Alterating Conditions: Performing Performance Art in South Africa


Jan 11 – Feb 15, 2011
GoetheonMain and Bag Factory Artists' Studios, Johannesburg, South Africa
Curator: Claudia Marion Stemberger

Alterating Conditions, GoetheonMain, Johannesburg South Africa. Image by Anthea Pokroy


Dineo Seshee Bopape, Tegan Bristow, Reshma Chhiba, Steven Cohen, Deadheat (Dorothee Kreutzfeldt & Bettina Malcomess), Hasan and Husain Essop, Gabrielle Goliath, Jessica Gregory & Zen Marie, Peter Van Heerden, Gerald Machona, Thando Mama, Nomusa Makhubu, Molemo Moiloa, Nontobeko Ntombela, Athi-Patra Ruga, Berni Searle, Lerato Shadi, Fiona Siegenthaler, Minnette Vári, Amy-Jo Windt, Nelisiwe Xaba & Mocke J van Veuren

Alterating Conditions, GoetheonMain, Johannesburg South Africa. Image by Anthea Pokroy

Alterating Conditions, GoetheonMain, Johannesburg South Africa.

Alterating Conditions, GoetheonMain, Johannesburg South Africa.

Curatorial Statement

When Brian O'Doherty first published his famous essay Notes on the Gallery Space in 1976, he provocatively questioned the gallery space and system. Already one year earlier, RoseLee Goldberg had argued that the emerging arts practices at that time, as conceptual art or performance art, amongst others, negotiate space radically differently. 30 years later, Goldberg resumes that performance art today has, finally, become interesting for museums, but is still overlooked or rather presented as part of an event-like side programme of biennials or art fairs. Goldberg rather suggests to reflect how to give performance a specific time and space.

When it comes to the Bag Factory Artists' Studios and GoetheonMain in Johannesburg, South Africa, both white-washed spaces, one might want to keep in mind, that the white cube is close-knit with (post-war) western art. How might either the production spaces at the Bag Factory or the project space at GoethonMain function for the presentation of performance art, while both the artists' studio and the white cube are full of both internal (art) historical mythologies and connotations? Has performance art internalized the white cube - or even the black box - already? Or rather should the relationship between the notion of performance as (ephemeral) action and performative representation in media, such as video and photography, be challenged?

Throughout live-performances, performative video installations, performative photography, lectures, guides and talks, the exhibition project questions common notions of performance and performativity, the supposed (in)visibility of this art practice in South Africa and abroad.

Alterating Conditions, Bag Factory, Johannesburg South Africa. Image by Anthea Pokroy

Alterating Conditions, Bag Factory, Johannesburg South Africa. Image by Mack Magagane

Alterating Conditions, Bag Factory, Johannesburg South Africa. Image by Anthea Pokroy

Alterating Conditions, Bag Factory, Johannesburg South Africa. Image by Anthea Pokroy

Performances, live-interventions and framework programme at GoetheonMain

11 January 2011: Stumbling Block

 Live-intervention by Gabrielle Goliath

11 January 2011: Scoptophillia

Live-intervention by Molemo Moiloa

22 January 2011, 1:00pm: Performing (In)Visibilities in Public Space

Lecture by Fiona Siegenthaler

Fiona Siegenthaler is an art historian and currently writing her PhD on "Visualizing Urban Transition: Contemporary Art in Johannesburg" (working title) at the University of Basel. She is particularly interested in interdisciplinary approaches and methods in visual arts, social anthropology and cultural studies. She is co-editor of Art and Artistic Research published by Zurich University of the Arts (2010) and author of several essays and exhibition reviews on Swiss and international art.

22 January 2011, 2:30pm: Ulterior Motors. A rehearsal for a conversation

Performance by Deadheat (Kreutzfeldt | Malcomess)

'Ulterior Motors' is the rehearsal performance of a scripted conversation. The script is collaged from multiple sources, from screenplays, novels, plays, as well as philosophy, art criticism, history, and advertising and car manuals. This conversation of citations is written for those spaces situated around the Arts on Main precinct: car mechanics, tyre shops and panel beaters, general stores, lighting warehouses and small service industries. Many of the business owners, vendors and their employees and clients have never set foot in the Arts on Main venues, although as one owner noted there has been 'a lot of activity' there. The conversation is between two characters, archetypes of the owner and the agent. We invite the audience to walk to one of these sites, to witness a conversation that is at once the sale of a car, the selling of a property to a developer, the striking of a deal.

29 January 2011, 1:00pm: Curating Performance

Panel discussion with Bettina Malcomess and Nontobeko Ntombela

29 January 2011, 2:30pm: Ubuntu

Live art installation by Peter Van Heerden

The live art installation Ubuntu opens up one manʼs journey of being. A man is on route to his African renaissance, his new birth from adolescence into manhood. Through the eyes of the mythological creature the ʻtokoloshieʼ the man is forced to wrestle with his demons as he passes through the complex phases of life from youth through initiation to the coming of age.
South African society and society at large is riddled with violent crime and abuse. If Ubuntu is seen as a recipe for living together; a classical concept of "I am complete in you and you are completed in me" what is going wrong? Where has man lost his way? Ubuntu is not a word; it is a form of practice, an active way of being.

5 February 2011, 2:00pm, 2:30pm, 3:00pm: Uncles & Angels

Performance by Nelisiwe Xaba and Mocke J van Veuren

Powerful men, big men, fat men, young girls, reed auditions, virginity, fat girls, slim girls, scaly uncles, kings, presidents, culture, tradition, morality, and respect. All in one 5-minute dance and video art entree!


Edited by Claudia Marion Stemberger later in 2011


Bag Factory Artists Studios; Goethe-Institut South Africa; Stipendium Förderprogramm Kuratorenreisen, Goethe-Institut München; Austrian Embassy Pretoria

Thanks to

The Oliewenhuis Museum, Bloemfontein; Goodman Gallery, Cape Town/Johannesburg; Brodie/Stevenson Gallery, Johannesburg

Project partner

SAVAH / CIHA Colloquium: Other views: Art history in (South) Africa and the global south (University of the Witwatersrand, 12 – 15 January 2011)



264 Fox Street, City & Suburban, Johannesburg 2094
Tuesday, Wednesday, 10am - 4pm; Thursday, 11am - 8pm; Friday and Saturday, 10am - 4pm; Sunday, 10am - 2pm

Bag Factory Artists' Studios

10 Mahlatini Street, Fordsburg, Johannesburg 2001
Monday to Friday, 9am - 5pm


© — Claudia Marion Stemberger 2020