emitted from beyond the horizon can never reach the observer. Likewise, any object approaching the horizon from the observer's side appears to slow down and never quite pass through the horizon, with its image becoming more and more redshifted as time elapses. The traveling object, however, experiences no strange effects and does, in fact, pass through the horizon in a finite amount of proper time.

As an aside (but never completely unrelated) you have got to listen to this Radiolab documentary on various kinds of 'Falling' the end captures a comedian, Neil deGrasse Tyson, relating the sensation of the one-way fall into a black hole – a somewhat more accessible, layman’s version of the above description.

While trying to avoid complete disintegration – this exhibition, I suppose, would aim to allow those co-habitances between rational and irrational experiences of time and place, falling in love with the fragmented forms our stories take, and allowing ourselves to be carried away to the horizon between hypothesis and thesis. Where forms become redshifted and images reach our eyes more slowly.

[1] Isabel Hofmeyr, The Black Atlantic Meets the Indian Ocean: Forging New Paradigms of Transnationalism for the Global South Literary and Cultural Perspectives', in SOCIAL DYNAMICS 33.2 ( 2 0 0 7): 3- 32.

[2] See Youtube interview with Hanru.

[3]Verwoert, J. 2008. “On Future Histories. And the Generational Contract with the No Longer and Not Yet Living and the Pan-Demonium of Irreverent Styles of Nostalgia.” In van der Stok, F., Gierstberg, F., Bool, F. (eds.) Questioning History: Imagining the Past in Contemporary Art. Rotterdam: NAi Publishers.

[4]Routledge: London, 2000.

[5]Ibid. p.1. This "official" nature is a product of who hosts the event – it could be imperial, national, ideological, material in terms of the categories used to select and exclude the content of the event.

[6] Ibid. p.8.

[7] Ibid. p.10.

[8] Ibid. p.11.

[9] Ibid. p.11.

[10] Ibid. p.13.Clare Butcher

Lunch 1, May 6th 2011
Lunch 3, August 23rd 2011
Lunch 4, August 26th 2011
Lunch 5 [tea], September 19th 2011
Lunch 6 [supper], September 20th 2011