Sunday, October 23, 2011

Keeping the Faith: Simon Gush

Unwavering devotion to political entities in the face of burgeoning evidence of misuse of power and incompetence can be attributed to a kind of deep-seated faith that is akin to religious fanaticism, intimates Simon Gush in his exhibition Representation. Of course, there are many explanations for this phenomenon – not least the absence of an attractive opposition party. However, Gush’s analogy is powerful and goes some way to explaining how, in the face of overwhelming negative factual evidence, masses of people maintain an unwavering allegiance to a political or social institution.

At the heart of inculcating this level of unquestioning devotion are obviously convincing and ethically robust ideologies that advance social or political transformation. In this way change is always imminent and a reprieve from the status quo appears on the horizon. So no matter how awful the current conditions – in fact, they should be dire – they are seen to be temporary.

Gush doesn’t unpack the mechanics of political rhetoric, nor does he shine a spotlight on the ruling party’s false promises. He is more interested in one of its alliances, Cosatu. Through a series of subtle short films, dubbed Analogues, (written by James Cairns, the Cape Town-based playwright and actor), he maps the moment in which belief is suspended and perhaps reaffirmed. Certainly these narrative filmic works create the impression that faith isn’t an undisrupted state but is rather continuously renegotiated and reaffirmed in the face of evidence that disputes it – hence the adage, “keeping the faith”, which expresses the work required in maintaining it.

The moments of suspension or renegotiation of faith in each short film are easy to detect; they usually occur towards the end and are accompanied by a tense musical phrase on a violin as the camera pans across each setting before settling on the individual who pauses and questions the reality which they have accepted.