Monday, April 30, 2012

Second Time Around: David Southwood's Milnerton Market

Second-hand objects enjoy a currency in Cape Town that is unrivalled elsewhere in this country. Kitsch items from bygone eras adorn interiors of trendy shops and eateries in that conurbation. Second-hand clothing is coveted and forms a substantial part of any Capetonian hipster’s attire. The trend is part of a wider postmodern movement involving recycling the past in the recognition that invention is no longer possible or relevant. It also intersects with the rise of “bad taste” as a prized aesthetic.

David Southwood’s Milnerton Market, a photographic essay compiled by the photographer over a decade, which is now in book form (published by Fourthwall Books) –  initially it was exhibited at the AVA gallery – offers insight into the trade of second-hand items; the point at which they are exchanged and before they are reabsorbed into another social milieu driven by different values. Such as in Karen Dudley’s Woodstock restaurant, The Kitchen. A Week in The Kitchen, a cookbook by Dudley which has been reprinted by Jacana, is full of photographs documenting the quirky décor of this eatery. The walls and shelves are colonised by a cornucopia of second-hand knickknacks.

The photographs in Dudley’s book map the (after) life of objects that could be derived from the Milnerton market. Certainly, this overlooked body of photography provides another perspective on Southwood’s study of the market, contextualising his seemingly obsessive interest in this desultory realm of informal trading within a wider drive to valorise, prize the disused over the “new”.

Essays in Southwood’s book by Ivan Vladislavic and Ivor Powell offer insight into the psychological and social dynamics that feed the desire for disused goods.