Dancing Line, Blindfolded Through Time: Liza Grobler’s experiments in collaboration
By Andrew Lamprecht
At the end of the day – at the end of the process initiated by conversations with other artists and continued through this series of exhibitions by Liza Grobler – the ultimate collaborator with the artist may well be the viewer. Blindfolded Line, Dancing Through Time is at once playful and deadly serious. We are encouraged to walk, stalk or prance through the situations that have been initiated by Grobler, engage or disengage as we will, and thus respond to what she has presented in this unfurling of her art.
Though anyone familiar with Liza Grobler’s aesthetic will see that this is clearly an exhibition by her, it is important to recognise the central role of collaboration in this body of work. Initiated as a series of discussions through social media such as Facebook (especially in the case of her international collaborators), as well as with face-to-face meetings with her friends, Grobler in each case begins with the point, quite literally, of a dot or a mark that signals the first stage of making a work.
Questions are posed to her partner-in-art; either directly, or by making something that through a to-and-fro leads to the next phase in production – which ultimately results in the work on display. Though not quite ultimately; since built into her process is the freedom to change works from exhibition to exhibition – continuing the dance, if you like.
I would be surprised if this continuation does not include the audience. Grobler remarked with patent glee at the response of children to her exhibition at Oliewenhuis, a museum that always seems to be bursting at the seams with kids, and I suspect that their engagement filtered into what was shown afterwards in the KZN Gallery and JAG.
Accompanying the exhibition is a small “parcel” of square cards that pose questions such as: “This exhibition consists of artworks made from many different materials. Which of the materials [listed] is NOT used in the exhibition?” Flipping them around, the cards can be put together, jigsaw-like, to make a picture, which, if one chose to, one could add to. Essentially this education pack has become a part of Grobler’s process, the results of which she will not see. This ability to “let go”, to allow others to “mess with your stuff”, is rare and usually very difficult for a creative person, but here Grobler has made it her raison d’être – and the results speak for themselves.
Craft has always been central to Liza Grobler’s artistic language and there is a strong engagement with craft-based practice in Blindfolded Line, Dancing Through Time. The litany of artists who claim crafters as “collaborators”, when in fact the crafters merely carry out a set of instructions presented to them as fait accompli, is very long indeed. But this is not the case here, nor has it ever been for Grobler. And you can be sure that the women of Qubeka Bead Studio are as present in engaging with their work as Grobler herself is.
The collaborative act is inherent in the title of the exhibition, but I also see these lines breaking the boundaries of pictorial space and even, perhaps magically, starting conversations with works made by artists who have never before spoken to each other. Time, as much as line, is blindfolded in this exhibition: Just as one may find that what seemed like a few minutes on the dance floor was in fact a few hours, so too here the temporal has folded in on itself.
Once these exhibitions are ended, the works will be dispersed and join others by different artists in private and public collections. I can see them now, nudging a shy etching or slick and sexy lambda print next to them, egging them on to the dance floor.
These works are flirtatious and demand to be engaged with, like the best and most satisfying dance partners. Liza Grobler is the MC at the helm perhaps, shouting out the numbers as if at a square dance. But the performance that takes place in the gallery is a magical transmutation and tribute to what can happen, if one allows someone else to be responsive, and gives one’s work freely, as a gift.