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BUT IS IT ART?

July 5, 2017

An Article Written by Mike Abel for Daily Maverick.

With the opening of one of the world’s next great contemporary art galleries, the Zeitz MOCAA, in Cape Town in September, and with the global zeitgeist driving the by-second creation of memes, protest art and new forms of portraying creative messaging and emotion, I thought I’d look under the bonnet of where “art” is at right now and what it could, or rather, does, mean for society.

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Source: Pixabay

Oxford dictionary’s definition of the word:

art1

ärt/

noun

1.    1.

the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

As a keen collector of contemporary African art, I’m often confronted with assessing a piece for either our M&C SAATCHI ABEL Collection, a monthly Q&A article I write with a featured artist for Business Day’s Wanted magazine – or just proffering an opinion.

I recall the first time I went to the Guggenheim Museum in New York around 20 years ago; there was a Robert Rauschenberg exhibition.

I grew up in a home where my parents, Bernie and Hermione, both loved art and collected modern art, as far as their limited means allowed. My dad owned an art gallery and framing business, so there was lots of conversation around the subject. So, as I walked around the Guggenheim I had a fair bit of knowledge to draw on for my assessment.

I have never felt more lost or out of my depth. I didn’t know how to interpret a crumpled cardboard box or shredded fabric that may have started its life as a pillow cover. I felt like the fabled little boy in the Emperor’s New Clothes who shouted “He’s naked”. What I probably did, however, given the rarefied surrounding audience of uptown Manhattan, and not wanting to show my inner PE boy, would have been to channel Rodin’s Thinker, assuming a contemplative pose, hand on my chin, while I considered the unfathomable.

When I walked out on to 5th Avenue I asked the client and friend with whom I was travelling what she thought of the exhibition, and she started laughing hysterically. I joined her. And so began my journey into understanding this fascinating subject.

Being in advertising, I’m also well versed in most forms of communication, be it visual, auditory or other sensory experiences. I’m called upon daily to assess messages, all be they commercial.

So, I want to talk a little about protest art and even how it informs social media today.

And how could I open this dialogue without referring to Brett Murray’s Spear. The famed (or notorious) painting showed South Africa’s President, Jacob Zuma, in a Lenin-like pose with extremely well-endowed genitals exposed. It pushes the boundaries, no doubt, and I didn’t like the piece, but at the time I understood it as a confrontational message of outrage, driven I guess by the state of our country and its citizens, to overtly comment on his polygamous lifestyle – and the alleged rape scandal regarding a young woman accuser, named Khwezi – who then had to go into exile, and later died from an illness.

This artwork was vandalised, defaced, removed, parodied and created much discussion. It was an ultimate statement of freedom of expression, although there were reported government questions and interventions.

The reason I didn’t particularly like the piece, and still don’t, is because I found it unnecessarily undignified. I’m certainly not saying it was gratuitous use of vulgarity, and it was a powerful statement, but I’ve been experiencing a growing concern and unease about a decay in decency and common respect – in our societal moral fibre, if you will.

Let me clearly state I am not a prude. I have no problem with swearing, telling a filthy joke or with adult consensual pornography. I think it’s normal. As long as there are no victims, no racism, no hate.

I also think my observations around The Spear are part and parcel of the domain of contemporary art, for what is it if it doesn’t create dialogue, some controversy, shift thinking, push the envelope – as long as it isn’t gratuitous.

Which brings me to the paintings of Ayanda Mabulu. His recent piece, of President Zuma having sex with our beloved Madiba, I found disgraceful. Not only does it strip the “dignity” of Zuma, (not politically), but from a sexual perspective, and it shows our iconic struggle leader and hero, the most admired statesman ever, in an anal sex situation that visually violates who he was and our beautiful memory of him.

Were Madiba still alive, I would wager Mabulu would never have done this.

When I first saw the Mabulu painting of Zuma and Gupta engaged in a graphic sexual act in the cockpit of a plane, as shared all over social media, I was shocked. I don’t believe it is responsible, morally nor socially, to denigrate an individual’s dignity like that. It is bullying and it is ugly in the extreme. I found these pieces to be unnecessarily graphic and gratuitous use of shock tactics to drive talkability. Now, because it’s purported to be “art”, I may indeed be incorrect, but this is my strong, personal sense.

I don’t believe that art, as defined by our friends at Oxford (upfront), needs to be as vulgar as this. Creativity calls upon us to be creative and unexpected in how we convey a message or solve a problem. Today, our younger generations are being denied the subtlety and decorum that may have influenced older generations to be able to convey strong, clear and powerful messages, without resorting to plain rudeness.

There is so much extraordinary contemporary African art that pushes the boundaries and challenges, confronts, arrests, and even shocks, without the need for vulgarity. This is where true talent and smarts lie.

I follow many young adults on Twitter from various walks of life, so as to get the pulse and feel of sentiment, mood, need-state, conversation and timbre. It’s essential to what I do. And I am mostly horrified by the way people feel incredibly comfortable, while hiding behind nom de plumes and fake identities, trashing people and creating intentional controversy and “click-bait” so as to grow their follower base.

Turn on the TV, and while “in my day” we may have seen violence on cartoon programmes, as perpetrated by Sylvester and Tweetie-bird, or Wylie Coyote and the Road Runner or Tom and Jerry trying to blow one another up, and worse, today, the way kids talk to each other on respected and supposedly wholesome American channels, is unbelievably bad.

Those cartoons allowed for messages to be perceived as different to reality. So, perhaps this younger generation has now become desensitised to the point that treating one another shockingly on social media channels is the order of the day. If so, it does not bode well for the future.

One almost needs to start a moral regeneration among the youth and young adults around what is and isn’t right or acceptable. I was taught never to lower myself to someone else’s level if they behaved improperly, and while I can’t say I’ve always succeeded, I mostly have, due to it being hardwired into my conscious and conscience.

People need to understand that one cannot say something on Twitter which you would not say to their face. It’s cowardly and lacks grace. We need to start calling out racists, bigots, liars and attention-seekers in a dignified yet firm way. I don’t want the Truman Show nor a squeaky clean, vanilla or sanitised world. I’m happy with banter, fun, rough and tumble, even clever rudeness, but not that which disrespects the dignity of others – and pulls people down simply to build oneself up.

So no, it’s not always “art” even if some say it is. You’ll know the difference; and then have the courage to call it out for what it is.

Twitter, Facebook and the like in South Africa is full of racism and related rage. Every day we have a choice to either fuel these flames or to gently pour water on them.

The latter may not gain you the followers, but it will start to heal your soul.

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QUICK QUESTIONS WITH ARTIST JESSICA WEBSTER

June 30, 2017

An Interview By Mike Abel For Wanted Magazine

Mike Abel speaks to artist Jessica Webster on the eve of her exhibition “Wisteria” at the Goodman Gallery in Cape Town

Describe the colour yellow to somebody who is blind. The sense of relief when the winter sun touches your side on a cold day. On the other end of the spectrum:  the taste of a lozenge after an especially bilious vomit.

What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your CV alone? I would like a beard of my own.

What are you known for? Beauty without design.

Teach me something I don’t know in the next five minutes. Impossible question!

What inspires you? People who are good with their hands – cooking, handling technology and machinery.

What’s the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it? Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals. I chose it expecting Ford’s striking set design and cinematography, and it was, but I didn’t expect to come away traumatised.

What was the last gift you gave someone? A painting I made for my friend’s birthday – Peter Rabbit scored into a green monochrome wax tablet.

What do you think about when you’re alone in your car? I unpack my anger issues and generate new ones.

You’re a new addition to the paint box. What colour would you be and why?
Violet purple. It doesn’t contain a simple or direct idea. I think it should be used more but after the eighties, perhaps it needed a break.

How do you handle criticism? I am interested in it.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Smoke a cigarette, and often have a little weep about magnitudes.

Tell me about a time you did the right thing and no one saw you do it. That would detract from its resonance.

What do you worry about, and why? The degrees of hurt caused by my own and others’ carelessness.

How do you define success and how do you measure up to your own definition? To have left a material and cerebral legacy that remains useful for further work. I am never late, which is foundational to realising the level of responsibility involved.

Give me an example of when you failed at something. How did you react and how did you overcome failure? I didn’t attain a good mark in a grade 7 drama eisteddfod after working very hard on a performative interpretation of D.H. Lawrence’s The Snake. I lost my trust in authority from that moment, which led to a strongly independent approach to my art-making.

Would you rather be liked or respected? It depends on my mood.

What is the last book you read? Jonathan Franzen, Purity.

If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be? Seizure: imparting the instant life.

What makes you angry? Carelessness.

What was the biggest risk you ever took and what did you learn from it?
Deciding to write a PhD thesis as a full-length amalgam of both analytic and continental philosophy, with no prior training in either. Sure, one can push the boundaries of what’s possible, but is it always necessary?

What’s your most significant project? It’s a life-long project: after being shot and left paralysed, I am attempting to create a worthwhile practice of living that produces meaning. My painting is deeply intertwined with this aim because it develops my perception of pain and pleasure. These senses reign over our deepest motivations, and bringing them to conscious awareness can offer the self (and viewer) the potential for mastering the complex relationship between desire and repulsion. Mastery can give purpose.

If you were a brand, what would your motto be? Whose tail you waggin’?

#ACTIVISM AND #OUTRAGE, IN 140 CHARACTERS

June 29, 2017

Article by Mike Abel For Daily Maverick

Beyond Trump, be it Hillary Clinton, Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron, Jeremy Corbyn or closer to home, Helen Zille, social media is playing one of the largest roles in driving sentiment.

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Image source: pixabay.com

The online world of opinions is a fascinating place. For the first time ever, our generation is able to communicate with a global, national and local audience, directly from our “phones”, instantaneously.

On a planet not short of issues, each day brings a fresh opportunity to either vent or to give life to new opportunities to solve problems. In many ways, Twitter and the like can be used to harness the collective brainpower and will of billions of minds, to bring the most astonishing solutions to bear. Not that we often see this.

I frequently see social media commentary lamenting the #outrage as being the excuse not to do something. The notion that now you’ve let off steam, as an armchair activist, you’re not going to actually do anything further. A digital huffiness, if you will, as the modern day, ineffective panacea to a problem.

So, in this piece we’ll explore if that is indeed accurate.

Many of us get our high-level news feed through a tweet and then decide if it warrants reading further, by clicking the link. For a lot of the younger generation who prefer not to read, these 140 characters are often the full article itself and that alone can stir huge emotions, be they fact or fiction.

There is often far too little scrutiny, and that is why the Zupta-appointed Bell Pottinger and their local ilk (the #fakenews “journos” hired to seed and germinate these toxic grains) find traction within an undiscerning, dispossessed and angry audience. And in truth, who can blame them, this unsuspecting audience that is, for accepting “news” at face value. The dark arts of driving a sinister propaganda, on social media, is a relatively new thing.

I’m convinced this Bell Pottinger engagement, if proven to be what we suspect it is, is potentially a legitimate crime against humanity. To take on a project in South Africa, with our terribly fractured and hurtful past, and deliberately create, sow and drive racial division through cleverly constructed yet fallacious arguments, is staggering. I have little doubt this assignment, undertaken for the Zumas and Guptas, will ultimately be their undoing. It’ll be to Bell Pottinger what Enron was to Arthur Anderson (the latter having been far less of a crime against humanity). Let’s see…

Psychologists will tell you that opening up and sharing is very important in dealing with stress and anxiety. “A problem shared is a problem halved” as my wife, Sara, says. So, there is little doubt that just venting is in itself useful.

You feel you are giving words to frustration and others, friends, particularly on platforms like Facebook, will validate these concerns and through a forum-like discussion you’ll possibly be able to deal with it and let go, for the next day or two. I think this is mostly healthy.

But with easy access to sharing your opinions comes easy access to reading them and opening yourself up to massive exposure. Especially when your (political) foes are also trying to further their agenda.

A silly typo in a tweet from Donald Trump like “covfefe” goes on to become a global feeding frenzy within minutes. Even he foolishly retweets it as the intended word. Now there is enough to comment on, against or possibly for, Trump without “covfefe” being the media event it was. But people love a metaphoric loose thread hanging off a jersey, which they can then pull on and unravel until the person, at least in their eyes, stands bare.

How much of a role have millions of ordinary, everyday cellphone commentators played in framing perception around the current elections and surrounding issues?

Beyond Trump, be it Hillary Clinton, Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron, Jeremy Corbyn or closer to home, Helen Zille, social media is playing one of the largest roles in driving sentiment. And that is what it is – sentiment.

One of the earliest truisms I have learnt in the advertising industry is “perception is reality” – and it is. Maybe history will shake out a different truth down the line, but for now, public sentiment will establish the perceptual one.

When I originally read Helen Zille’s tweet around colonialism, without any public commentary to shift my view, I was significantly taken aback. I have never considered progress in Africa, or elsewhere, as a benefit of colonialism. There were no benefits to colonialism, other than to the country perpetrating the invasion, theft and related human atrocities. For the locals, it was about being exploited, and it wreaked havoc and devastation on their lives.

Let’s be clear, it was a factor of simple progress happening in the world that was brought to countries being subjugated by colonialism, to make the colonists’ lives easier, rather than any attempt particularly to enhance the lives of those being suppressed, while stripping them of their resources, dignity, and assets. To confuse the two, as an intelligent, educated person with front row seats to this country’s past and present, is very sad in my view. To try to defend it thereafter is ill-considered. One must be able to put yourself into the shoes of another, and to see the pain through their eyes.

And indeed, if Helen were black, as some assert, it may not have attracted equal outrage, but that is a moot point, for we don’t know – but the comment itself would still be equally inaccurate and insensitive.

Given her history, I am absolutely certain that Helen Zille is not a racist – but I am equally sure her tweet caused deep hurt – and although clearly not intended, given the unforeseen fallout, it did point to a limited understanding by some of colonialism versus progress in our country.

I’m delighted that she has now apologised unreservedly for her comment. It’s dealing with these harsh realities and mistakes that opens a very necessary dialogue and a need for understanding.

Many still won’t forgive her, and will continue to fuel the fire, but that is part and parcel of political life, I guess – and to intentionally use this situation, to drive their own agenda. All parties do this. But, as the saying goes, “to err is human, to forgive, divine”.

It is also an obvious yet very important point that certain stories and even jokes can only be told by someone of the same identity.

Tell a Jewish joke if you aren’t a Jew and you could immediately be considered an anti-Semite. One often hears black people calling one another by derogatory terms which appear seemingly fine between them, but let a white person say it, and they’ll be called a racist. And they probably would be one too.

But because it is said between each other, it’s potentially liberating, as it gives people power over an ugly word, but on their own terms. Used by an outsider, it’s simply the blunt, hurtful insult, with no sugar-coating.

So, on to Theresa May (May or May Not, DisMay) or whichever choice terms are now being used on social media to describe her recent fiasco.

#MayDay : From the hallowed halls of 10 Downing Street, the election outcome from polling looked like a landslide victory. But what Theresa and her advisers failed to realise is that today, sentiment can turn on a tickey. Being seemingly ignorant to this, she called a flash election to cement her leadership. But, as the outcome has now shown, she had little understanding of the hopes and fears of the younger voters, their ability to turn out in numbers, and how Corbyn may appeal more to them at the polls than May and her Brexit message.

At the same time a relatively obscure and unknown Frenchman aged 39 managed to capture the imagination of a country and within just 12 months, powered his way to the presidency.

Social media played a huge role in driving both awareness and consideration of Macron. He offered the country hope and possibility, which they chose over fear mongering. What is more remarkable is that this followed unprecedented years of terrorist onslaughts in France.

Whether Macron was the right choice, or will deliver on his promises, is largely irrelevant in the actual decision-making process. On the day, he was the right man, and he succeeded as a result.

By contrast, Hillary Clinton’s email scandal was used very effectively and tactically to resurrect distrust for her as a candidate. It wasn’t about facts, or her track record, or suitability for the job. In the end, it came down to likeability and plain trust, which even though she won the popular vote wasn’t sufficient to win her the presidency.

It’s sadly quite an indictment of Hillary; having been FLOTUS twice and Secretary of State, the Americans chose an exceedingly brash property magnate, hotelier and reality TV star over such a well-known career politician. And especially after he made those bizarre, disparaging comments about women and minority groups.

Whether Americans liked Trump or not (the markets sure do), they trusted him more – and Corbyn also, like him or not, came across as authentic and real in comparison to May.

I’m convinced the #activists and the #outrage played a major role in driving final sentiment at the polls. Look at the local municipal election results last year in South Africa.

While many of the newspapers from the Independent to The New Age, and broadcasters from from SABC to ANN7, tried to drive a positive view, online publications, like the one you’re reading, gave South Africa the real story, which was shared and commented upon by millions of South Africans, resulting in unprecedented coalition governments unseating the ANC in Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane and Johannesburg.

With social media, the genie is well and truly out of the bottle, and while marches happen, forums and civic groups are created and #ZumaMustFall, #ZuptaMustFall, #StateCapture and #GuptaLeaks are the new order of the day, it’s inaccurate to think this is simply armchair #activism, because it is actually driving sentiment – and one thing you can be entirely sure of, it’ll play itself out at the polls.

MATERIAL MAN, PAUL EDMUNDS

June 23, 2017

An Interview By Mike Abel For Wanted Magazine

Mike Abel quizzes Cape Town contemporary artist and sculpture, Paul Edmunds about life and his love for olives.

 

Describe the colour yellow to a blind person. My brother’s old bedroom had yellow curtains (it was the 80s). It was eggy and womb-like.

What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your CV? In 1993 I lived in Paris on R15 a day. Also, as a kid I won a cereal-eating contest.

What are you known for? My work often involves unusual materials and labour-intensive processes.

Teach me something I don’t know in the next five minutes. Cut a carrot into ribbons; slice some small salad onions obliquely; stone and halve some black olives. Mix these with lemon juice and crushed chili. Leave for an hour, stirring regularly. It’s all about the olives.

What inspires you? Anything that compels me with its colour, texture, form, scent or sound.

What’s the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it? I’ve never had TV, though I do stream things these days. Most recently I streamed a Graham Norton Show. It’s hilarious.

What was the last gift you gave someone? I gave an old denim jacket to my niece.

What do you think about when you’re alone in your car? I rarely drive, so I’m probably thinking that my bike makes more sense. Or, I love aircon and this Beachwood Sparks track.

You’re a new addition to the paint box. What colour would you be and why? A dirty blue. It’s an incidental colour.

How do you handle criticism? My own is harshest, so if someone else’s penetrates, I listen.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? I telepathically encourage my wife to make tea.

Tell me about a time you did the right thing and no one saw you do it. I regularly help old folks cross the road.

What do you worry about, and why?The loss of mature trees in my neigbourhood and on the planet worries me. I’ll worry more if I have to explain why.

How do you define success and how do you measure up to your own definition? Possibly success is never doing things you don’t want to. That can be a case of, ‘If you can’t be with the one you love, then love the one you’re with’.

Give me an example of when you failed at something. How did you react and how did you overcome failure? I exaggerated the seriousness of my practice, and bought the myth of the suffering artist. I was able to step back and formulate a more agile approach, a lighter touch which does not preclude the possibility of seriousness.

Would you rather be liked or respected? Both, please.

What is the last book you read? ‘The Brain that Changes Itself’ by Norman Doidge.

If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be? ‘Who’d Have Thought?’

What makes you angry? Our lack of civility.

What was the biggest risk you ever took and what did you learn from it?
Early on I struggled to sell work, so I made an exhibition which was unsellable. It was tremendously liberating, and had a paradoxical effect on my career.

What’s your most significant project? Tell me about it. What did you get/reach? How? Soon after my father died, I produced a show called ‘Season’, which explored how I was drawn into a more intimate relationship with natural phenomena during this time. My gallery didn’t quite get it; sales were poor. Ultimately I was liberated from what was a dysfunctional relationship with them and I took the opportunity to re-examine my approach.

If you were a brand, what would your motto be?A little je ne sais quoi and a bunch of What the F*#@!

Source: http://wantedonline.co.za/society/the-arts/2017-05-01-material-man-paul-edmunds/

THE ME AND WE GENERATION

June 23, 2017

By Mike Abel for Daily Maverick

So many of the truths we tell ourselves each day are based on ill-informed perceptions based on historic behaviour. To succeed today, we need to base our decisions on what makes sense for us, not just based on past behaviour and past wisdoms.

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Image source: Pixabay

The least popular article I’ve ever written was on promoting a “culture of sharing”. It focused on the point that given the stark differences between the “have-nots” and “have-lots”, by adopting true generosity of spirit and believing that one’s own talents needn’t be used exclusively for self-enrichment, but also to the benefit of many others. But people clearly don’t like to share; however, I would wager that a successful future, as defined in many different ways, will positively impact those who put non-ownership, non-exclusivity and sharing at the centre of their lives, orientation and business models.

It is oft commented upon that the largest taxi company in the world owns no taxis (Uber). The biggest hotel company in the world owns no hotels (Airbnb) and one of the biggest global retailers (Amazon) owns no stores – other than a few, new experimental and experiential ones – (which I’ll come back to later). And while some may think these business examples may not point to a fundamentally different future, business and social model, I strongly believe they do. And it’s a marvellous future if we choose to embrace it.

I was getting a lift to a business dinner last week when the Uber driver asked me if I had a car.”Yes’’, I replied,”but I don’t drink and drive.” He then asked me if I use my car during the day at work. “Very little,” I responded. “Other than taking my kids to school I don’t drive much.” So, he asked me why I own a car, and why don’t I rather call an Uber each morning. He said “think of how much money you would save on car payments, petrol, depreciation, servicing and insurance”. Needless to say, I was fascinated this young man was giving me such sage advice – and although I had considered the full cost of ownership from time to time (having spent 15 years of my life helping market cars) I had never really applied the maths to my own situation. The benefits of doing precisely this suggested the Uber trick would save me a lot of money each month. Extrapolated over a year – and then over the next 20 years – I wasn’t making a decision that equated to saving thousands of rands a month, but well over a million rand over the next critical period of my work life towards retirement.

The next thought which occurred to me is why do most people in office-based jobs have cars sitting all day in high-rise garages not being used? Why are these depreciating assets, should you feel the emotional need to own them, not working for you when you are not using them? Why don’t you arrive at work in the morning, hand your car over to a driver, and have you both working your asset, before you need to head home?

But then I thought, well, in 10 years’ time, self-driving cars will pretty much be the order of the day, so what does that look like. Very different. If you choose to own a car, it will drop you at work and instead of parking it in your office building, at say R1,700 per month, it can simply head back home – or it can be open-source to accept secondary taxi bookings throughout the day, go past a car wash an hour before you require it again, and then head back to the primary user (you). The impact of this little idea has many positive implications. Not only are you now sweating a depreciating asset, you’re saving monthly parking costs, providing transport for others, using tyres more (growing an industry), using car washes more (can be waterless), short-term insurance can be saved as there can be a nominal top-up charged for cover to each new passenger and here’s a biggie, parking garages won’t be as necessary any more. So, parking garages can be used for inner-city accommodation and growing urbanisation. It can help become an instant low-cost solution to affordable housing problems.

For a few years now, I’ve been wanting to put disenfranchised parties together: the elderly who may be lonely, no longer have jobs (but have energy, skill, wisdom, and often good values) and our many, many orphans who have youth, eagerness, need love, attention and to gain schools. I’ve wanted to combine orphanages and old-age homes into one solution that combines schooling and subsistence farming, very much like the Israeli Kibbutz system, whereby playing to each parties’ needs, strengths and weaknesses, you develop an ecosystem that works. Instead of Corporates donating funds to various charities they have little involvement in, they can play an active role in these ecosystems whereby even employees reaching retirement need not see it as a terrifying prospect of irrelevance and poverty but as a meaningful new chapter in their lives.

Advertising (mea culpa) can often position retirement as “the golden years” but as we know, very few can actually afford to retire well. And if you can, then with meaning.

Viktor Frankl, renowned psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, writes in his definitive book, Man’s Search For Meaning, that we need three essential things to be happy: someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to. Retirement often leaves us with only one or even less of these needs.

Here’s an interesting story – the point of which I’ll get to: My late grandfather, Dr Phillip Perl, told me many wonderful stories and shared many wisdoms. At the age of 16 he travelled with his Lithuanian immigrant father Sholom (a cattle trader) on their ox wagon from Uitenhage to Port Elizabeth, boarded a ship, alone, which took him to London to study at the Royal College of Dentistry. He would not see his family for another six years. There was no e-mail, there were no cellphones and no flights. You had to be a very brave young man to undertake such an adventure. But my great-grandfather knew his son was bright and wanted to provide this wonderful opportunity to him.

On returning to Port Elizabeth, he opened his dental practice and within a few months the drill-bit (a pedal-drill no less) flew off the machine and blinded him in one eye. With impaired depth perception, he considered what his career prospects held and concluded that if he concentrated on what he had, versus that which he didn’t, he could still have a long and distinguished dental career. He would just need to ask his nurse, or in more complicated cases, his dental partners, to help him compensate visually, if there was a particular issue regarding depth – especially for root canal and deep drilling. He also had decided to do more for society, so throughout apartheid he donated every Thursday to working for free at the Livingstone Hospital (an exclusively black hospital) as their honorary head of maxillofacial surgery for over 30 years. So, after a lifetime of working, he retired, on a Friday, at the age of 60 with my grandmother, Lily, to the Wilderness, the seaside hamlet along the Garden Route.

On the Saturday morning, he and my gran took a long walk along the beach and asked themselves if this was indeed what the rest of their lives looked like. On Monday morning, my grandfather was back in his surgery and practised another 21 years until the age of 81 when he finally called it a day. He then actively played the stock market for another 12 years, before passing on.

So, what is the point of the story? So many of the truths we tell ourselves each day are based on ill-informed perceptions based on historic behaviour. To succeed today, we need to base our decisions on what makes sense for us, not just based on past behaviour and past wisdoms. We don’t need to always own our cars, we don’t need to retire at 65, we won’t find fulfilment in assets and just owning things, but in meaningful connections and soul-stretching experiences. We can put two or three broken parts of society together so as to fix them all. We need to be far more flexible and creative about how we view the world.

I look at the way my sons (aged nine, 14 and 16) curate their media, connect with friends, confront a borderless world, consider their futures and in part, I’m filled with great hope – but also, fear. For society and even businesses to keep up with this generation, they’ll need to rethink so much of what worked before in business and everyday life, because they are short on rules and long on possibility. And they know how to share. Content, experiences, collaborate, cohabitate, co-create – it’s wide open if our generation starts to embrace a culture of sharing versus ownership and the mistaken pursuit of wealth creation as the destination in and of itself.

Source: Daily Maverick

ARE YOU CONFUSING SUCCESS AND ACHIEVEMENT?

June 21, 2017

Article Written By Jason Harrison, Founding Partner and Group MD At M&C Saatchi Abel.

Jason says that, at its core, success is a ‘result’ of something. Achievement is the ‘effect’ of something.

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I recently returned from an inspiring and thought-provoking trip to New York, where the M&C Saatchi global network of 29 offices met for three days.

A fantastic highlight was a keynote speech from the CEO of HBO, Richard Plepler. He talked about the journey HBO had been on since the absolute success of Soprano’s all those years back, then a hugely troublesome patch in the early 2000’s to how their resurgence was driven by a complete re-orientation around ensuring they put ‘creativity back at the heart of company’.

He credited this creative re-orientation for their absolute resurgence as a broadcaster (heard of Game of Thrones?), a place that now works in service of the creative community of screenwriters, directors, and actors, as well as an innovation pipeline that allows content to flow wherever and whenever consumers want it. By all accounts a very successful company.

There were a lot of lessons, but he said one thing which landed like a tonne of bricks for me, personally – ‘a huge learning for us was not confusing success and achievement because they are two very different things’.

He didn’t unpack it further than that, but whether you are a business or an individual, I believe it’s right in every single way. Success is fleeting and ever changing. We chase it relentlessly in a hyper-competitive world, but it usually only resonates with a few.

Achievement is more enduring, more fulfilling. It resonates with everyone because it has purpose hard-wired into it. So how do you keep yourself or your company focused on achievement?

Keep your gratitude higher than your expectations

When you first start out, whether it is in life or your company, you ‘don’t know what you don’t know’. Everything is an adventure, and you are thankful for the simplest of things. You connect around a common purpose; you value the journey and not the destination.

Every small victory is acknowledged and celebrated. You appreciate people and the things they do deeply. Then, somehow, entitlement and expectation become endemic. The equation only works one way. Keep your gratitude higher than your expectations.

Feed your dreams not the machine

One day you wake up and you are turning the hamster wheels of industry. The beast needs to be fed. You did 20% this year, well then, 30% next year is the only option. You finished top three, well then, number one is the only measure of success now.

You forget your ‘why’ and only concentrate on ‘how’. Stop. Go back to the very beginning. Examine your true purpose. Your reason for being. Use its power to liberate your dreams and your people. Martin Luther King said, ‘I have a dream’, not ‘I have a plan’. Feed your dreams, not the machine.

Look inwards, not outwards

Success is celebrated on the outside; achievement is celebrated on the inside. When you start to drink your own proverbial Kool-Aid because of external acknowledgement, awards, or recognition, you lose focus.

You play for the crowd, not for each other. Rather focus on what really matters most to you, or your company. Shape that relentlessly. Hold yourself (and each other) accountable to your own high standards and measures because when you achieve them, you unlock true fulfilment for everybody. Look inwards, not outwards.

The good news is that achievement is an everyday thing. It is all around us. It just needs to surface with a simple question at the end of every day – ‘what did we achieve today, and what are we going to achieve tomorrow?’ All else follows.

QUICK QUESTIONS WITH GALIA GLUCKMAN

June 14, 2017

An Interview By Mike Abel For Wanted Magazine.

Mike Abel posts some quirky questions to Cape Town-based graphic and collage Artist Galia Gluckman.

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Image source: wantedonline.co.za

Describe the colour yellow to somebody who is blind. Friendly, warm, honest, happy.

What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your CV alone? My mother is my art mentor. Although she lives overseas, I regularly discuss my work with her through images. My mother has educated me and influenced my approach. She never gives criticism or advice, yet has been my ultimate teacher in life and work.

What are you known for? Being a Jewish artist who works with paint and paper.

Teach me something I don’t know in the next five minutes. Most people are good. Most people are loved by someone.

 

What inspires you? Inspiration comes from both personal happiness and pain. Inspiration comes from working. The repetitive cutting and pasting technique that my work requires, is a form of meditation and therefore inspiring. I am also inspired by the symmetry and asymmetry found in nature and architecture.

What’s the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it? I don’t watch TV, except for the news. The last thing I watch on our TV was a beautiful film called Lion. It moved me deeply.

What was the last gift you gave someone? A Pichulik necklace by South African designer Katherine-May Pichulik.

What do you think about when you’re alone in your car? I usually have too many “tabs” open in my head. Thoughts could range from:  family members, friends, contemplating an artwork I am busy with and possibly reaffirming my attitude of gratitude.

You’re a new addition to the paint box. What colour would you be and why? I would be midnight blue, because I am a night owl at heart. Midnight blue goes well with most colours. It’s a lover, not a fighter.

How do you handle criticism? I handle it better when it comes from people who know me well and who I love.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? I check my cellphone to see if I can snooze for five more minutes.

Tell me about a time you did the right thing and no one saw you do it. Saved water while showering. It was the right thing to do, but nobody saw me!

What do you worry about, and why? Complacency. It’s a silent killer.

How do you define success and how do you measure up to your own definition? I believe that success is excelling at something which you are passionate about. There is no success unless you love and are loved by your inner circle of family and friends. Success is wisdom, success is knowing we are all flawed but loveable. Success is peace of mind, which comes from being the best you are capable of becoming. I am a work in progress, working towards being successful.

Would you rather be liked or respected? Respected.

What is the last book you read? Who moved my cheese? By Dr Spencer Johnson

If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be?For the love of family, art and life.

What makes you angry? Injustice.

What was the biggest risk you ever took and what did you learn from it?Moving from New York back to Cape Town after 14 years.  Why move when you are happy? Because you can be even happier!

In 2010, I was commissioned by the Mayor of Great Neck, New York to do the artwork for an outdoor mosaic mural. It was a great honor to have done an official public artwork in collaboration with mosaics artist Jane Du Rand.

If you were a brand, what would your motto be? One piece at a time