|Back in Johannesburg it seemed the Biennale was going ahead without the new generation of local artists. Althougha Zulu Lulu was featured on the Spanish pavilion, Barker felt that the local selection simply did not reflect what washappening. It was the same old problem, but this time he didn't do blackface or hurl tennis balls at the organisers. Hedecided instead to claim a piece of the Biennale precinct and curate his own show.|
At a stage in contemporary South African art characterised by infighting - mutterings and fists flew in the build upto Africus; artists clashed with local government, curators clashed with bureaucrats and the press clashed along afterthem - Barker was perfectly poised to bring together his contemporaries.
The Laager - a circular art encampment created out of 14 12-meter shipping containers - would come to be regarded as the gem of the Biennale and much praise would be bestowed on Barker's curatorial instincts.
Writing about the 1995 Africus Biennale in an edition of Modern Painters, David Bowie discussed The Laager as"a symbol of nationalist isolation", suggesting that the irony of the show was that it exposed Africus itself to be a bit ofa laager.
"What it does for me personally," he wrote, "is present the work of a bunch of wildly talented, young, mostly whiteartists dealing with the South African Thing... Wayne Barker, curator of this fringe event offers a deconstruction of thehistory of image in South Africa from 1930 to the present... "
The United Nations agreed with the pop star and offered backing for the show to be taken to Chile as a culturalexchange. What remains startling about The Laager is how in both its content and its presentation - a shipping containerper artist - it pre-empted the 1997 Africus Biennale, which addressed issues of cultural identity around the theme ofTrade Routes. Barker was about to set sail on a voyage of discovery across the seas. First, though, there was SouthAfrica's own colonial history to reconsider.
|The South African Thing|
Wayne Barker: Artist's Monograph