How one artist tried to create the visual effect of a ‘wet bus stop’ in Johannesburg by hanging straight stripes of white and blue barrier tape.
I was born in South Africa and I lived in the U.K. for several years, and in both places I couldn’t escape noticing the weather and its impact on my daily life. Since I returned home earlier this year, I’ve been amazed by how powerful a much-missed blue sky can be.
As an artist, I play with my immediate environment and question familiar things we often take for granted. Recently for a project, I had an idea: I wanted to create the visual effect of a "wet bus stop" in sunny Johannesburg by hanging straight stripes of white and blue barrier tape on the inside of a bus stop. To me, the tape looked like rain drops. So when installed, the bus stop—supposed to protect us from the elements—would look like it was raining from the inside.
I had it all figured out: the title, the look, the location, a helping hand, the method and tools to make it happen. But there was something I hadn’t figured into the equation: The change of seasons often brings wind to Jo’burg. Strong wind would make the installation impossible and the piece would not look like I planned. I checked the weather every day. But what can be more unpredictable than the wind? I had to find the right moment. I tried in the early morning and the wind was all over the place. I tried in the evening, but the light was not enough. I was getting frustrated that I couldn’t do the project and still had to wait.
Eventually, the day came.
It was perfect: a clear, windless sky. My helping hand and I went to the location. We started installing it and got half-way through, getting slightly nervous as we felt movement. All of a sudden the wind picked up. The barrier tape was getting in our way and blowing in our faces. We hesitated but decided to finish the intervention by controlling all stripes in a bunch, like a massive ponytail. Now we just had to wait until the wind settled. The sun was setting fast and I still wanted to capture that picture I had dreamed of, the vision of the "wet bus stop."
In a lucky snap, the wind slowed down and we let the bunch loose. I got a few shots, and then something happened. The bus stop came alive! It started swinging back and forth. As the strong wind glided through it, it made a captivating sound. It was expressive and seemed it had so much to say. People walked by, fascinated, and engaging in their own way with this new entity. The work had decided for itself, and acquired a life of its own.
I got wonderful pictures and appreciated once again the beauty of the unexpected, the unpredictable quality of the streets and the magic offered by what one cannot anticipate. I truly felt like a mediator, completely detached from the work that day. I am grateful for those incredible moments... making this piece made me realize that, even in the hard concrete streets, we must still surrender to the elements. I planned to work with water, but the art work decided to become air.
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