Red light: Reflections at the crossroads of history and art

Thomas Wolfe
2016 Kronos  
The article suggests that Simon Gush's Red is an installation that projects two intersecting paths for anyone confronting it: the path of history, specifically the history of the freedom struggle in South Africa right up to the present day, and the history of contemporary art. The essay is an effort to articulate this position at a crossroads. I respond to the first path by engaging in an exercise of imaginative reverse-engineering. Red seems to invite the viewer to reflect on its own
more » ... n its own construction and how the different dimensions of its construction might be connected to political meanings and readings. Secondly, I engage in the more familiar work of interpreting an artwork, of saying what it means. I grapple with this task by explaining how Red evokes for me the philosophical problem of ordinary life, as it has appeared in various channels of reflection, from the transcendentalists through the pragmatists, through Wittgenstein and the ordinary language philosophers, through the microsociologists, and down to the present in writers like Stanley Cavell. I argue that a work like this, which operates in and through fragments, points to repair as a central process in ordinary life. The work stages repair by contrasting its object-fragments with filmed voices placed in carefully constructed dialogue with each other. On display is both the fragility of the everyday and the necessity of repair.
doi:10.17159/2309-9585/2016/v42a14 fatcat:innbt5unrjdc5og76k4f7cnj2y