SA sexual narratives laid bare in Braamfontein exhibition

SA sexual narratives laid bare in Braamfontein exhibition

The STEVENSON gallery in Braamfontein is currently showcasing ‘SEX’, a group exhibition curated by Lerato Bereng.
The exhibition is a set of ongoing responses to the question ‘sex?’ which was offered to artists as a curatorial proposition. Taking place in the gallery’s Johannesburg space, ‘SEX’ is a kaleidoscope of positions unearthing sexual narratives from Johannesburg, South Africa and the continent. The exhibition examines the sexual timeline found in the South African media and the oral history of memorable spaces and moments in the past decade.

Amongst the artists featured, cartoonist Themba Siwela’s paintings depict fictional scenes from particularly black South African rural and urban contexts as a form of social commentary. Mame-Diarra Niang responds by way of sexual vibrations and frequencies that reference the viral “sex-solution” flyers that populate the Johannesburg cityscape. Zanele Muholi’s video Being Scene depicts a lesbian couple in the act of sex.

This moment of unhinged ecstasy speaks of a kind of sexual liberation that on paper, South Africa has honed, but in reality is met by brutal homophobic hate crimes and gender violence. Muholi will exhibit a hate crime time-line in the gallery’s fifth floor space detailing over a decade of murdered lesbians in South Africa. Joburg-based collective FAKA draws from the city’s social clubs and restages a scene from a men-only sex club, addressing inhibitions and public acts of sex.

Steven Cohen exhibits sex notes written on pieces of toilet paper that were passed through glory holes in the Wits University male bathrooms. As Cohen describes it, “the work wasn’t made in anticipation of, or in reflecting about, sex – it was made during [the act] and not as art – the realisation of it as art came later.” His video piece relates to “violence, power, cruelty, extermination,” and links a violent sexual act to the holocaust in a display of bestiality.

Sabelo Mlangeni’s photographic series, ‘The Garden of Eden’, details a sex park in Berlin. The images are void of figures, and capture traces in space that allude to sex acts that have occurred or are happening in the moments of darkness. Nandipha Mntambo responds to the 1950s study of human sexual responses by Masters and Johnson. Her lithographs capture the male and female sexual climax from the starting point of sex to the resolution period, with both roles being played by the artist in hermaphroditic compositions.

Moshekwa Langa’s piece depicts a moment of masculine eroticism, expressing the vulnerability of intimate moments of self-pleasure, in relation to the presence of another – a kind of pubescent sexuality. Artu Peatoo is the genderless, fictional, collaborative-problem-child-artist-offspring of Robyn Penn and Richard Penn.
For ‘SEX’ Artu Peatoo will present a pair of paintings derived from an interest in political commentary as well as the decorative and sexually explicit trends in art history. Dineo Seshee Bopape‘s 2006 video, a love supreme, details the artist sensuously licking chocolate off a glass screen to John Coltrane’s 1965 song of the same name, alluding to a particular sensuality. Nástio Mosquito’s sound piece Desire is a sensuous voiceover that evokes the senses and titillates.

Desire is a chapter in Mosquito’s expanding performative work titled Dogging which takes as its departure point sensual scenes and descriptions found in the bible. Mosquito has also created an audio walkabout referencing sexual stories and facts from South Africa which guides one through the show. Mitchell Gilbert Messina presents a set of exploding champagne bottles, alluding to a moment of jubilant ejaculation.
A second work made in collaboration with Marianne Thesen Law looks at cyberspace as a platform for sex, “sex in a virtual dimension, or a shared imaginary space – exploring spaces of intimacy through interactions with technology.” The exhibition seeks to cast a light on the subject in multiple forms including literature, archived online articles, sound and film.

* ‘SEX’ will exhibit until June 3.
The STEVENSON gallery is situated on 62 Juta Street, Braamfontein.
Gallery hours are: Mondays to Fridays, 9am to 5pm; and Saturdays, 10am to 1pm.
Admission is free.