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Art with a difference

By Patience Bambalele | Jan 18, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

LIFE is Short, Art is Long, an exhibition by Steven Cohen, opens at the South African National Gallery in Cape Town on Thursday.

LIFE is Short, Art is Long, an exhibition by Steven Cohen, opens at the South African National Gallery in Cape Town on Thursday.

It is Cohen's first solo exhibition in South Africa in more than 10 years.

Cohen is well known for producing art-works that ignite debates. With this latest exhibition, he continues where he left off.

Over the past decade Cohen, who has lived in France since 2003, has become internationally recognised for his performance art.

Life is Short, Art is Long refocuses attention on himself as a maker of extraordinary images and objects, in addition to presenting his latest performance work on video.

The exhibition, which takes its title from an inspirational found object, a beaded cloth that includes a selection of hand-coloured screen prints, made Cohen famous in the early 1990s.

Pieces such as Icons of the Place I Live and Rough Play with Boys and Girls who Kick Arse bring out his true talent.

"Performance art is internal and intrusive - it is like surgery without anaesthetic," Cohen says.

Static visual art is like an anaesthetic without surgery, but it is the power of the visual that lets me kick you in the stomach and grab your heart. I believe I have found a new form of expression in art beyond performance art.

"I call this Living Art. People don't come to an appointed place like a gallery or at times like theatre - these are not scheduled performances."

He says the pieces are about iconoclastic mash-ups of apartheid politicians, armoured vehicles, anatomical diagrams, apes and beggars that are shown alongside a powerful new installation of books.

This installation will incorporate photos of Cohen's family who were Eastern European Jews who were displaced by the Holocaust.

Cohen's video footage shows South Africa's first democratic general election, when he queued to vote wearing fetish shoes on to which he had grafted metre-long gemsbok horns.

"This footage of this performance will be shown for the first time, and the bizarrely made shoes will be among a number of costume elements included in the exhibition."

Cohen's performance on the piece, Golgotha, will also be screened. This work began with his discovery of two human skulls for sale in a shop in Soho in London.


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