TIME’S ARROW: Live Readings of the JAG Collection


21 February - 18 April, 2010 | Johannesburg Art Gallery

TIME’S ARROW: Live Readings of the JAG Collection

Curated by Anthea Buys

Time’s Arrow was a time-based exhibition project that examined the relationship between the Johannesburg Art Gallery’s (JAG) collection of artworks and what this collection represents for the public today. How is this collection is viewed, read, imagined, forgotten, represented, buried and dug up again years later?

A selection of historical and recent artworks that represent one narrative strand of the JAG collection’s history served as the starting point of the exhibition. A group of 13 emerging and established artists and researchers produced new works that responded to this initial selection, exploring its significance as part of the institutional archive.

Time’s Arrow drew its organisational structure from the idea that an art collection (and the archive more broadly) is a temporal phenomenon, even though one may tend to imagine such entities spatially and objectively, that is, in terms of the objects they contain. The question of archival temporality was explored in Time’s Arrow through a curatorial structure that uses the passage of time as an armature on which to build meaning and coherence. The installed exhibition developed over time, and between 21 February and 18 April 2010, the content of the show changed. Additions and removals of works, old and new, were made in response to new works inserted into the exhibition.

In this way, the curator invited new works to reread or recast in relation to older ones in such a way that the newer works implicitly modify those that came ‘before’ them.

The exhibition was supported and funded by VIAD. University of Johannesburg Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture staff members, VIAD Research Fellows and invited artists contributed to this exhibition. The curator of the exhibition and VIAD Research Associate, Anthea Buys comments,

Time’s Arrow explores the relationship between the history of the JAG, its collection, and the history of the city of Johannesburg. Crucial to the exhibition is the question of how we read archives ‒ what kind of authority is given to recorded and retained data? To what extent can the archive be read according to its omissions? … We need to ask can new works, or new knowledge more generally, alter the ways in which we understand what came before? In other words, can works from the past be given new voices in the present through juxtaposition and layering in display?

Artists featured were Alexander Opper, Thenjiwe Nkosi, James Sey, Alex Dodd, Alexandra Makhlouf, Phillip Raiford Johnson, Chaaya Dubashi, Tegan Bristow, Mitch Said, Serge Alain Nitegeka, Nina Barnett, Murray Kruger, Rodan Kane Hart