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Stijn Van Dorpe

Going to the top of Africa (slide carousel, 64 slides) in cooperation with Euridice Kala, Bag Factory Johannesburg, 2012
The slide series includes documentary footage of a trip I put together with a group of young schoolchildren from downtown Johannesburg, and which led to the top floor of “the Carlton Centre Office Tower”. This tower, built in the late sixties of the last century, can be seen as the symbol of South African capitalist growth and is one of the tallest buildings on the African continent. The slide series focusses on the human aspect of this event, showing happy, marvelling schoolchildren. The series presents itself as a horizontal movement, like a slide carousel that runs its cycle, giving every slide as much attention as the next. What might not be immediately apparent, however, is the destination of the school trip, the vertical trek to the top of the building, from which the city can be viewed.

A seemingly innocent picture series that does not immediately present itself as a work of art, or profess any political stance, appears, upon closer examination, to be less casual than it seems. Hierarchical, confirmatory structures seem to underlie both the didactic nature of the slide projector, the educational context of the trip, and its destination. The fact that this ‘school trip’ is staged, also points to the artist’s complicity.

Even if the artist remains out of view, his presence and directing role can be felt throughout the event, causing feelings of discomfort both to himself and to the viewer. Here, the artist undertakes a critical examination of the ethical status of the contemporary artwork as such, as well as its interrelationship with existing western dominant power structures.