29 November 2012

Namibia: Arts Association Stops 'Political' Exhibition

THE Swakopmund Arts Association has blocked an environmental arts exhibition that was planned at the Gallery Woermannhaus because it is not “suitable” for the gallery.

The exhibition by Imke Rust addresses the current debate about the ongoing mining and industrial activities in the coastal area.

Rust has since moved the ‘controversial’ exhibition to The Last Resort Wellness Centre at Swakopmund. It will run from December 9 to 29.

A disappointed Rust said: “What do you do when an arts association cancels your exhibition because they find it too political? And when a cultural centre asks you to change your exhibition proposal to hide the true message so that it might stand a chance of being shown? You make sure it gets shown anyway, in an unbiased space.”

The arts association cancelled Rust’s booking at Woermannhaus because of the “impertinent and unscientific public debate against the economically important uranium mining industry […] is politically charged”, Rust said in a statement.

In an English translation of the cancellation provided to her by the arts association, it is said that the association would want to “remain neutral” in the politically charged debate of mining and industrial developments at the coast.

In her work she uses a variety of media and approaches to highlight the concerns of the public and to search for alternative solutions in the environmental conflict.

While painting a gloomy picture of possible disastrous long-term effects of the current developments, she also reminds people of their responsibility to look after their land.

Once more, Rust has produced a powerful body of work, exploring and openly questioning social and political controversial issues. Central to the exhibition are temporary ‘land art’ works that the artist has installed in the Namib Desert.

At the exhibition these installations and interventions will be presented through photographic and video documentation. She evocatively combines natural and man-made materials such as thorns, salt, dung, rubbish bags, barbed wire and videos in her captivating artworks. She even got complete strangers involved in a documented art action for the environment on the Swakopmund jetty.

A small part of the exhibition has already been shown in Berlin earlier this year, where it was received with great interest.

“The artist neither preaches nor dictates what the viewer’s stance should be. Instead the exhibition draws you in and compels you to engage and consider the complexities of the debate. It is an empowering experience and should definitely not be missed,” said Rust.

The Swakopmund Arts Association said the debate against the industrial developments at the coast is “scientifically dubious” and against the economically important uranium mining industry in Namibia.

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