At the heart of this exhibition lies the creative power of perspective, change, difference, and transposition. To “transpose” is to exchange, transfer, reverse, rearrange, reorder, to “make it new” as the Modernists would have it, followed by the post-modernists who demanded that we “make it new, then make it newer. Differently”. What a way we have come from the old idea that there is nothing new under the sun!
Transposing means finding something there where it should not be, blasphemy in a church, a rose just about to bloom twirling through the eye socket of something long dead, and hope, especially hope, when it is least expected. To transpose is to breathe new life into what we have become complacent with, to resurrect the corpse of the possibilities that we deemed spent.
Heraclitus infamously confused us by claiming that “You cannot step into the same river twice, for other waters are continually flowing on”. And so it is with time and art as well. Every work of art, by its very nature, contains the streams of change; it is different for everyone who engages with it, and it changes with time, even, for the individual. The portrait that you once revered for its quite success now reminds you of a faraway childhood, the self-portrait you thought showed your strength, really lays bare, your most intimate vulnerabilities. Surely you cannot step into the same frame twice. It is always changed. And therefore unchanged. Unchanged because of its constant change. Perhaps this is the contradiction at the core of man’s art-making, story-telling nature. It is nevertheless so.
As you move through the exhibition, stop for a while at Marco Louis Kuhn’s “The Kiss” that merges Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss” with Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famous photograph of a Navy soldier kissing a girl in Times Square at the celebration of the end of the Second World War. Is not the joy of Klimt’s “The Kiss” the self-same joy captured in that famous photograph more than thirty years later? And is this new, merged kiss, another seventy years later, not the same one? Indeed, you cannot step into the same kiss twice.
And sometimes change is subtler. Sometimes, change is a making, a slow emergence, slight variations of any one thing, or even an absence. See for instance Reece Swanepoel’s “Becoming Human”, and Eugene Pieterse’s prints.
Then there is, of course, the collaborative installation that evokes the fullness of Venus through sound, light, found objects, sculptures, and 3D Prints. Venus is changed, made new, reimagined, resurrected, yet exactly the same. She is where she should not be, in the carnivalesque lot of the 21st Century instead of the rich dark nothings of forgotten time. Transposition allows the archetype of Venus to deepen with meaning in our own time, proving that nothing ever really dies off. As W.B. Yeats writes: “Though grave diggers’ toil is long, / Sharp their spades, their muscles strong, / They but thrust their buried men / Back in the human mind again.”
This - our artistic ability to salvage from history, and medium, a cognisance of the “here-now” reality of our waking lives is perhaps our greatest virtue.
We transpose. And may we continue to do so.