Thuistezien 248 — 27.04.2021

Simon Gush

In collaboration with the writer and performer James Cairns, the artist and filmmaker Simon Gush (1981) created a trilogy of short movies under the name ‘Analogues’. All of the movies are situated in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2011. Johannesburg is a workday city which, both historically and today, is highly defined by labour. In Gush’s videos and art, the concept of work plays a key role in relation to how work ethic is defined in this city and the longstanding representation of labour as well as to Gush’s own experience with work. The trilogy was made on the basis of an investigation into the concept of belief, each of the movies representing an aspect of how belief functions.

The third and final movie, ‘Distance’ (2011) conveys the effect of a world devoid of belief. In the movie, the observer is introduced to two sisters and a boy named Grant who is the child of one of the sisters. They are staying at a hotel in Johannesburg. While there is no clear introduction to the occupation of the two sisters or a reason for their stay at the hotel, it is evident that they both have appointments in the city throughout the day. Grant, however, remains vacant and with the absence of his mother and aunt most of the day, he is left to entertain himself. A large part of the movie depicts his solitary play inside various spaces of the hotel. While it would be a plausible reaction to search for social contact, he rather keeps to himself, trying his best to avoid contact with other people if they happen to be in the same spot as him. There is hardly any conversation in the movie besides a few exchanges of words between the three main characters. Characteristic for this exchange of words between them is the lack of real devotion to any feeling. Only the aunt seems to have a concern towards her nephew which only covers his fundamental needs. This concern furthermore, seems overshadowed by the lack of emotional engagement that the two sisters show towards each other and towards Grant. The responses from Grant are usually short and polite, as if he is aware of the fact that their attention towards him only can handle as much.

At the time ‘Distance’ and the other two films that forms Analogues were created, the state of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cusato) was facing a divergence of opinion with regards to finding an ideological position. In Gush’s view, this had brought Cusato to a point of crisis of ideology which he found analogues to a crisis of faith or belief. In ‘Distance’, there is a clear crisis when inspecting the two sisters seemingly divergent ways of living. Left behind is the young boy Grant who, as a result of this, is left with a lack of any ideology and, the belief in a homogeneous family is something he doesn’t even seem to consider. Although living physically close life in the hotel room, the distance between each of them is piercingly evident.

The trilogy ‘Analogues’, which ‘Distance’ is part of, was shown during the exhibition of three parts ‘This is not Africa, this is us’, which was held in length at Art Rotterdam in February 2014.

Text: Rosa Zangenberg