Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Friday, March 05, 2004

Trashy Toy Art


I have always been attracted to cheap plastic toys, fridge magnets, keychain objects, lucky packet charms and things of that ilk. I'm not sure why exactly, I think I love their cheerfulness, their brightness, their "kitchability" factor. The way they somehow seem to be proud of their gaudiness, without pretence, in their place right at the bottom of the toy feeding chain. They also somehow seem to be symbolic of our throwaway consumer society. Well, it seems I'm not the only one with a cheap, plastic toy fixation. Johannesburg based artist Joanne Bloch will soon be exhibiting a body of work titled "Thingerotomy" at the Johannesburg Art Gallery.

Writing on the exhibition, Joanne says, "I have been a collector all my life. In my early twenties, I became obsessed with the endless array of cheap, mass-produced artefacts that surrounds us -- tiny toys from lucky packets, Christmas crackers, key rings and egg machines. I began to collect them, and have never stopped.

At the heart of my work lies an enduring interest in this world of trashy ephemera. Thingerotomy evokes an imaginary surgical procedure that cuts open and lays bare this world, with the intention of both commenting on it as well as reconfiguring a new, personalised order.

Collecting and reconfiguring objects is a contradictory act. It's possible to treasure the collected objects for what they are, as well as to see them as emblematic of a wasteful and decadent world. Much of my work is concerned with the excesses inherent to global capitalist culture. I see this work as an ongoing and solution -- less interrogation into my own position in the face of this extravaganza of excess, that co-exists so easily with the other side of the global coin -- massive deprivation and want.


At the most basic level, my work expresses a collector's desire to classify everything in the world (or its miniature plastic version). The obvious impossibility of this task only adds to its fascination.

I also try to reconsider notions of what we commonly think of as beautiful, precious and worth treasuring. Cheap, mass-produced plastic trinkets and novelties are the only treasures available to the vast numbers of the world's population. My artwork often reflects my own ambivalences about the categories of 'trashy' and 'valuable'.

Finally, since I have lived all my adult life with significantly impaired vision -- I am blind in my right eye -- sight means everything to me. Contrary to the currently fashionable disavowal of the visual within the art world, in my work, I celebrate the daily pleasures of sight and seeing. "

A solo exhibition by Joanne Bloch
Johannesburg Art Gallery
Opens 16 March 2004 at 6pm
Closes 5 April 2004