Art that Chews on Social Issues
The New York Artist David Greg Harth (or Harth, as he prefers to be called) is currently in South Africa for an exhibition at blank projects. The exhibition consists of a couple of dental imprints and two video works in which (respectively) a white and black man is being eaten. The man who is being eaten is seemingly unaffected, even bored, by the interaction. The works are humorous at first glance, but as the chewer perseveres the viewer becomes more and more uncomfortable - especially within the context of South Africa's complex racial relationships.
How did Man Eating as concept develop?
A black programmer friend of mine suggested years ago that I make a work with a white and black man. So as a result of his comment What Ate that Black Man? developed in 2007. First the title stuck in my head. Then the video works were made in order to realise the concept visually. There are two characters: Black Man 1 and Black Man 2, but one is white and one is black. Race, power and sexuality are addressed through a very simple action: that of chewing! The work had been shown at a film theatre in New York where people were obligated to watch the video from beginning to end. The initial laughter soon died down and viewers became uncomfortable.
...and Black Eating White?
When blank projects invited me to show, I wanted to make a sequel that could link to the first without being a mere mirror thereof. The work had to stand on its own. Here the focus is specifically on the mouth and the sounds that go with this. I wanted to focus on the interaction between the two characters rather than on the physical presence of their bodies. Race and sexuality is not the main concerns, although this is what most people make it out to be...
Is most of your work performance art?
I write poems and there are over 1000 poems on my website. I would like to publish a small book of poetry or an artist book filled with poems. To an extent I focus on performance art, but I also make drawings, prints...whatever medium is suitable to underline the concept. One of the projects that I've been involved with for years, is The Holy Bible Project.
Tell us more about this project - a project with a life span of 20 years?!
It all started with U2. I was on my way to one of their concerts and wanted to take them something a bit more exciting than a CD cover to sign. I was aware of their strong Catholic background and therefore decided to ask them to sign a Bible. Whilst the concert was taking place, I noticed a number of famous faces in the audience. Christian Slater, amongst others, signed the Bible. Since then over 1000 people have signed the Bible... the project will continue till 2017.
How do you select participants?
People who've touched my life... quite a lot of famous people, some of them are recommended by friends. There are also a significant number of artists who might not necessarily be known to everyone, but they are people whom I respect.
Are you planning any new projects?
Yes; two performances in New York. D-Train will take place on various train carriages and Chambers Cut on the corner of Church and Chambersstreet in New York. The last of which involves a bayonet and the possibility to slit my throat.
Hopefully he'll survive!
Man Eating can be seen until 24 July. Call 072 5075951. For more, visit www.DavidGregHarth.com and www.TheHolyBibleProject.com.
Copyright 2009 Die Burger