5 questions for Vincent Bezuidenhout

Vincent Bezuidenhout
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Vincent Bezuidenhout's exhibition Fail Deadly at GoetheonMain interrogates apartheid South Africa's nuclear project.

Vincent Bezuidenhout holds a Masters degree in Fine Art from the University of Cape Town's Michaelis School of Fine Art and was the the recipient of the 2010/11 Tierney Fellowship. His exhibition Fail Deadly at GoetheonMain interogates apartheid South Africa's nuclear project.

What sparked your initial interest in this particular aspect of the apartheid project; can you explain briefly the personal journey you went through when creating this work?
Vincent Bezuidenhout: My practice is concerned with the psychology of power and the validity of memory relative to history. In a previous project, Separate Amenities, I used landscape photographs to focus on the constructed landscape as an expression of the psychology of those who implemented it. In a similar manner I wanted Fail Deadly to reflect on a specific moment in South African history in order to consider the use of power by the architects of apartheid. Initially wanting to create photographs of a secret weapons program which does not exist anymore, the project progressed into an investigation surrounding censorship, the limitations of the medium of photography and in fact the limits to what representation can reveal.

How has your personal upbringing influenced your interest in various aspects of apartheid?
VB: As a white, Afrikaans artist, who grew up in the death throes of apartheid in South Africa, my past have shaped my current practice in terms of a reflection on my identity in relation to the history of power which still shapes our reality today. By conflating the incompatible narratives of my conflicted personal, as well as our collective history, I attempt to use omission and cover ups to confront these incomplete narratives as a manifestation of power.
How do you see your work sit alongside what is being done to change or erase aspects of apartheid from SA’s collective memory?
VB: The lack of disclosure and failure of justice being served regarding this clandestine program speaks to a bigger constructed narrative which permeates all of South African history. Fail Deadly serves to highlight this failure through exploiting the problematic nature of photography and the validity of official information as the sole creators of history.

One of your recent projects, Banned Vol. II, shows footage that was banned during apartheid. Do you think SA’s history of censorship is repeating itself obtrusively and unobtrusively?
VB: The Banned project was censored in Uganda and Zimbabwe for the inclusion of footage of a homosexual nature. Regardless of both countries controversial laws regarding homosexuality, the paradox of censoring footage which was originally banned during apartheid reminds one that when there is a transition of power within a state, the mechanisms of the previous regime is also transferred. We must be vigilant of the rewriting of history but also of how it is created today.

How comfortably do you think the current work ‘Fail Deadly’ sits in the GoetheonMain gallery space which is located in the Maboneng Precinct of Johannesburg?
VB: It is my opinion that if art is not political it is not art. I am also keenly aware of how art and artists are being used by others to advance many different agendas. With increasing inequality, censorship and in fact a ‘war on the truth’ both here and abroad, it is more important than ever for cultural institutions to be brave through strengthening their support for the arts which in many ways have become the last place to speak the truth.