the babysitting series 2/10 ....... babysitting irma (johannesburg/egoli)
(performed and premiered in johannesburg for the fnb dance umbrella march 2004)
... a piece by robyn orlin
plillipa de villiers
...the guards of the museum:
stage manager: thabo pule
company manager: michael maxwell
the second of the babysitting series10/10 .......
performed at the johannesburg art gallery (jag) ......
with support from the national arts council (nac) ........
and special commission by the fnb dance umbrella ........
dance umbrella, 'Tonight', March 9, 2004
The babysitting series; Rating: 2/10
By Adrienne Sichel
Robyn Orlin is back in the exhumation business. In 2001 this aesthetic anarchist revived Martha Graham and co in the Dance Umbrella premiere of the future may be bright but it's not necessarily orange.
Orlin's latest signature piece of artistic warfare was waged in the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) using this institution's rampant eclecticism and cross-cultural residues. Not only did babysitting irma ...
bring to life dead SA artists like Irma Stern, Bonnie Ntshalintshali and Maggie Laubscher, it also demystified this mausoleum of a building for the dozens of young festivalgoers.
No-one has mastered the politics of public space, locally and internationally, like Orlin. Nor has anyone managed to use the body on such a comically dramatic palette. Roping in JAG's seven amazingly co-operative gallery guards (mainly
former security guards) and a core of brilliantly zany local performers, Orlin lets rip with her view of the sinister condition of the arts and the artist in this country. Not a pretty picture.
hit home, starting with guest artist Philippa de Villiers' street art bronze Madonna at the entrance.
Adding the essential dash of Orlinesque atchaar was Toni Morkel, aka Irma. If anyone deserves the titles of "It Girl of the avant-garde" and "Queen of Kitsch", it is Morkel. She has perfected the foghorn-voiced persona of the prototype white "Souf Effrican" who has the suspect decorum of a demented Sunday school teacher. As Irma she is aided and abetted in her educational quest by Ibrahim Medell.
Also creating wonderful chaos were a stark-naked Nico Moremi, a safari-suited Robert Colman, a wall-shattering Nelisiwe Xaba, and introducing the outrageous Foxy Riet. Final message?
Let Orlin loose in every museum in SA.
'This Day' March 9th 2004
Is it art? Is it dance? Or is it Robyn Orlin?
The author finds himself beguiled and intrigued as he wanders around the Johannesburg Art Gallery following the trail of a quirky choreographer
Until Friday night I had never seen a work by Robyn Orlin, the internationally celebrated South African choreographer with a Lawrence Olivier Award under her belt.
I was well aware, though, that she was the only funny and quirky little woman I knew who could affectionately raise the ire of series — often pretentious — artists and the grandiosety applauded for doing so.
Notorious for her unusual, elaborate titles, such as If the whole population of China jumped up and down at the same time, the earth would move; We must eat our suckers with the wrappers on; and Explaining loss to a young ballerina, Orlin's anarchic aesthetic loosened stiff collars and challenged the notion that what we create as artists is more precious than life itself.
Compared with the highly academic and elusive concepts artists imbue to their often vacuous works, Orlin's dance pieces have come across as refreshing episodes in the life of Lewis Carrol's Alice. Only, in Orlin's surreal wonderland, Alice is a black girl who wears a tutu. Despite her hard work trying to the best dancer ever, she never gets any real dance steps from her choreographer.
Orlin's latest piece, Babysitting Irma, is no deviation from her established aesthetic. It is Part 2 of the Babysitting series that Orlin hopes to develop over 10 years in ten cities around the world.
Hosted at the Johannesburg Art Gallery, Orlin's troupe of performers desecrated the hallowed gallery space reserved for revered Irma Stern's paintings. Security guards presented themselves as serious artists as they displayed their works on television screens.
A well-built, stark naked man, Nico Moremi, interrupted this exhibition as he walked into the all-ages crowd carrying a portable sound system. Standing so close to real-life nakedness made them feel awkward and uneasy, especially not knowing where to look.
Horrified by the indecent exposure, the guards tried to remove the man from public view, sparking off drama and commotion.
We were then invited to listen to a lecture demonstration by Tony Morkel, who slipped in and out of an Irma Stern character. Due to intermitrent cutting interruption by Nelisiwe Xaba, Ibi Medel and Robert Coleman, the lecture never took off. But that was not the point.
What was the point? Orlin suggests we take a look at how we value and protect South African art in our museums. Let us ask ourselves which artists have we chosen to revere? But more importantly, which artists have we chosen to ignore?