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Spier Light Art – experiences unique to every night and every visitor

Spier Light Art – experiences unique to every night and every visitor
A visitor walks in-between Kenneth Shandu’s sculpture, ‘Still Waiting?’ at Spier Light Art in 2023. Image: Spier Light Art

Curated by Jay Pather and Vaughn Sadie, Spier Light Art returns for a nocturnal adventure that puts African artistry in the spotlight.

Spier Light Art has returned for its fifth edition, inviting visitors to go out and explore the Winelands when the sun has set. By hosting an outdoor exhibition at the tail-end of summer, Spier encourages guests to get out and engage with art and one another. 

The annual exhibition is free to enter and suitable for the whole family – though be aware that the installations are spread across the venue which requires a bit of walking to access them all. Guests can sit down at one of Spier’s eateries, including the Farm Café, Vadas Smokehouse and Bakery and Bubbles & Braai Bar. Picnic baskets can also be booked and enjoyed on the lawn under Spier’s oak trees.

The exhibition begins with Georgia Munnik’s Orpheus – but the wandering nature of Spier Light Art means there is no right or wrong way to explore the show. Munnik’s installation encapsulates this with a bright neon piece that transforms as the viewer moves around it, its form altering as the point of perception changes from where you place yourself.

Nearby is Christina Dixie’s Ghostprints for the Infanta-Echoes, set against the point where a tamed path meets the wild. The trio of panels, shining under a blue light, capture what makes Spier’s Light Art show so special, whereby nature collaborates with the artists to create experiences that are unique to every night and every visitor. Dixie’s three panels, with owls flying above and ships on the water below, are captured by the evening breeze, creating the illusion of movement in wind and wave. The transparency of the piece adds another element to the work that is dependent on the setting. 

At Spier, the reeds and bush behind the work are now seen as part of it, Dixie tells Maverick Life. As dusk draws in, birds begin to settle into the night, their calls adding to the ambience felt when observing the work. 

Moving away from Dixie’s piece, owls can be seen again elsewhere, perched in the trees, shining brightly from their branches. Serai Dowling and Ralph Borland’s installation, Zizi, is not limited to one spot, there are 40 of these birds throughout Spier in various spaces, acting as endearing “guardian angels” who look down on visitors and catch the eye wherever one goes. 

'Orpheus' by Georgia Munnik at Spier Light Art in 2023. Image: Spier Light Art

‘Orpheus’ by Georgia Munnik at Spier Light Art in 2023. Image: Spier Light Art

Christina Dixie’s ‘Ghostprints for the Infanta-Echoes’ at Spier Light Art in 2023. Image: Spier Light Art

Christina Dixie’s ‘Ghostprints for the Infanta-Echoes’ at Spier Light Art in 2023. Image: Spier Light Art

A visitor looks up at Karla Nixon’s ‘Everyday Wear’ at Spier Light Art in 2023. Image: Spier Light Art

A visitor looks up at Karla Nixon’s ‘Everyday Wear’ at Spier Light Art in 2023. Image: Spier Light Art

There is, of course, value in viewing art in a traditional gallery space, but working outside of these boundaries allows artists to experiment and play with space in a different way. Co-curator Vaughn Sadie notes that this gives artists the chance to push themselves and their practice in all areas. This is exemplified in Queezy and Christina Fortune’s Corset Intransit, which depicts a large corset suspended above a body of water. 

“It was about taking all these ideas of gender, political placement of people, environment and even spirituality, and morphing them into a new form, a transcendence in every direction,” Queezy told Maverick Life. 

Jenna Burchell’s singing stones, part of her installation Songsmith (The Great Karoo), are permanent features at the farm. This year, Spier Light Art has placed Dean Hutton and Shruti Nair’s piece, INHALEXHALE, between these rocks. The piece, shaped like a half-clock, flickers to mimic a steady breath. Encouraging mindful breathing, the installation takes on a meditative spirit when viewed as other visitors run their hands over Burchell’s stones, drawing songs from them. 

Karla Nixon’s Everyday Wear is a joyful surprise, hanging over a tucked-away courtyard in the middle of the farm. The work, made from multicoloured, hand-cut plexiglass strung together in a canopy speaks to how colour influences spaces, with light bouncing off each pane with a stained-glass-like quality. On the lawn beside the eateries, Marinta Skupin’s Moedertaal flashes, alternating between the word “Afrikaans” and the same in Arabic script, inviting viewers to reflect on the intertwined nature of Muslim teachings in the Cape Malay community and the South African language. Kenneth Shandu’s sculpture, Still Waiting?, mimics a bird trap of light in a metaphorical pondering of South African farmers entrapped into poverty by unjust systems. 

Frequent visitors to the various editions of Spier Light Art will probably remember the interactive pieces featured each year, and 2023 is no different. Adelle van Zyl’s Rainforest Machine prototype 2 is a sensory experience, where visitors sit inside the installation with headphones on, breathing in fragrant steam, and are instantly transported to a lush, green place. Rendering by Claire Manicom and Graham Webber is another such piece, where the viewer can interact with a camera that detects their silhouette and mirrors it in light. It is worth noting that, especially in the case of the Rainforest Machine prototype 2, only one person can truly experience the installation at a time, so patience is necessary if visiting in a crowd. 

A visitor experiences Adelle van Zyl's ‘Rainforest Machine prototype 2’ at Spier Light Art in 2023. Image: Spier Light Art

A visitor experiences Adelle van Zyl’s ‘Rainforest Machine prototype 2’ at Spier Light Art in 2023. Image: Spier Light Art

Serge Nitegeka’s ‘Black Subjects’ features at Spier Light Art in 2023. Image: Spier Light Art

Serge Nitegeka’s ‘Black Subjects’ features at Spier Light Art in 2023. Image: Spier Light Art

Spier has once again featured short films in the show, projected in various spots throughout the farm. They are all beautiful reflections of Africa and its complexities. Message from Mukalap by Judith Westerfeld features a unique recording of the extinct Khoe language, !ora, while Thania Petersen’s Baqa is a spiritual reflection of Sufi practices in the Cape. Serge Nitegeka’s Black Subjects showcases bodies in movement to mimic migration and survival, while Molimo O Nko E Metsi by Tseliso Monaheng negotiates African identity through mind-twisting visuals of cattle. Like so much of daily life, Spier is also at the mercy of rolling blackouts, which unfortunately does detract from the experience. Generators have been installed to keep the lights on, but these are loud and in some spaces overpower the volume of the films. 

Again, while there is no beginning or end, The Sound Of My Voice by Tiago Rodriques – another permanent exhibit – is an apt place to close off the evening. The installation, with the words “Soon it will be quiet”, is lit up against an old slave bell, a reflection on Spier’s own colonial history, prompting an intentional look towards the future. DM/ML

Spier Light Art is open from 6.30pm to 9pm until 10 April 2023.

Revisit the 2022 exhibition with Spier Light Art – Artistic embrace of the dark is an experience like no other

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