Johannesburg born Cameron Platter is known for his varied and provocative pieces, which characterise “the perversity, absurdity and dissonance of everyday life.” Sometimes inflammatory, sometimes subtle, Platter’s reflections of contemporary, dystopian South African society are widely exhibited across the globe. Cameron Platter was featured at the 55th Venice Biennale, and has pieces in the permanent collections of New York’s MoMA and the Iziko South African National Gallery, amongst others. My Italian Link took the opportunity to learn more about this rousing artist and his Italian connection.
Cameron Platter: Unearthing the underbelly of being alive
Cameron, why did you become an artist?
It’s all I’ve ever been interested in. This is both a good and a bad thing.
Describe your themes and motifs.
I have a pretty eclectic and multidisciplinary approach. My work appropriates, references, and filters all the information I come across daily in a highly personal and idiosyncratic way. I am as interested in what a Monster energy drink means, as with the frescoes of Giotto.
Tell us about the array of mediums and materials you use.
I use whatever medium is most suited to the concept I’m working with. I work in media as diverse as video, tapestry, drawing, poetry, sculpture, painting, collage, assemblage, installation, and performance. Everything is related and interconnected, a large mind-map collage that has no end. A lot of my work also has to do with personal interactions, and human relationships. I get a kick out of interacting with this wide variety of people – from rural KwaZulu-Natal weavers, to gallerists in Paris and L.A., etc.
With so varied a subject, how do you decide what to document?
It’s like knowing when a work is finished. There’s not a finite cut-off, or in this case, starting point. Art should never have to conform to any rules. You could have seen something a year ago, (the idea might sit in a notebook for years) and then all of a sudden its context becomes relevant, and it is ready to be translated into a work. I suppose it’s about unearthing the untalked about underbelly of being alive, which might come from something someone says, a sign on a wall, or an advertisement that focuses, crystallises and kicks a particular idea into life.
Why does dysfunction in contemporary society warrant focus?
I don’t think art can turn a blind eye. If it does, it is nothing more than decoration, which isn’t art. Which totally contradicts my previous statement of art having no rules? Which is your favourite piece? My favourite piece is always the next work. That’s what keeps me questing and perfecting. At the moment I’m working on series of carved reliefs, in wood and polyurethane, which I’m pretty excited about.
How does your art contrast with other contemporary South African and Italian artists?
I feel part of a larger scene, rather than being pigeonholed as a solely South African (or Italian) artist. I hope my work is read similarly. I feel a kinship to work of South Africans like Robin Rhode, Moshekwa Langa, Barend de Wet, Ravi Govender; and Italians like Monica Bonvinci, Tatiana Trouvé, Gabriele de Santis, and Santo Tolone… the list could and does go on. Do you have Italian roots? My father’s from a small village, Tscherms, near Merano, in the Trentino-Alto Adige region. It’s in the German speaking part of Italy, hence my very un-Italian surname. The extended Platter family are still there – organic farmers and hoteliers: www.oberglunigerhof.it
• What are your connections with Italy and Italian art? rt is a global activity, so I feel connected to scenes all over the world. I do, however, love Italian Arte Povera, especially work from Alighiero Boetti and his successor, Maurizio Cattelan. I’m also into the work of a younger Italian scene (some of whom I’ve mentioned before). When can we expect to see an exhibition from you on Italian soil? There’s a great group show, Il Cacciatore Bianco, that I’m included on now at FM Centro per L’Arte Contemporanea in Milano.
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