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Top L’Atelier artists confess South Africans’ ‘search engine secrets’

Franli Meinjes | Redemption Song

If you had to take a snapshot of South Africans’ statistically most-searched-for topics according to Google over a year, what would it look like?

Visitors to this year’s KKNK arts and culture festival, taking place from 8-15 April 2017 in Oudtshoorn, will get the opportunity to find out when they browse through Absa’s much-anticipated The Confessional group exhibition, curated by 2014 L’Atelier winner, Liberty Battson. The showcase is aligned to the KKNK’s overall curatorial theme for visual arts, ‘Greed gone mad and fear got bought’, which draws on the basic emotions of fear and greed as characteristics of western-constructed morals that are closely linked to the seven deadly sins. Greed is one of the sins, and fear a driving force behind it. The premise of Absa’s The Confessional is built around the core idea of top L’Atelier artists (previous entrants and finalists in the competition) ‘confessing’ the most-searched-for topics on Google in South Africa, and expressing these within the context of each artist’s own greed and fear.

This is Battson’s first curatorial exhibition. She is an abstract painter who is well known for using statistics – particularly figures from digital and new media channels – as her subject matter. Battson tracked and recorded Google searches for more than a year. Interestingly, her findings don’t only point to South Africans’ current areas of interest in terms of web-based research, but also to those subjects that, uncannily, are direct byproducts of greed or fear. Participating artists were asked to pick a topic from within Battson’s most-searched-for Google results – a topic that was true to them and their usual subject of choice. They then had to create an artwork that reflected that topic and put down their thoughts by way of a confession (also known as a declaration of guilt, a revelation or acknowledgment) about the subject. Some of the most searched topics over the year-long period include social media, substance abuse, peer pressure, xenophobia, pollution, depression, The Bible, fear, love, South Africa, human rights violation, poverty, abortion, friendship, water pollution, quitting smoking and immigration.

“I believe it is important that artists use their voice to speak up about the subjects people often don’t want to talk about, like confession as a whole. In saying this, the participating artists were asked to be vulnerable or passionate in making their selection and to represent their truth in creating their work,” explains Battson.

The show gets personal when Kevin Irungu confesses to lying and cheating on his ‘baby mama’; Peter Mammes confesses his personal experience of abortion; and Luyanda Zindela confesses his struggle with depression and the daily pressure he faces being an artist and his family’s breadwinner. “The artists were also required to produce an audio clip of their confession – either a truthful confession or a revelation of the chosen topic. In listening to some of the confessions, the success of these clips lies in the truth and vulnerability of each artist speaking or voicing what they represent. The result is a body of work representing some of the most searched topics and how greed or fear relate to them, and a platform for the artists to use their voice to inspire and enlighten within this context,” Battson adds. These confessions will be made available to viewers as they stand before the artwork, so they may see the visual and hear the audio together to immerse themselves in the artist’s personal perspective on the chosen subject. A CD with the audio of the various confessions will also be for sale.

Peter Mammes | Childcare

The Confessional runs from 8-15 April 2017 at the Absa Gallery Prince Vintcent Gebou in Oudtshoorn as part of the KKNK from 09:00 to 17:00 daily.

Following this, the exhibition will move to the Absa Gallery in Johannesburg where it will run from 9 to 28 July 2017.

About Absa Bank

Absa Bank Limited (Absa Bank) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Barclays Africa Group Limited, which is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and is one of Africa’s largest financial services groups. Absa offers a range of retail, business, corporate and investment banking and wealth management products and services primarily in South Africa and Namibia. Barclays Africa is 50.1% owned by Barclays Bank PLC (Barclays). Operating in 12 countries with about 40 thousand permanent employees and serving more than 12 million customers. For further information about Barclays Africa, please visit our website

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