Elrie Joubert, Pauline Gutter & Liberty Battson
An ethereal, rubber environment with threads and tendrils has entered the Absa building. This otherworldly, sensory circumstance, which perhaps in one moment is a kelp forest of seaweed and anemones, the next an umbilical cord searching for its ‘mother', or a hidden inner bodily microcosm. Is this unworldliness the sea, the land, a microscopic universe, an intestinal tract, inner or outer? What are these creatures – of body, of water, of earth? Are we enveloped in a hidden world – one we wish to look or walk away from, and pretend that it doesn't exist?
Three consecutive winners of the annual and prestigious Absa L'Atelier Art Competition (2012-2014) have combined their individually unique conceptual and artistic skills, to create an immersive experience from a familiar material. Elrie Joubert, Pauline Gutter and Liberty Battson have created TRIPE.
This is a feast, a spectacle of excess, a smorgasbord of delicacies offered to the viewer for consumption. Thing is, it's rubber and polyurethane waste from one manufacturing plant in Johannesburg. A singular factory which discards this material daily in all manner of colour, size and consistency. What the visitor to this installation is witnessing is two week's worth of rubber waste. Imagine a month, a year, 10 manufacturing plants, 100. Think of what can be achieved by working with these manufacturers to transform this infinite waste into wonders?
The viewer is asked to digest the experience. The smell that emits from the rubber emphasizes the wretchedness and unpalatability of being confronted with such excessive waste. The rubber cannot go anywhere. It cannot be recycled. The consumer driven marketing machine behind this manufacturing plant, is fully complicit in the clogging of our earth's arteries.
We have reached a turning point. The mountainous excess normally hidden from view is now exposed and we recoil with disgust. This is a delicatessen of gluttonous devastation, on a platter for all to see in its unfathomable beauty. The artists open discourse, not only showing us this repugnant truth but offer possibility.
But the knotting, weaving, contorting, stretching, de-constructing and re-imagining of the material is done with great dexterity and skill, providing the viewer with a magnificent focal point which at once intrigues, attracts and tantalises. The mastery of this material which cascades, erupts and spills forth from the moment one enters the Absa building, is a celebration of the magic of contemporary imagination.
Rubber and polyurethane is transformed through creative labour and rendered ‘beautiful'. This beauty, however, exists in ambiguity and produces an uncanny and duplicitous effect. In his essay Das Unheimliche (The Uncanny, 1919) Sigmund Freud speaks of the unhomely that comes home – the dis-ease that co-exists with the safe and familiar. TRIPE shows this contradiction and thereby conscientises the viewer. The installation dwells in the twilight, taking contradiction and tension right into the core of its being. It forcefully embodies the duality of disquieting attraction. One is drawn to the work as a creative construction and a display of incredible ingenuity. But at the same time, the omnipresence of the rubber is repellent. And therein lies the monstrous tragedy – this uber world of excess is actually just waste. TRIPE.
TRIPE collaborated with Absa, the Central University of Technology, H&M Technologies and the Kopano Centre in Bloemfontein. As part of the Extended Curriculum Programme at CUT, Bloemfontein, 50 students were taught to combine their artistic ability, technical skills and creative innovation; in the process of taking a design from artistic conception to completion. The created by-product was shared with the Kopano Centre as part of a community engagement outreach to cultivate a possible prospect. Rubber was chosen as the key medium to develop and hone these skills. Over 100 people were galvanised to set this project in motion.