Friday, 14 January 2011 13:17


After a go-ahead from Gauteng Provincial Government at the end of April 2010, residents and tourists in Joburg, SA were treated to a growing surprise. A team of students, labourers and artatwork, under the direction of land-artist Strijdom van der Merwe, ( installed 20 000 bright yellow hands on the Gillooly's interchange (busiest traffic intersection on the continent) and wrapped hundreds of trees in bright orange dayglo fabric between OR Tambo International Airport and Ellis Park.



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The exhausted team went to bed each night with a sense of fabulous satisfaction on seeing how a simple, meticulously designed intervention can completely change public space and "the neglected spaces in people's dreams" says Monna Mokoena

while his comrade-in-arts Lesley Perkes emphatically agreed that adding blanket sunshine to the evergreen and autumn brown trees all along the road, injected a dayglo sense of spirit on the drive from the airport into the city. "We are so happy with Gauteng Government we want to kiss them," says Perkes. "They showed a fabulous understanding of contemporary art by funding this project and enabling us to do it in a pristine manner without it being cluttered by sponsor's logos and paraphernalia that would detract from the whole idea. I mean when the project was first mooted six months before go-ahead it was suggested that we make 'something like the sculpture at the entrance to Bagdhad' (Yeah that fascist thing cast from Saddam's forearms and bearing molten-down helmets of dead Iranian soliders) ... I swear ... so this client came a long way baby! We can't believe that we did it in the time that we had," says Lesley.

"Negotiating the bureaucracy meant we had just over 10 days for implementation of something that could have taken several months. The ground was hard, the trees were high and the technical, financial and logistics challenges were more than real. We focused on making beautiful work and treated everything else as petty problems that simply had to be resolved fast and without fuss. Somehow that worked. The best behind-the-scenes story is about a big angry man whose car was reversed into by the caterer and how we managed to get him to leave us alone while watching fifteen people holding hands in a circle and praying for Bafana Bafana to win the World Cup in American accents outside the tackiest shopping centre in Joburg. Things happen when you make public art.

A special note on the orange trees: Rumour had it that the FIFA Secret Service were seen arresting hundreds of the trees on Tuesday, (along with a bunch of gorgeous woman similarly attired), as, it was said, they were accused of being Bavarian Forest Aliens, committing an act of brand ambush. In response, Lesley Perkes was rumoured to have said "No this is not about the Dutch."

The hands were up for three months, the trees a little longer. Artist Strijdom van der Merwe said: The colours are bright and light and I like the effect that has on our hearts."

Last modified on Thursday, 10 January 2013 09:22
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