Bizarre art leads to fine awarenes

SHE has emerged as one of South Africa's leading visual artists in recent years - and her bizarre installations attract a lot of people and also a lot of comment.

SHE has emerged as one of South Africa's leading visual artists in recent years - and her bizarre installations attract a lot of people and also a lot of comment.

Lerato Shadi is now well known for often subjecting her tiny body to pain.

Those people who saw her balloon installations last year watched in either horror or amazement as the artist lost herself in her art and isolated herself from her audience.

Shadi's art, which explores mainly feminism and represents activism, is back with a new installation. It will open on Thursday in Johannesburg at the Goethe on Main at 245 Main Street.

This work is like all Shadi's art - provocative, in your face and uncompromising.

Titled Mosako Wa Seipone, which means a circle of mirrors, this unusual exhibition starts at 6.30pm.

This latest work, like Shadi's previous works, is sure to set tongues wagging.

Shadi's exhibition was one of the first eight projects selected by an independent jury of professional artists .

The show comprises three works. There are the video performances Mmitlwaand Selogilwe, and the opening-night performance of Se sa Feleng, along with its remaining sculptural installation.

The video works Mmitlwaand Selogilwe, as well as the sculptural installation Se sa Feleng, explore themes around self-reflection, spirituality and unseen life processes.

"The performances looks at life as an act of creation, considering that every moment leaves behind a memory, a trace, something tangible or ethereal that refers to it, or marks its passage," Shadi says.

In Mmitlwa (meaning thorn referencing a Sestwana idiom) Shadi appears naked on a white plinth - making reference to the Gilbert and George concept of the "living sculpture".

She then proceeds to wrap her entire body in white masking tape. When she has completely covered her body, she painstaking starts to peel off the masking tape.

The process, which takes about 30 minutes, alludes to the idea that we are, each one of us, responsible for our own experiences as well as creators and destroyers of our self-imposed constraints.

Selogilwe is a Setswana word that means "woven". It is the title of a video performance featuring Shadi on a white plinth. This time the artist sits in the lotus position.

She has a red string in her hands, which she seems to pull from inside her belly. In the end a pile of woven string lies on the gallery floor - the only evidence of the seven-hour-long process.

The third work - Se sa Feleng, meaning "That which does not end" is short for a Setswana idiom, that states: "That which does not end is an abomination of nature".

The entire ritual, performed on the opening night, takes about three hours.

Here Shadi crawls repetitively around through 12 metal cubes with a red crocheted string, which looks as if she is pulling from her back, forming an infinity sign on the central bars of her self-constructed cage, the dimensions of which were made specifically to fit her own body.

The element of time and physical endurance is of particular significance to Shadi.

All the works take place over long periods of time and seem to condense lifelong processes into unspoken parables, with ritual activities that push her far beyond her own levels of physical comfort.

Like most of Shadi's shows, this one should attract hordes of art lovers not only from around Johannesburg but also from afar.