With a brief to Transform Today, The Residence by Absolut took place in May this year. The campaign (created by Native) aimed to bring meaningful change to Johannesburg from a creative design perspective.
Six artists from various backgrounds and disciplines were brought together to live and work with one another for two weeks to solve social issues that affected the surrounding area in innovative ways. The initative benefitted the residential community in Maboneng, who witnessed a positive change being made in their neighbourhood.
The artists stayed in an apartment located in Jeppestown, immersing themselves in the environment so they could fully understand the challenges at hand. Both individually and collaboratively, they then undertook 5 unique projects to transform the harsh inner city urban spaces into a inspiring and functional commons. The artists were:
Bogosi Sekhukhuni, a mixed media artist who uses digital platforms, architecture, performance art and sculpture to address the present burdens of South Africa.
MJ Turpin, the founder and curator of the Kalashnikovv Gallery as well as a musician and artist in is own right, who delves into a variety of muses such as identity, geometry, diaspora, socio-politics, geography and brutality.
Breeze Yoko, a multimedia artist inspired by the international street art movement and the thought provoking lyrics of Hip Hop. Much of his work is centered on pan-Africanism, culture and politics.
IO Makandal, who through an avant-garde style of work incorporates urban debris and discarded items to create infused paintings that speak to the contemporary artist in us all.
R1, a street artist with a Fine Arts background. His urban art interventions not only have a visual impact, but play with the surrounding environment to encourage a deeper interaction.
Liliana Transplanter, a guerrilla gardener and co-founder of AMbush eCo-Art Collective, whose passion is for environmental sustainability and to transform urban landscapes into productive and multi-functional pieces of art.
Here’s a closer look at the projects they created:
Project 1 – Mobile benches by R1:
R1 teamed up with Sam (a local upholstery couch maker) to create 6 interchangeable and mobile benches made from wooden pallets, which were connected by hinges on wheels. Designed to be built from low cost, locally produced and re-articulated materials, the project engaged with informal craftsmen and made use of their skills and knowledge to ‘transform’ urban spaces. R1 also collaborated with Liliana Transplanter to incorporate plants into the structure to make the benches more organic. The end design was made in such a way that the 6 benches interlocked to form part of one geometric pattern.
Project 2 – Living Wall by Breeze Yoko and Liliana Transplanter:
This was a project that Liliana always wanted to do by infusing graffiti and plants together to produce a real pieces of living artwork. The inspiration for theses pieces was founded from the traditional medicinal market which is better known as Kwai Mai Mai. The piece represents the heritage and culture that the surrounding area has to offer. This is depicted in the illustration of the Sangoma holding out his hands, underneath which a plant with real traditional medicinal properties grows. The significant statement made by the two artists is that art can be a living organism that evolves and grows. The pieces are beautifully integrated to illustrate that art can support tangible and intangible benefits to those who are willing to open the eyes.
Project 3 – Conceptual Spaza by MJ Turpin and Bogosi:
MJ and Bogosi viewed the struggle that informal vendors undergo on a daily basis when transporting their goods through the streets of Joburg and wanted to devise a solution in which to help these individuals. To this end they designed an adaptive, modular, open source transport system. They sought to improve the vendors livelihoods by making their micro businesses more efficient and in so doing played a small role in bettering the socio-economic position to those vendors benefit.
Project 4 – See Me Poles by Io Makandal and Liliana Transplater:
IO and Liliana used re-articulated material and road paraphernalia to create the See Me Poles. Street signs were decorated with street cones to make them more visible to pedestrians and drivers. Poles were also decorated near busy and potential dangerous intersections on the edge of Jeppestown where collisions were a common occurrence. The poles are not only designed to highlight the indication of an appending intersection, but also to pay homage to those that had died or were seriously injured near the site.
Project 5 – Basket Ball court by Liliana Transplanter, Io Makandal, MJ Turpin, R1 and Bogosi Sekhukuni:
The local basketball court, which in the past was a meeting spot for the community to converse and a safe public space for children to play, had become a ruin of its former self. The collaborative effort from the entire residence pulled together to transform this ramshackled court to bring back its luster. The collapsed fence was replace with multiply re-articulated mattress springs to enclose the area. Also, in attempt to beautify the space, plant boxes were place under the springs which will grow to conceal those inside and also creep along the basketball hoop.
The permanent impact that the Absolut Residence has made to the inner Johannesburg CBD serves as a lasting reminder that through collaboration, creative thinking and determination, art can make a meaning contribution to those who are open minded and willing to see it.
A full 4 part series had been shot throughout the entire journey to document where the creatives pulled their insights from and the design process involved that brought their pieces to life:
Chief Creative Officer: Jason Xenopoulos
Executive Creative Directors: Ryan McManus, Adam Whitehouse
Creative Director: Mari Basson
Agency Art Director: Alice Marrollo
Agency Producer: Sarah Jane Wood, Gia Berger
Production Company: We-Are-Awesome
Director: Jared Paisley
Programmer: Vincent Bollaert, Alex de Villiers, Jethro Flanagan
Strategist and writer: Mari Basson
Community Management: Albert Pretorius