History, memory and inscription : an examination of selected works by South African artist Clive van den Berg.
This study examines the means by which Clive van den Berg (b.1956) presents and explores the South African landscape and recent past, and in so doing examines the evolution of van den Berg's process of looking and interpretation. Seminal to such an investigation is a Critical examination of what history, memory and landscape are or might be perceived to be. Chapter.One centres on an evaluation of these terms and comprises a discussion of their perceived meanings particularfy as they relate to the visual arts, and especially in terms of South African art history. The investigation is facilitated by an examination of key works produced by van den Berg between 1983, which marks the commencement of the Views from the Oasis Series, and 1998, the year in which van den Berg produced the sculptural piece that comprises his contribution to the !Xoe Site Specific Project. In addition, it was in 1998 that van den Berg added the medium of video to his range of materials. Selected examples of van den Berg's earlier works, those executed in the1980s, are examined in Chapter Two. The works that are discussed here are: selected works from the Views from the Oasis Series (1983), the Large Oasis Series (1985) and the Sacred Site Series (1985). Reference is also made in this chapter to selected images from van den Berg's series of Invocations (1987). These images are examined primarily in terms of the challenge they present to conventional definitions of landscape and history. In subsequent v.urks of the 1980s van den Berg has presented the landscape more overtly as a symbol of self and personal experience. Central Park: Durban (1987) serves as an early example of work of this type and is. discussed here as it well illustrates a transition in terms of van den Berg's approach to the landscape. In Chapter Three selected vvorks produced by van den Berg in the 1990s are discussed. The works under review here are: the drawings that form part of van den Berg's Mine Dump Project (1994), his installation Men Loving (1996) executed for the Faultlines Project and the sculptural piece created for the !Xoe Site-Specific Project (1988). With these works van den Berg explores not only the marks left on the land by South African recent and colonial history or memory, but also those aspects of South Africa's past which remain hidden- and are unrecoverable. Van den Berg's more recent use of video is also referred to in Chapter Three as his use of, and approach to, this medium may be seen to add a further dimension to his investigations into history. Special attention is paid to the significance of the medium, or kinds of materials used in the creation of these 'HOrks, and condusions are drawn in terms of van den Berg's selection of subject and approach to medium in the period under study.