There would be tears and there would be strange laughter. Fierce births and deaths beneath umbrageous ceilings. And dreams, and violence, and disenchantment.
– Mervyn Peake (Titus Groan)
Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!
– J.R.R. Tolkien
If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform a million realities.
– Maya Angelou
The Menippean Uprising explores the idea of the imaginary, the unreal and the fantastical. The focus is on artworks that are of an escapist nature; works that intuitively venture toward the irrational, the grotesque, the pleasurable.
The title of the exhibition references Menippean Satire*, and it aims to illustrate the power that fantastical artworks have in framing contemporary issues in new ways, while interrogating some of the traditional reservations of the genre. These reservations include the mutual dependency of realism & the fantastic, the subservience of fantastical art to literature & mythology, and the perilous proximity of the fantastical sublime to its populist counterpart – fantasy**
The following artists will exhibit works in a variety of media and presentation strategies: Steve Bandoma, Belinda Blignaut, Dirk Bell, Anja De Klerk, Adriaan de Villiers, Pierre Fouché, Alice Goldin, Liza Grobler, Walter Oltmann, Mendisa Pantsi, Michael Taylor, Hentie van der Merwe, Dale Washkansky and Niklas Wittenberg.
* Menippean satire is one of the earliest genres of fantastic literature. Petronius’s Satyricon, Varro’s Bimarcus & Lucian’s Strange Story are examples of writings of this genre which had representative works from ancient Christian-, Byzantine-, Medieval-, Renaissance- and Reformation periods. Jackson, in Fantasy, the literature of subversion (1981 – Methuen) describes the genre:
It was a genre which broke the demands of historical realism or probability. The Menippea moved easily in space between this world, an underworld and an upper world. It conflated past, present and future, and allowed dialogues with the dead. States of hallucination, dream, insanity, eccentric behaviour and speech, personal transformation, extraordinary situations, were the norm. It was a genre which did not claim to be definitive or knowing, Lacking finality, it interrogated authoritive truths and replaced them with something less certain (15-16).
** Populist fantasy refers to the iconography of fantasy paperback illustration, subcultures of amateur practitioners, and its often tired tropes based on medievalist and Celtic mythology.