Presented at ICTAF2018 is an installation by South African conceptual artist, and sculptor Usha Seejarim who has established her work and interest in the representation of gender and women through extensive explorations over time and across mediums. 'Keepers of the Common' draws on Seejarim’s preoccupation with the banal and domestic through accumulations and multiples. A key installation presented will be "Herd": an installation comprising a series of “Cow’s Head”.
In multiplicity, 'Herd' presents many Cow’s Head’s, shifting the emphasis from the individual to the collective. As the signifier moves from woman to women, the artwork installation is naturally suggestive of broader issues of gender discrimination, violations, and the predicament of the female.
The compositions, created from repetitive objects, give us a clue about Seejarim’s major preoccupation. The artist is captivated by the shortfall between the idealised representation of women merely for the male gaze, and the droll reality of so many women’s lives. In everyday domestic work, there is something performative about the way women use the same tools daily, in the same way, throughout their existence.
It is this that gives Seejarim’s work its meaning and its agelessness. The household objects that she uses to make her art have not changed across the generations of women who have used them. It could be that Seejarim is suggesting that working women have been trapped in a kind of time warp. It questions whether this is of their own making.
Women are thus both captives and keepers of the common. Henry Lefebvre, in Clearing the Ground, 1961 describes a housewife as being immersed in the everyday, needing an escape, and a mathematician being distant from and needing a return to the everyday. This phenomenon of “escape from” and “return to” the everyday co-exist in the artist’s life as a home-maker and artist. The duality of this relationship informs her work.