Ruins and remains of our lives and built environment

Filth © Ismail Lagardien

Scanning through the photographs on my storage drives I was struck, recently, by how often I have made pictures of ruins and ruination. There are pictures of rubble among them, but it is mainly ruins; structures that have broken down, or that have been allowed to break down, and places and spaces that seem to have lost their use-value. The pictures I made are often about places that have been vacated, voluntarily or involuntarily, as well as material structures, ruins, and rubble that have amassed over time, and for which there seems to be no further use, other than being prepared for disposal. Or it is simply neglected for no particular reason…. Whether it is rust or simply disrepair, I seem to have developed, unwittingly, an interest in capturing spaces of decrepitude and decay.

Rust © Ismail Lagardien
Broken © Ismail Lagardien
Shoes © Ismail Lagardien
Decrepit © Ismail Lagardien
Abandoned © Ismail Lagardien

These pictures have no aesthetic value. At least I don’t think so. They’re made more out of habit – I have acquired because it makes for interesting pictures. What I have done, since I became interested in cities – from a political economy or sociological perspective, and especially the history and semiotics of structures and buildings – is look at some of the literature on ruins, and on cities, in general. I should say, with some haste, that I have no scholarly background or interest in these issues to the extent that I have anything significant or ground-breaking to add. I treat the entire process as would a flaneur with a camera.

What draws us to ruins

This fascination with ruins, and I should not be disingenuous, is a retrospective appreciation, in the sense that I never really set out, purposefully, to photograph ruins, rubble or urban spaces that have gone to waste. At least I think so. Perhaps it is successive visits to Istanbul that sparked my interest in what has been described as “the melancholy of ruins”. Although I can’t be sure of that. I photographed ruins and rubble in Georgetown Guyana, before I made pictures in Istanbul or Dubai much later. All of this notwithstanding, looking through my photographs, I saw a pattern running through the thousands of pictures I have made over the years, and that are, now, stored on my external hard drives.

In October 2019, while walking through Dolpadere in Istanbul, I realised, how often I photographed things, and they never see the light of day again (so to speak), when they are “stored” on my computer or one of the external hard drives. 

Brief Discussion on the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture

Selfie hiding behind the mike in Cape Talk’s Greenpoint Studio

I was guest host of a two hour slot on Cape Talk on Tuesday night. This is a clip of a discussion with the insightful Dr Ivor Sarakinsky of the Wits School of Governance. I dragged Ivor from a well-deserved vacation to talk to me.

In discussion with Dr Ivor Sarakinsky on the Zondo Commission.

What good is art if it satisfies only the imaginaries of artists?

At the Hagia Sophia, in Istanbul

As promised on 14 November, I will start pulling together my thoughts on the recent visit to Istanbul. I have had some quite traumatic things happen after my return (as well as another surgical procedure on my right hand and wrist for carpal tunnel-related issues), but the following was a first take, published by the Daily Maverick on 22 November 2019. Below is an extract…

Art gallery and art spaces as beachhead for gentrification

The Arter Gallery reminded me of the gentrification of neighbourhoods where unemployment, poverty, alienation are rife, and where (in the case of Dolapdere, where the gallery is located) the gleaming gallery stands, egotistically separate. I should not traduce the creativity that is on exhibit at the Arter Gallery, but I can also not see it in isolation from Dolapdere, and the forced gentrification of poor neighbourhoods; the way that a section of District Six has now become Zonnebloem, home to art galleries, artisanal coffee shops, and nude foods.

The location of the Arter Gallery is in a neighbourhood of Istanbul that is home to poverty, alienation, of Kurdish and African refugees and is especially distressing. I am sure than none of the homeless people who want to sit down and have a cappuccino at a trendy Zonnebloem café (if she has the money) would be welcome. And so, the Arter encourages the local community to visit the gallery at low cost or even for free. But step outside the back door (outside the coffee shop) and onto the black flooring of the back court of the Arter Gallery – and see how it stretches, in some places for no more than 10 metres, in clean lines, neat angles to a low wall, beyond which children play amid impoverished surroundings and dilapidated buildings. (Read the full article, here)

Between the Silences of Images

Late night in Fatih – Sultanahmet. By Ismail Lagardien (Copyright)

I recently spent about a week in Istanbul. Most of my time was spent visiting installations of the Istanbul Biennale, and two or three other places and art galleries. My favourite gallery, the Istanbul Modern, is being rebuilt, and temporarily housed elsewhere, in Beyoğlu. I am on some deadlines, and in the middle of an especially tough period, but once I emerge, I will collate my thoughts and present them in an essay, with photographs. I will focus, in particular, on some of the ways that art spaces have been inserted into working class areas, and have been part of gentrification – which places inordinate pressure on the poor, refugees, and immigrants. Please check back or sign up for updates. That way you will be notified when the essay is posted.

’n Moegoe gaan na die Istanbul-biënnale en sien net politics

ISMAIL LAGARDIEN bieg dat hy eintlik bitter min van kuns weet, maar wat hy wel weet, is dat die ware Istanbul nie by vanjaar se Biënnale weerspieël word nie. Waar is die oorlog en die opstande? Hy deel van die roerendste werke en oomblikke by dié kunsfees.

EK weet niks van kuns af nie. Oukei, dis nie heeltemal waar nie. Ek weet bitter min van kuns af.As jy met “kuns” bedoel skilder, teken, beeldhouwerk, dinge in ’n tipe formasie (jammer, “installasie”) sit en dit bo-op ‘n staander rangskik sodat mense daarna kan kyk, dan weet ek amper niks nie. Om die waarheid te sê probeer ek nog uitpluis wat die verskil is tussen ‘n triptiek en ‘n dipstiek is.

Op ‘n ernstiger noot: My smaak in kuns is eintlik nogal konserwatief. Dink ek. Die wellustige (walglike) mans in Edgar Degas se werk is prikkelend, en sy gebrek aan respek teenoor vroue is obseen en onverbiddelik, maar hy, en Toulouse-Lautrec, bly maar my gunsteling-skilders.My waardering vir Toulouse-Lautrec se werk het begin met sy skilderye van ikoniese Montmarte-plakkate, en sy spesiale verhouding met Jane Avril, waarskynlik sy grootste inspirasie gedurende die swierige Boheemse 1890’s in Parys.Ek sou graag tydens die Belle Époque in Parys wou gebly het. Dis my poging tot kulturele toeëiening – die danssale, opiumneste, absint en bordele van die Belle Époque. 

Published in VryeWeekblad

Read Full Article here.

Kind van die wind (Child of the Wind)

With diplomats from Malaysia’s department of foreign affairs during their visit to Cape Town.

Met 24 September om die draai wonder ISMAIL LAGARDIEN oor watter erfenis hy en ander Maleier-nasate in Suid-Afrika moet vier. Dis asof daar net nooit ’n boksie is wat hy kan afmerk nie. Waar ‘belong’ die Maleiers nou eintlik?

OP 24 September trek Suid-Afrikaners laer om “erfenis” en indrukke van wat hulle as hul etniese identiteit beskou. Erfenisdag is ’n post-apartheid-sameflansing met ’n ietsie vir almal, and then some. “Nog boerewors vir tannie?” Die hemel help ons, maar dis hoe dit is.

Dus: Joodse mense besoek hul Joodse vriende en familie. Die Xhosas, Zoeloes of Bapedi gaan “huis toe” – die versamelnaam vir hul plekke van familieherkoms, van Cofimvaba in die Oos-Kaap na Moutse in Limpopo. Afrikaners, natuurlik, is alomplesierig en hou jolyt net waar hulle is.

Maar wat van die bruin mense? Waar pas die bruines in? (Ek raak hiermee plegtig van “sogenaamde” ontslae, want daar’s nog baie om te lees en skryf).

Ons is diegene wat eens beskryf is as die “leftovers” – die resultaat van wit mans wat swart vroue verkrag het in die jare van vroeë Europese nedersetting aan die Kaap. Wat is die erfenis wat óns vier? (Read Further/Lees Verder)