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About this Item
This haunting welded steel sculpture by Michael MacGarry was made as a memorial to the miners shot down by members of the South African Police, at Marikana, North West province, in August 2012. What had begun as a wildcat strike for better wages at one of South Africa’s largest platinum mines ended six days later in tragedy. The police were ordered to use live ammunition to brutally suppress the strike, killing 34 and injuring many more.
Michael MacGarry references the work of American sculptor Alexander Calder (1898–1976), one of the most important pioneers of international ‘modernism’, for the making of the present lot. A sculptor of international fame and repute, Calder is embodied by his large and robust ‘Stabiles’, which MacGarry uses as a visual metaphor to navigate a controversial incident of South Africa’s recent past. Modernism, an international movement in arts, architecture and industrial design, aimed to break with traditional forms and ideas in the creation of a new utopian inspired aesthetic, in the wake of feelings of disillusionment, failure and disappointment in the aftermath of WW1. A new ideal and expression of living had to be found and embraced, as an attempt to avert future social calamity.
MacGarry’s work poses the question: ‘What was the cost of breaking with traditional forms and ideas, in the creation of a ‘modernist utopia’? In this work he also probes the degree to which this ‘modernist utopian ideal’ has failed in Africa, not only at the height of colonial expansion in the early part of the twentieth century, but even in the present, a century later.
MacGarry traced a small group of the South African Police who had taken part in the Marikana massacre. He asked them to use the same weapons they had fired during the conflict, but this time to shoot at the sculpture. Evidence and traces of gunfire from 9mm pistols, R4 assault rifles and shotguns can be found on the surface of the steel.
A single skull, beautifully carved out of white marble, serves as an eloquent reminder to the victims of this tragedy.
Everard Read, Johannesburg, Michael MacGarry: Between Rot and Genesis, 7 July to 6 August 2016, exhibit no. 13.