Doves of peace or just pigeons?
Lwandiso Njara’s exhibition wrestles with the physical-digital conundrum in the Covid-19 straitjacket
The blurring of the physical and the digital has defined everyday life for billions of people over the past year. It is confounding because intuitively we understand these as two distinct categories of experience. We resolve the confusion by retreating into binaries: the digital is “safe”, the physical is “unsafe” (in epidemiological terms anyway). But the Covid-19 era has also reinscribed the ways in which the digital often feels dystopian, characterised by alienation.
Artists cannot live on the digital alone. They need physical spaces, to see and to be seen. This week, the Fugard Theatre — by common consensus the standout performing arts venue in SA over the past decade — announced it would be closing its doors permanently. There will be no post-Covid-19 revival. The news has left artists and audiences alike bereft.
I wrote last week that SA’s artists would not throw in the towel, capitulating either to Covid-19’s socioeconomic consequences or to the mighty force of state ineptitude. And indeed, this week the artists leading the sit-in at the National Arts Council’s offices persevered; they insisted, with their bodies occupying space, that they would not disappear into the ether, becoming digital voices of dissent that can be ignored...