Tim Hopwood

This is where the king came

This is my artist’s statement. It is where I am supposed to outline what issues and/or concepts my work deals with. This is very important in the Art Industry in South Africa, and in that of the so-called developed world. So for example, I might go on to say that my images of Pleasureland deconstruct the notion of leisure and suggest it to be an industry, in much the same way that mining is an industry. Or I may write about how all the building rubble piled up in the bushes between the ore dumps and the beach itself is symptomatic of the environmental disregard intrinsic in the manner in which humans laid claim to land during late twentieth century capitalism. I have often wondered why we do these things. Why these artist’s statements are required of us, and how so many artists use them as a means of aligning their work with the issues that the art industry deems important: identity, gender, memory and so on and so forth. Perhaps it is to make the work seem more important than it really is. Perhaps we try to convince ourselves that we make a difference with our work, that we enlighten people in some way or another. Perhaps we foolishly think we have an influence that we really do not. Or maybe it is all simply a diversion from the fact that the most important issue is so complex and requires such drastic changes in our lifestyles and habits that it is easier to just ignore it, and leave it to our children to sort out, while we get busy with all these other Very Important Issues. After photographing extensively at King’s Beach over the course of two years, I got to know the area and the people that use it fairly well. I grew concerned that the development that is proposed for the area will, like so many others along the coast of our country, be for the benefit of the rich and the tourists. What will happen to Bigboy Ngqamfa, the guard at the waterslide, who diligently tends his small vegetable garden in the corner of the property that the slide is on? Will he be told one day that he must go now, the tourists are coming, and they do not wish to see such Third World, untidy things as this veggie patch of his. And those who walk their dogs will be told that they may not do this any more because it is now a Blue Flag Beach. And perhaps there will be no more grass for Kings Beach United to practise soccer on. Room will have to made for all the fast-food franchises that will have to built. One is not allowed to voice such sentiments, however, because then it means you are against development, that you want people to be unemployed. One cold day, after my photographing was over, I sat in my car in the King’s Beach parking lot and watched a group of four men who had arrived in big expensive vehicles. They walked onto the grass and listened as one of their number explained what would happen here one day in the future. With the sense of confidence and entitlement unique to those men who walk this earth believing that they are masters of it, he gestured with big sweeping motions of his hands of the changes to come, what would be knocked down and how. One of the group broke away and spoke to someone on his cell phone for a few minutes. He also used his hands a lot, in short sharp jabbing movements, followed by a series of karate-chop-like motions and then some dismissive sweeping waves of his hand in the air. What is the power of a few photographs up against the dismissive violence of such gestures of power and control? Unless it becomes an exclusive playground for rich tourists, I am not against the development of this area. But if I were, that day made it very clear that my voice means nothing, nor does the voice of Bigboy, nor any of the kiteboarders and surfers and dog owners who use the beach. So I write words to go along with my images, in order to fool myself into believing that what we as artists do is important and will somehow slow the changes wrought on the world by rampant, unfettered Global Capitalism. We write too many words, us artists, but perhaps this is appropriate, for the re-arranging of the deck chairs is now a complex manoeuvre requiring many years of study and much careful instruction.

Tim Hopwood is represented by the PH Centre, Cape Town.

To order prints, contact Simone Tredoux: 021 461 3904, simone@phcentre.co.za, www.phcentre.co.za