Into thin air

An elaboration on the group show Out of Thin Air that took place between a train trip from Johannesburg and the STEVENSON gallery in Cape Town in July 2012, Into Thin Air is based on the premise of fantasy space. The term ‘into thin air’ refers to a sense of disappearing into the unknown, a semi-obliteration or part-erasure. Things don’t completely cease to exist, but find an alternate semi-reality in which they can exist intangibly. In as much as a gallery, a train and a child’s fort are fantastical spaces that allow one to operate within the realm of curated experience, simulated environments and make-believe, the cyber platform operates within a similarly intangible domain. The construction of any building or site, whether imaginary or real, requires that one carve a space out of thin air, and the deconstruction of such a site sends it back into an undefined wedge of thin air. Much like an exhibition, as it appeared, so it will disappear.

Lerato Bereng

01 Dead Air

Malose Malahlela, co-director of Keleketla Library, occupies the intangible site of a radio station entitled Dead Air. “People who are aware when they begin to mind wonder score significantly higher on various tests of creativity and divergent thinking” Jonah Lehrer

Dead Air is an experiment of sound in space and as a fictional radio station. The interactive installation explored sound as a means of departure to daydreams or molding of fantasies. It examined how sound generated by the everyday world can in its monotony be a portal to a fantasy world. Complex noises such as densely populated urban spaces where sound is generated by millions of people and objects can still reach a point of monotony, in which all sounds blend into one. Furthermore, Dead Air explored how an external sound that exists in reality can insert itself into a dream/fantasy, thus creating a link between the two worlds. A dream state remains constant until an alien sound disrupts the monotonous sound that comforts/shocks the fantasy world, synonymous to a rude awakening stimulated by a radio alarm.


Dead Air is conceived and produced for, and aired on, a non-existent channel. The sound component is produced from field recordings, found sound, interviews, music, improvised sounds and audio extracts from films. Dead Air evokes a sense of parallel worlds through reference to fantasy products and spaces including but not limited to dice games or storytelling.

In the gallery the radio station was presented as an interactive sound installation where the audience was invited to ponder on and respond to the question ‘What do you daydream about?’ The responses were integrated into the installation, an appropriation of a radio call-in. The responses from the question are fascinating as private and public declarations of goals, love, career aspirations, creation, fantasy spaces and faraway places. I recorded the responses, edited and paired the audio clips with elements from the original sounds prepared for the exhibition. The background rumbles and mumbles references, a live element captured in the recording process, further emphasizing the psyche’s ability to compartmentise sound, only to be used as a portal to other worlds and dreamstates.

Malose Malahlela

Malose ‘Kadromatt’ Malahlela is a Johannesburg-based creative practitioner equally interested in socially engaged art practices and the role the audience or community play in the creation and engagement of the work/ processes. His practice is best exemplified through notable projects including Nonwane (through Wits School of Arts/ Dislocating the Studio residency), Skaftien and Stokvel (Transnational Skype Keynote Address to the Allied Media Conference in Detroit, USA HYPERLINK

Malahlela has led two interactive talk-shops at the Department of Media Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He has a rich background in co-staging multi-disciplinary contemporary arts exhibitions and events at the Drill Hall linked to the context of the site (2008-12). In recent years, sound has been a constant feature within his work and this led to his current exploration of sound as an emerging theatre for the ear. He also co-curated with Rangoato Hlasane the Thath’i Cover Okestra, an evolving Pan-African orchestra that explores and expands dance music. Malose is a co-founder and co-director of Keleketla! Library.


Cuss’s online magazine titled Pending Local (cuss#5) explores the internet’s limitless capabilities and utilizes its sustainability as building blocks for the issue. Diverging from the usual textual online format, a distinctive style has begun to develop. From one issue to the next, difference has been the inconspicuous theme that unites the project as a whole. With this in mind and the reference to the world wide web and what it allows as a platform, the collective saw it apt to explore post-internet art as a form of expression.

With the concept of creative development in mind, the collective introduced an unofficial artist residency, represented by Icelandic sculptor Svaenska Hellberg and Swedish fashion designer Mina Lundgren. These two artists became the subjects for the issue, working with all the prejudice that they were exposed to coming into the supposedly harsh climate of South Africa. The result was the video-zine, Pending Local.


Cuss is a group of artists based in downtown Johannesburg. Jamal Nxedlana, Zamani Xolo and Ravi Govender are the founders and core members of the group. The projects, which the group undertakes, connect with popular culture and are multi-disciplinary. Since its inception in February 2011 the group has broadcast two webisodes, published four online magazines, a video magazine, a print magazine and a trailer for a documentary titled Skopo. The Group was also commissioned to produce “Newwork 11”, a catalogue showcasing the work of the Wits School of Arts final year students.

Along with Cuss’ own initiatives, the group has been invited to collaborate with Invisible Cities, show at the Goodman Gallery project space, take part in Blank Projects IPP (Independent publishing project), conduct a “zine” workshop at the Wits School of Art as part of the Universities Substation residency, and most recently to take part in “Out Of Thin Air” a group show at the Stevenson gallery in Cape Town. The growth and development facilitated by collaboration is what initially led to the formation of the Cuss group. The culture of collaboration has continued to develop within the group and over time the idea of cultural curation has become a key part of their work.


In her video Stitches, Mbali Khoza obsessively stitches the English alphabet onto paper with a needle that has no thread – much like the game of pretend that childhood plots its foundation on.
The result is almost invisible – several punctures on a piece of paper, emanating an inverse braille of sorts.


She wounds the paper as a response to a statement made by Zimbabwean writer Dambudzo Marechera which reads: “As I read it every single word erased itself into my mind. Afterward they came to take out the stitches from the wound of it. The stitches were published. The reviewers made obscene… But those stitches… Yes those stitches, these poems…”

Mbali Khoza

Mbali Khoza is currently completing her Fine Arts degree at the University of Witwatersrand. She works mainly in video, installation and performance, which she uses to translate and express her understanding of language and literature as mode of communication.

Khoza has participated in a number of exhibitions, which include the Gwanza 2011-Month Photography at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe (2011), Rechewed at the Centre of historical Reinactments in Johannesburg (2011) and Original/Copy at the Wits Substation (2011). Khoza was one of the co-winners of the 2011 Martienssen Prize at the University of the Witwatersrand.


In Jared Ginsburg’s video piece Hoist, a deck chair is raised into the air and seemingly rises to nowhere, with no particular reasoning to the height it stops at.The lack of seamlessness, the visibility of the wire cable that hoists it, yet the strange almost unnoticeable movement alludes to a sense of trickery or magic.

Unlike magic where things are well concealed and the eye is often completely fooled, Ginsburg makes use of unapologetic trickery and makes one aware of the fact that he is creating a spectacle for the spectator to see. One almost resents being awed by the slowly rising object, yet it draws one in to the point of it almost being hypnotic.

Jared Ginsburg

Jared Ginsburg (born in 1985 in South Africa) attended the Michaelis School of Fine Art (U.C.T) eventually graduating in 2010.

He has since participated in various group exhibitions, and held his first solo exhibition Hoist at Blank Projects in 2011. He currently works out of Atlantic House in Cape Town.


Set in an amusement park, arguably one of the most vivid examples of a fantasy space, Naadira Patel’s video installation I like it when it goes fast… takes one on a sensory journey. On a single screen, one is confronted with a close-up of her face and its multitude of expressions whilst on a roller-coaster ride.

The camera’s uncomfortable proximity to her face, juxtaposed with the hypnotic yet jarring amusement park lights and the observation of peaks of emotion feels as though we are witnessing an extremely private moment. The curiosity lies in man’s obsession with adrenalin and creating artificial stimuli that generate this rush in a never-ending quest towards obliteration.

Naadira Patel

Naadira Patel (born 1988 in Vereeniging, Gauteng, South Africa) is a Johannesburg based artist and curator whose work crosses between the mediums of painting, photography and video. She completed her undergraduate BA Fine Arts Degree at the Wits School of Arts in 2010, and is currently the assistant curator and Exhibitions Coordinator in the Division of Visual Arts at the Wits School of Arts, managing the Substation gallery space and co-curator of The Substation Residency: Dislocating the Studio.

She has worked as a project manager and curatorial assistant on numerous projects, including the Joburg Art Fair in 2009 and 2010, Stevenson JHB in 2010, Wide Angle: Photography as Public Practice in 2011, and is currently a participant and coordinator in Play/Urban (2011-2013) a collaboration between the Wits School of Arts and ESAD Strasbourg, France.

06 Lerato Bereng - Biography

Lerato Bereng (born in 1986 in Maseru, Lesotho) obtained a BA Fine Art in 2007 from Rhodes University. In 2008 she was selected as one of five Young Curators at the Cape Africa Platform (CAPE). For the CAPE 09 Biennale in May 2009, she curated Thank You Driver, an exhibition that took place on minibus taxis. She also co-produced CAPE’s Sessions Maputo in Mozambique in 2009.

In 2010 she was assistant curator for Dada South?, an exhibition curated by Roger van Wyk and Kathryn Smith at the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town. She was one of 13 young curators selected to take part in a curatorial workshop for the 6th Berlin Biennale in 2010. She is currently a curator at STEVENSON Johannesburg, and is pursuing her MFA in curating at Rhodes University. She recently curated Out of Thin Air, a group show that was held at STEVENSON in Cape Town.

07 Exhibition credits

Curator: Lerato Bereng
Author of Texts: Lerato Bereng
Realization: Lenka Střeláková and Janek Rous
Published: 25. 9. 2012