Kim Berman has been recently appointed Professor in the Visual Art Department of the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA) at the University of Johannesburg and the Creative Feel team sends their congratulations for this well-deserved honour. She is, of course, also the co-founder and director of Artist Proof Studio (APS) and a respected artist. Berman is deeply committed to political and social transformation in South Africa and uses printmaking as a vehicle to reflect on the social and political processes that surround her.
Name one artist you would love to meet.
Perhaps it would be Anselm Keifer or Ai Weiwei, because their work holds such power to move their viewers to want to be more than they are. I have the honour and privilege to collaborate with William Kentridge on works he co-publishes with Artist Proof Studio, and I regard him as one of the greatest artists of our time. He is a huge inspiration to me.
What are you reading at the moment?
I have a pile of heavy texts that sit next to my bed as I am writing an article for the International Journal of Transitional Justice on the symbolic agency of artworks. I will be referencing some wonderful texts, including Public Art in South Africa, edited by Kim Miller and Brenda Schmahmann, Awakening Democracy Through Public Work: Pedagogies of Empowerment by Harry Boyte, and many others. To escape, a wonderful and moving novel I’m reading, passed on to me from my mom and sister when they were visiting, is: Someone to Run With by David Grossman.
What is in your car’s CD player?
Christopher Duigen playing Chopin; Blue Indigo; Pretty Yende; Beethoven and Johnny Clegg. I normally listen to talk radio, but switch to listening to a beautiful voice or classical music when I need to centre myself and calm my thoughts.
How have the arts industries in South Africa changed over the last ten years?
The art market has boomed. There is a huge appetite for young and talented black artists. So many APS alumni are making a fantastic living from their work, and some have joined the class of the super-rich. It astounds me how much money people are prepared to pay for images; some of which, in my opinion, are not nearly as proficient as they ought to be. Yet, it is so incredible to stand on the sidelines and witness so many young people reaching for and meeting their wildest dreams through their talent.
Name one thing you think would improve the arts and culture industry in South Africa.
The Arts and Culture Ministry and its ineffectual administrative bodies. I would like to change the way funding is allocated, and the way that the sector is so fractured and divided. I would like arts education to be a fundamental subject for every school child and every school to have well trained arts educators across disciplines. That would be my idea of establishing a more human-centred society.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
People who see themselves as having no agency. I feel a sense of shame when I drive past street people huddled among their belongings under the bridge in End Street, or a child begging on the street for drug money to numb the reality of their life.
What is it that makes you happy?
I have just spent such a happy weekend at The Artists’ Press in White River, which is an idyllic haven of nature, art and friendship in balance and harmony. I felt the deep connection of having the blessings and care from good friends and family. An added joy was watching our godson Simon make beautiful charcoal with scientific precision in his makeshift kiln.
Describe a defining moment in your life.
There may be others, but I defined a new direction in my life when Mandela walked out of prison in 1990, and another when Nhlanhla Xaba died in the fire that burnt down APS in 2003. I am sure I have just experienced a new defining moment when I was capped last week as a professor! I feel that to be a weighty challenge of leadership and activism.
What projects will you be busy with during 2019 and into 2020?
My academic responsibilities at UJ keep my time busy, and in between spaces I am mentoring and handing over more and more responsibility to the management team at APS. I have taken on and proposed a number of exciting projects that use transformative arts practices to bring about change. FADA students are co-designing a community centre for the village elders in Lotlhakane in the North West who are sharing indigenous practices with the youth.
Name one goal you would like to achieve in the next twelve months.
I would like to create more space in my life for my own practice as an artist, and start working towards an exhibition for 2020. I think my last exhibition may have been over a decade ago.
To keep up-to-date with the latest arts and culture news in South Africa, purchase the July 2019 issue of Creative Feel or subscribe to our monthly magazine from only R180.00 to R365.00 per year! SUBSCRIBE HERE!