Art Spot: Picking up the pieces

Times Live:


The body of a woman is suggested by the filled-out shape of the dress. But the body is not there. The dress appears again on a wall in a photograph, one of a series taken by Haroon Gunn-Salie in a disused house on the periphery of District Six in Cape Town.

In the small Viewing Room at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg you first notice a bronzed sculpture of a dress on a low mount in the middle of the room.

The photographs and the sculpture form part of Witness, which began in 2011 when Gunn-Salie used the derelict house, since demolished, as an exhibition space where he performed interventions and staged installations. The dress was conceptualised with a former District Six resident, Susan Lewis. The Goodman Gallery says the dress “signifies the loss of her proud Sunday promenades in the city centre after she was forcibly removed”.

On the opposite wall is a video, Zonnebloem Renamed, of another of Gunn-Salie’s interventions. It is a site-specific piece documenting a series of temporary “artworks”. The audacious video follows the night-time antics of Gunn-Salie and some friends, when they changed the Zonnebloem road signs in central Cape Town to read District Six.

The apartheid government renamed District Six after forcibly removing the multi-cultural community to the dusty, windy townships on the Cape Flats under the 1968 Group Areas Act. Witness and Zonnebloem Renamed are statements about “memorialisation and intervention”.

With Place of Gold, a triptych of monotypes that Gunn-Salie made during a residency in the Maboneng Precinct, he juxtaposes Johannesburg’s migrant labour communities with the current gentrification of the inner city.

These are three bodies of work exploring inner-city fragmentation in Johannesburg and in Cape Town by the young multidisciplinary artist.

Gunn-Salie completed a BA Hons in sculpture at UCT’s Michaelis School of Fine Art in 2012, and appeared on the 89Plus panel at the Design Indaba last month. 89Plus is a research project investigating the generations of innovators born in or after 1989.


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