Missing the point of representation: the controversy around Brett Murray’s Spear of the Nation
I’m not going to go into the background to this work – there is lots available on-line .
I have currently not had time and focus to follow this debate in any depth but have heard a few phone-in comments on talk radio. And I have been amazed every time how the role of re-presentation has been overlooked. Callers and talk show hosts alike overlook the fact that this is NOT Zuma and is not really even a re-presentation of him for some have commented on how like Vavi the face looks .. and of course the body and pose draws on an iconic Lenin image, plus Zuma does not dress like this; and for sure, it is neither a photograph nor a life -drawing of a specific penis, let alone Zuma’s.
Almost certainly on a political strategic level, this whole event has been deliberately hyped up as a ‘smear campaign’ (no forgiveness asked for the pun) and a racist attack on Zuma himself, with the context of the exhibition and its critique on power, corruption and nepotism being completely side-lined. And in this it very effectively diverts from the serious issues facing the nation.
However at a populist level it points to the power of the visual image as a rallying point and more insidiously to a literalness in thinking and interpretation.