The FLAT Gallery : a documentation and critical examination of an informal art organisation in Durban
In this research paper I will examine the Durban based 'alternative/informal' art space, the FLAT Gallery, which operated from October 1993 to January 1995. I will begin by first defining what is meant by an 'alternative space' and by looking at the historical development of such spaces both in South Africa and the United States of America. This will include an investigation into the ideological motivations and socio-political influences behind such spaces, as well as an exploration of what is meant by 'alternative practice', which I will show as being inseparable from the mission of the 'alternative space.' This will by no means be a comprehensive survey of alternative spaces in South Africa or the United States, but rather a tracing of the phenomenon with relevant examples. Here, I will explore the similarities that existed between the FLAT and other contemporary artist initiatives in South Africa and the United States, drawing comparisons between the FLAT and other similar venues. I will examine the particular circumstances that catalyzed the FLAT Gallery in the specific cultural and historical context of Durban, South Africa in 1993 and 1994. I will then construct a chronological documentation of the FLAT Gallery' s programme including interviews and extensive visual and audio archives. With this archival information and with detailed descriptions of each event, exhibition or performance, I will create a comprehensive record of the FLAT Gallery's activities. This will include an investigation into the historical influences, with specific examples of linkages to other artist-motivated projects in the past. In this way, I will both identify important precedents for many of the FLAT projects. I will conclude with those 'FLAT activities' that continued beyond the operation of the 'alternative/informal' space. It is my intention to create a document that not only offers a comprehensive study of the FLAT Gallery's programme, but also offers students, recent graduates and emerging artists useful practical information. This document is an affirmation of the possibilities for working and exhibiting once one has left the 'comforts' of faculty guidance, peer support, studio facilities and venues for showing work that the institutional environment provides. My claim is that there rests in the artist the responsibility to actively build a place where his/her development as a creative individual can flourish; that one must not wait for 'permission' or for 'someone' to offer validation of one's work. With this document I intend to demonstrate that it is indeed possible here in Durban to do Something!.