Signal Hill’s “SunStar” Artist Speaks



Love it or hate it, the much talked about, and popularly visited “SunStar” atop Signal Hill’s 6 month temporary installation permit expires 18th May. In other words, this is your last chance to see the work before its removal. Art Times approached the artist Christopher Swift to share any lessons learnt, anecdotes, reflections and projections:


Christopher Swift, “SunStar”, 2014. Photo: Steven Booth


CS: There have been many highs and some lows in this 3-year journey, but as some exploring soul once posed, “You can’t appreciate the view from the mountain top unless you’ve been through the valleys.”

I don’t consider myself an academic or intellectual, neither a writer for that matter. And writing on one’s own work is probably the most difficult articulation for most visual artists.

In many ways this was an experiment. An experiment based on the supposition: If you believe it will be a success or not… you are right!

I meant it explicitly in terms of South Africa during its 20th anniversary of democracy through the World Design Capital lens, and implicitly to my own project, and the complexity that makes up our collective challenge as a Nation.

I’m not an expert on politics, economics, history or the Struggle for that matter, nor any of the challenges that this work offers, as a metaphor, an invitation for solution finding to. It doesn’t concentrate on a problem, nor its solution, but rather on the belief that one can be found if truly wanted. The starting point to that end is in conversation with the willingness to see things from another viewpoint, which may reveal a set of solutions or acceptable compromises previously obscured by your own sense of rightness.

This ‘experiment’ wasn’t in a vacuum, as rarely anything is. Things (and memories) are in a constant state of flux as they’re built up and worn down in the flow and staccato of other energies and agendas at play. The Sunglasses saga and the Rhodes statue indaba energetically flanked my temporary work. All of which created discourse – a plus in my book.

All public art is propaganda (unless it’s banal). I’d have it that the SunStar is publicity for a brighter future (which makes some people want to throw up in their mouths a little) but for a vast majority of Capetonians and visitors, it’s a preferable and compelling belief to hold as an alternative to cynicism or surrender to a tide of greed or apathy.

If I’m brought to bear on how it was possible to raise a 10-story LED and Robben Island Prison fence structure beyond the SANParks jealously guarded (gratefully) natural horizon line, navigate bureaucracy, or raise the finance? I’d honestly have to say it was purely due to the collected mass of individuals that this story for possibility touched.

The brazen appropriation of Hope and Ancient Geometry or the didactic use of prison fencing and LED’s as representation of past and future are possibly crass or juvenile according to my intellectual friends or commentators, but when you have nothing but hope, you resourcefully make do with what you have. It’s an Africanism. I couldn’t of done it without the WDC2014 who gave me NOTHING…except validation…and then I realized, their validation allowed me permission to validate myself, and that gave me the conviction to get on with it.

So to all those reading this with an impossible idea – Get on with it!