…of bugchasers and watussi faghags

beiruth_4.jpgmhhh, this looks deep, disturbing and definitely for those seeking out alternative mind-expanding art exhibitions… which is what art is supposed to do, move you and make you think! Go on, go and explore the many layers and narratives ingrained in Athi-Patra Ruga’s body of new work at ArtExtra.  And by the way, if you’ve been wondering what the hell the word DYSTOPIA means, think the opposite of Utopia, as explained by Dictionary.com: an (imagined) society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.

…of bugchasers and watussi faghags
A solo exhibition by Athi-Patra Ruga
20 August – 20 September 2008

373 jan smuts avenue

gallery hours:
tuesday to friday 1030 – 1730
saturday 930 – 1500

Please join us for the opening on Wednesday 20 August 2008 at 6pm

…of bugchasers and watussi faghags is the first solo exhibition of Athi-Patra Ruga’s to be held in Johannesburg. The exhibition revolves around the principal character of the “bugchaser”, Beiruth, and his ‘tales of counter-penetration’, realized through craft-mediations and performances undertaken in various urban centers around South Africa and abroad.

“This body of work is an interrogation of my interest in the history of image-making, and of displacement – both of people and images. The title of the show is double-edged: it refers to the sexual practice of ‘bug-chasing’ [the act of contracting the H.I. virus intentionally] – with it’s seemingly altruistic motivation; while also referring to the history of the ‘Watussi’, a colonial mis-pronouncement of the Tutsi people of the Burundi-Ruanda nation. The Watussi myth is further explored in the Pixilated Arcadia series of tapestries, referencing paintings done by Irma Stern during her 1943 and 1946 expeditions to central Africa depicting the “Watussi”. Stern’s works are re-narrated through irreverent subversion, with the aim of focusing attention on the implicit ethnographic and propagandistic undertones of the work. The “Watussi women” meditations find their retort in the … watussi moneyshot [2008] tapestry – a parody on the historical and the contemporary hoochie-mamma…

Beiruth’s name is derived from a pun around the middle-eastern city of Beirut – a play on the theme of Orientalism; but more importantly he is the illusive figure that qualifies the autonomous body against that of the sovereign state. In my new video: …after he left [2008] , Beiruth is documented undertaking various journeys: catching a taxi to the Cape Town township of Atlantis, a place that is a far cry from its legendary namesake; Beiruth seeking a sensual ideal in the form of the increasingly-popular evangelical churches. The video is accompanied by a series of performative stills … the naivety of Beiruth [2008], which documents Beiruth’s interactions with various spaces of the inner-city, including Johannesburg Central Police Station [formerly John Voster Square]“

Athi-Patra Ruga [b. 1984] is an artist working in the fields of performance, photography, video installation and fashion. He is the founder of Johannesburg’s only off-schedule fashion/photography programme- Confluence 4. His first solo exhibition, She is Dancing in the Rain with her Hand in the Toaster, opened the Michael Stevenson side gallery series of exhibitions in 2007. Ruga describes his working method as resulting from ‘the clash between material and memory’, but notions of utopia and dystopia also form a common thread. These are usually carried out in what he has termed “craft-meditations”. Ruga owns a clothing label, Just Nje/Amper Couture. He was nominated for the Africa is in Fashion (L’Afrique est à la mode) competition, which took place in Niamey, Niger, in November 2008. His video work Miss Congo [shot and performed in Kinshasa during the Urbaine Scenography in Kinshasa, DRC] was selected for The Dakar Biennale 2008. Ruga’s work was recently featured at opening of the Peripheral Vision and Collective Body exhibition at the Museion Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Bolzano, Italy. Ruga’s work will be featured on a group exhibition in Berlin in September of 2008, as well as on the Third Gangzhou Triennale, opening September 2008.

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