UJ Art Gallery goes online with CURE

UJ Arts & Culture, a division of the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) proudly presents CURE, a digital exhibition featuring work by South African artists, opened online on 14 September 2020. In this exhibition the artists, all established in their own individual practice, explore and interrogate in their work passages to a new level of planetary civilization, essential to ensure the survival of the human race.

Shortly after the national lockdown period was announced as a means to curb the spread of the corona virus in South Africa, UJ Arts & Culture launched The Pandemic Project, an interdisciplinary project on the University of Johannesburg online platform. The Pandemic coincided with the release of the UJ Choir’s most recent album When the Earth Stands Still.

With levels of lockdown still in place while the pandemic is raging the UJ Art Gallery is hosting CURE, an online exhibition following the format of The Pandemic, curated by Annali Dempsey, curator of the UJ Gallery, and guest curator Johan Myburg.

Dr Johan Myburg

‘Although the title of the exhibition might hint at finding a cure for the virus, the scope of the exhibition is much broader to include the curative qualities of art, bridging the gap between nature and technology as proposed in Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Terzo Paradiso (Third Paradise),’ says Myburg.

The aspect of art as cure, as restorative endeavour, serves as the main tenet of CURE, an exhibition focusing on our passage through the world, on reflection and reconciliation between the natural and the artificial. In this exhibition a total of seventeen South African artists explore and interrogate this curative aspect of art in this exhibition. The participating artists are Eric Duplan, Paul Emmanuel, Kieron Jina, Donna Kukama, Songezile Madikida, Senzeni Marasela, Kagiso Pat Mautloa, Hannelie Coetzee, Blessing Ngobeni, Nhlanhla Nhlapo, Lwandiso Njara, Zolile Phetsane, Jan Tshikhuthula, Hentie van der Merwe, Jaco van Schalkwyk, Jake Singer and Minnette Vári.

Blessing Ngobeni

Pistoletto (b 1933), Italian artist and one of the stars of the Arte Povera movement, considers the Third Paradise as the passage to a new level of planetary civilization, essential to ensure the survival of the human race. The Third Paradise is a fusion between the First and Second Paradise.

The first, according to Pistoletto, is the paradise in which humans were fully integrated into nature. The second is the artificial paradise, developed by human intelligence to globalizing proportions through science and technology. This paradise is made of artificial needs, artificial products, artificial comforts, artificial pleasures and every other form of artifice. Humankind has created a truly artificial world that has triggered, in an exponential manner and in parallel with beneficial effects, irreversible processes of decline and consumption of the natural world.

The Third Paradise is the third phase of humanity, realised as a balanced connection between the conflicting paradises of artifice and nature.

‘Michelangelo Pistoletto’s prophetic vision of a Third Paradise where nature and technology share a middle-ground is now more important than ever,’ says Dempsey. ‘In a post-industrial and fourth industrial revolution (4IR) era, where creativity is considered one of the top key skills, artists may just be considered to be part of the way ahead. The curative nature of the arts is thus not only to be found in art production, but in acknowledgment of resulting philosophies, necessary for the restructuring of society.’

Apart from merely showing the artworks, CURE includes short video footage of the individual artists producing their work. Extending the interdisciplinary approach initiated by The Pandemic Project, cuts from three album’s by the UJ Choir with Renette Bouwer as Senior Choir Master – Road Home (2011), Sweet Days (2015) and Peace (2018) – are used as inspiration and or soundtrack for the artists’ videos.

Eric Duplan

CURE is also linked to a virtual participative action research inquiry hosted by the Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management at UJ. On 1 and 2 October Prof Freddie Crous, Head of the Department, will facilitate the name change and rebranding of the Department’s Centre for Work Performance to the Centre for Open Work. National and international departmental stakeholders (academic, professional and industry) will be invited to collaborate.

‘The intention is to apply the symbol (and its inherent philosophy) of Pistoletto as a point of departure, a guide and performative instrument for the Centre for Open Work’s future projects,’ says Crous. ‘The CURE exhibition will provide the first step in this journey by inspiring the participants in the virtual inquiry to be mindful of the symbol and what it represents when co-constructing the Centre’s vision, purpose and value proposition.’

Our gratitude to the management of the Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management (School of Management, College of Business and Economics) at UJ for the financial contribution to the CURE project.

CURE is available on https://arts.uj.ac.za/series/CURE2020/

For more information contact Annali Dempsey at aedempsey@uj.ac.za or Mia van Schalkwyk at miavs@uj.ac.za

Jaco van Schalkwyk


Jan Tshikhuthula


Paul Emmanuel