On Wednesday, 7 September, The Art Room in Parkhurst, Johannesburg, will hosts an Instagram-inspired exhibition by photographer Alastair Mclachlan, entitled #Post_Box_1984. The international art world is beginning to give serious contemplation to how social media intersects with artists expression, so this exhibition could not have come at a better time.
The body of work, which covers a two-year period from 2012 to 2104, depicting the gritty reality of life in Joburg’s CBD, gains an additional layer of storytelling through an Instagram sensibility.
The Art Room specialises in exhibiting art on paper (which includes photography) from Johannesburg-based artists, as well as some international, and believes that art should convey a message, statement or meaning and should so so beautifully. Gallery owner Simonetta Bravi is confident that Mclachlan’s photographs tick all these boxes, ‘He has created some strong images that tell deeply personal stories, and our hope is that people will walk away with a new perspective on life in the City of Gold.’
#Post_Box_1984 will run at The Art Room from Wednesday, 7 September at 18h00 until Saturday 22 October. The exhibition includes 34 framed photographic prints as well as 12 to 15 unframed prints. There will be a real postbox in situ, and Mclachlan’s images will be available as postcards, which people can post directly from the venue, via the postbox. (stamps will also be provided.)
The artist answered a few questions about his Instagram-inspired exhibition
Why did you use Instagram as a platform?
Instagram can tell a story; it can create a mood. And it provides instant feedback. Instagram enables divergence from the everyday idea of “real” and presents a filtered, perhaps better looking and more interesting, alternative reality. Underpinning the body of work with the social aspect (and language) of Instagram, I hope to encourage conversation and a shared response and identification of what makes Joburg unique.
Why the title #Post_Box_1984?
“PO Box 1984, Johannesburg, 2000, South Africa” is my actual postal box address. It also accounts for the virtual geographic location that most of the photos were taken from. At the time, I lived and worked (and literally photographed) from the 19th floor of The Lister building in Joburg’s CBD, and the Jeppe street post office is just downstairs.
What is the significance of the post box to Instagram?
There is the literal similarity of posting things in boxes: Instagram is like posting postcards, but on social warp-speed. To me, my post box has a personality and it signifies a way of seeing the world more universally and through time. But both these items serve as the tools – in the real and virtual spaces – that facilitate our process, and to me are active participants in that creative process, almost taking on the identity of the artist.
What do your images seek to portray?
They are often an aerial or bird’s eye-view – and testament – of the lives of people living and working in Joburg. They depict the social and economic realities of life in the metropolis. Through the images, I’m hoping to elicit an emotional and ethereal response to otherwise hard daily realities. I think everyone living in the city has a desire to believe that there is a soft underbelly to Joburg. I think this says something about the fragility behind those brave urban faces.
As per Instagram functionality, you use filters with the images, as well as additional ‘non-Instagram’ filters. Why the use of filters?
The use of actual filters is an intended metaphor for our own personal filters. There is growing academic acceptance that the way we see our world changes our world. In-app Instagram filters are good for a quick fix. They really can make a bad photo good, primary in opinion, by revealing details in the under and over exposed areas. But if you really want to change the world, my favourites are #snapseed and #mextures. There’s just so much more versatility and control. Funny thing is when I show some filtered images to my family they assume I’ll still fix the added “defects”. I have to tell them: no, that’s how I like it, and that’s what I intended.
What do you hope people gain from seeing your exhibition?
A way of actively seeing, and a sense of excitement about sharing that.
A different perspective of Johannesburg. A small understanding of the personal stories of people that live in the city and how that compares to their own lives. And, hopefully, a fresh new ‘filter’ of Joburg that they can assimilate with their existing perceptions of the city.
The Art Room is located at Santos Centre, Cnr 4th Ave and 7th Street, Parkhurst, Johannesburg.
Follow Alastair Mclachlan on Instagram: @intermission
Follow The Art Room on Instagram : @theartroom.co.za
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