Research and Performance at Erholungspark Wehlingsheide
Journal d’un voyage utopique
Excerpts and Illustrations
“...[A]verage middle-of-the-road utopias will include transit to some other space, remote in space or time or both, where the inhabitants are different from us, perhaps recognizably human, perhaps not, and where something can be learned about how life should be lived...”
“...[O]ur travels...express, however inarticulately, an understanding of what life might be about, outside the constraints of work and struggle for survival. Yet rarely are they considered to present philosophical problems- that is, issues requiring thought beyond the practical...”
-Alain de Botton
From Murray Kruger
CC Archipel InVest
Sat, Jul 19, 2014 12:34 PM EEST
Welcome to Erholungspark Wehlingsheide, my designated ‘priority zone’ and where this South African tourist has been camping since Saturday, 28 June, 2014. Today my imaginary and nearly invisible ‘local utopia’ will momentarily emerge between 4pm and 6pm. I have arranged that you and your fellow audience members be taken on an ‘official tour’ of the premises as the pretext for covertly viewing and yourselves performing a parallel role in my intervention. The ‘official tour guide’ is aware of your actual purpose here today. You will each be provided with a map of the property as well as a black umbrella to enhance your experience. This tour will commence once everyone in the group has taken the time to read this mail and opened their umbrellas.
My project’s intervention has been conceptualised as a ‘diary entry’, ‘written’ about and ‘into’ Erholungspark Wehlingsheide. Although traditionally considered works of non-fiction documenting an author’s journey, this ‘excerpt’ from my ‘travel journal’ instead embraces the potential for fiction to become part of its temporary manifestation. Together we will form part of a potential spectacle for the local inhabitants or our actions might continue to pass unnoticed.
Our paths will cross today, yet we will unfortunately not be formally introduced because my project has not and will not be announced publicly. This technicality greatly affects the initial dynamics of the intervention, which I would have already begun staging in and around the ‘beach’ you will no doubt be walking past shortly. Once you have noticed me, I ask that you kindly refrain from stopping and/or staring as you would under more conventional circumstances. Instead, please cast a few fleeting glances my way, walking by as though nothing out of the ordinary seems to be occurring so as not to alert the local inhabitants to my actions or the actual purpose of your visit prematurely. In the event that you find yourself engaging with local inhabitants you are welcome to disclose the ‘truth’. Until such a point however, it is my hope that you will collectively pass for a tourist group of sorts inspecting the facilities as potential future patrons of Erholungspark Wehlingsheide. Please rely on your own discretion once the ‘official tour’ has come to an end as to how you will go about returning to see how my component of the intervention is progressing.
You are welcome to enter and occupy the ‘beach’ alongside me and any other local inhabitants who might potentially be there. That said, I would prefer it if you did not interact with me directly and/or for a prolonged period of time.
Photography, video and other recordings are permitted bearing the aforementioned conditions in mind (I would greatly appreciate it if you would share any of your ‘documentation’ with me by forwarding it to the contact information provided below).
015257477895 [Germany] * this number will only be active until 2 August
(+27) 72 3743524 [South Africa]
My contribution to the growing archipelago of ‘utopian islands’ commissioned by KUNSTrePUBLIK began as a provocation: I would treat my project as a ‘summer holiday’. The allure of the artificial ‘beach’ within Erholungspark Wehlingsheide as well as this camp site/caravan park’s superimposition onto the seemingly incongruous surrounding landscape resonated with individual and collaborative projects I had worked on in the past.
My project’s intervention consisted of both installation and performance elements. I was interested in building a tension between the narratives that the space of the camp site/caravan park allowed for because of its artifice. My intervention juxtaposed the social and spatial practices that existed in the area against those that were introduced by my foreign presence. The result was an absurd and surreal experience for the local and invited audience that foregrounded notions of cultural and leisure practices and further highlighted the way we continually shape and recreate these ‘communal’/‘public’ environments designed for recreation.
My intervention relied on the precarious chance moments of improvisation despite the objectives that might had been set out for the project to begin with. Rather than attempting to circumnavigate “...the inevitable gap between the intention and realization of an artwork” as author Lisa Le Feuvre would suggest, it is “...through failure one has the potential to stumble on the unexpected...”(2010:12). It is here that I hoped to position my project continually, privileging uncertainty and “... transgressive activities [that]can refuse dogma and surety... seeking new forms of rupture, new delineations of space within contemporary experience, in order to place something at stake within the realm of art” (2010:19).
I can imagine author John Carey, were he to have witnessed my intervention at Erholungspark Wehlingsheide, suggesting that my project was ultimately more concerned with the idea of “...solitary utopians...Robinson Crusoes of the mind, inventing islands for themselves to inhabit. By comparison with normal, more public-spirited utopians they can seem selfish. Or they can seem wiser. For they implicitly reject the utopian belief that happiness can be achieved through better social arrangements, more efficient machines, or improved labor-saving devices...” (1999:[xx]).
Carey, J. (ed). 1999. The Faber Book of Utopias. London: Faber and Faber Limited.
De Botton, A. 2003. The Art of Travel. London: Penguin.
Le Freuvre, L. (ed). 2010. Documents of Contemporary Art: Failure. London and Cambridge, Massachusetts: Whitechapel and The MIT Press.
Murray Kruger was born in East London, South Africa (1988). He is an artist, aspiring curator, occasional arts critic and educator. Kruger is currently based in Johannesburg, where he is busy completing his Masters in Fine Art by Research degree under Gabi Ngcobo and Donna Kukama at the University of Witwatersrand’s Wits School of Arts. He has exhibited and performed his work on numerous platforms both in South Africa and abroad (2008-2014).
Notable examples include The Cape 09 Biennale (Cape Town), The Johannesburg Art Gallery, The Standard Bank Art Gallery (JHB), The South African National Gallery (Cape Town), Play Urban (Strasbourg, France), New Dance 2011 (JHB), Johannesburg’s 1st Conference on Public Art (JHB), Infecting The City Public Arts Festival (Cape Town), The Goodman Gallery (Cape Town and JHB), The Joburg Art Fair (JHB), Dans l’Afrique Dans Bienniel (JHB), GIPCA Live Art Festival (Cape Town), The Centre for Historical Re-enactments (JHB), The Sanlam Art Gallery (Cape Town), Theatre Du Grande Marc (Saint-Denis, La Reunion), The Cape Town Art Fair and the Bag Factory Artists Studios (JHB).