In the wake of the Eugene de Kock incident of the Franschhoek Literary Festival I think an elephant has been left in the room. Like with all of these kinds of things, and there have been a few in the last few years (The Spear, the removal of Ayanda Mabulu’s painting at the Johannesburg Art Fair, last year’s Franschhoek Literary Festival and now this year’s), there is always the publicity aspect. That is to say there is always the: ‘Now how can I get my name associated with this?’ or ‘What is the most incendiary thing I can say or do in order to get my name into the papers?’.
I am reminded of the Mabulu incident when, I think, with real justification David Goldblatt took down his exhibition in support of Mabulu. And well done to him. Goldblatt doesn’t need publicity and I think he did it in solidarity and in good faith. What amused me was how this set several younger artists into a panic. One of them came to me and asked if they thought that they should literally jump on the band wagon by supporting Goldblatt and take down their work too. But they confessed to me that they worried that if their work wasn’t up it might not get sales but they asked me if I thought the publicity would off set this. I shrugged, I had no idea. To be quite honest by that time I was so sick of the art world and its disingenuousness, its corruptions and its opportunism. But I still think that Goldblatt did a very good thing. It was a lesson to us all. Of course most of the art world thought it was a lesson on how to get publicity.
So here is my point. I have no problem with Lauren Beukes telling de Kock to leave. How on God’s earth he was invited in the first place blows the mind. What I have a problem with is the circus that has ensued, that was started by the publicising of the request to de Kock to leave. Nothing these days in the art world (barring Goldblatt) and the publishing world seems to be done as an end in itself, it is always a means. That is what capitalism has taught us. And onto Facebook and Twitter this will go with some hashtags no doubt!
Eugene de Kock pictured with film maker Jann Turner by George Hallet