The “Community Punching Bags” or “CPBs” project is an artwork by Johann van der Schijff in collaboration with art educators and high school learners from and around Cape Town. Johann is an artist and lecturer at the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town. The resulting exhibition opened at the Iziko South African National Gallery Annexe in May/June 2012. With the support of the KZNSA’s Social Art in Development (S.A.I.D) Programme funded by the National Lotteries Distribution Fund the KZNSA Gallery is pleased to present this innovative exhibition 10 – 29 July 2012.

  • 10 July 2012 - 29 July 2012
  • Main Gallery, Mezzanine Gallery

Inspired by artwork in which the community plays a central part in its realisation, this project aims to show that issues often not spoken about openly, such as those that deal with violence, “the other”, stereotyping, discrimination, racism, xenophobia and human rights can be addressed in a collaborative and creative way through the making of art.

The overall project consists of five phases, firstly, involving high school art teachers from the greater Cape Town area in workshop sessions to develop cut-out designs/collages with the art educators. In phase two, local leather artisans crafted the cut-out designs/collages into actual punching bags. Phases three and four involved educators passing their CPBs workshop skills to the learners. This workshop process will be extended to include art educators and learners from schools in KZN. Phase five is a series of exhibitions that present the drawings, paper cut-outs/collages and punch bag sculptures that emanated from the workshops.

The CPBs project involves a broad range of institutional contributors, including the KZNSA who is supporting the local exhibition and art making workshops with educators and learners. Van der Schijff says “The National Research Foundation, via my own research activities at the University of Cape Town, provided seed funding for the project. Significant funding from the Prince Claus Fund in The Netherlands enabled me to roll out the project at the participating schools in Cape Town – the participating schools had responded to an open invitation via The Frank Joubert Art Centre, who also provided the premises for most of the workshops and contributed to workshop facilitation. Iziko Museums of Cape Town’s Education and Public Programmes contributed to the design and facilitation of the workshops as well as leading walkabouts and a workshop during the exhibition”.

The final CPBs exhibition is intended to be viewed as an artwork. Johann’s iconography draws on art that relies on viewer participation, (visitors get to punch the artworks), chance and the absurd. The project – at its core involving participation from both the makers and the viewers– is therefore an unpredictable process open to chance and serendipity that reveals itself as it unfolds. It is neither a scientific nor a pedagogical exercise, but is a conceptual artwork – it does not aim to provide definite answers to the questions it poses, but remains open to interpretation.

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