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Silo 5, 2nd Floor, Silo District,
V&A Waterfront, Cape Town

Trouble An installation by Julia Rosa Clark

by 15 Feb 2024Culture, News & Events

This new installation marks a return to exhibiting after a long hiatus during which Julia was engaged with establishing and running the CTCA Contemporary Art programme. The new installation has been installed for the period of the exhibition at Cape Town Creative Academy’s Silo 2 gallery and studio space. 

LOCATION: SILO 2, Cape Town Creative Academy, 15 Fish Quay, V&A Waterfront, behind Zeitz MOCAA.

Fri 16 Feb 17:30 – 19:30
Sat 17 Feb 10:00 – 18:00
Sun 18 Feb 14:00 – 18:00

Notes [Take 2]:

Plastic can be both brittle and flexible, weak and strong. A bit like me? It can be reflective, transparent yet solid. It catches light. It acts as a screen and mirror. It’s ubiquitous, disposable, essential?   I find plastic ambivalently appealing in an age of forever chemicals and widespread contamination. It is a material of now, for better or worse. A once miracle-material with evocative origins -like coal tar, which lead to synthetic pigments- that is both a thing that can remedy and poison (pharmakon).

For my first solo show,  I Want To Carry Everything With Me For Always (1997), I had made -amongst other things- tiny polymer clay skulls and Das Pronto bones. In the early 2000’s, in making A Million Trillion Gazillion (2004), I experimented with plastic laminating of paper. For  most of my former shows I cut up large amounts of paper imagery. As a way to open to an active artistic practice after a hiatus of 8 years, through looking back to past bodies of work, I found my way to these materials again – and the evocations and experiments that come with them.

Working with lamination allowed me to fuse together the individual (corpuscular) cut-out pieces into modular units that then could be joined into larger forms with Kimball-tags, the ubiquitous little plastic object that is mostly used to join price tags to commodities. This also allowed me to work in a small domestic space, yet grow a large immersive final piece.

In my new process,  the plastic can hold fragile bits of paper in ways that expand the traditional fixing (with glue) of collage. With the lamination, it encases things in a chemical embrace -a contemporary amber or microscope slide. It toxifies, flattens, slicks and fixes the content into “aggregated epistemologies”  yet the Kimball-tag joins create critically flimsy valencies, strange, confusing juxtapositions and networks. 

Flatness allows the forms to disappear and reappear as one moves around the space, with definitions of front and back blurred. The installation of pieces allows multiple shifting layerings and entanglements of organic forms (coagulations, clots, boughs, cascades and so on)  with grids, nets, line and fence-like forms.

The repetitive, often absurd, processes of cutting up encyclopaedias, magazines and photostats – at times covering them with glitter – laminating, recutting; crafting and baking of polymer clay drops and bones; and repetitively piercing and  joining sections with the Kimball gun over a period of more than a year has slowed down my troubled mind. These processes allowed me to  ruminate on imagery and subject matter pulled from the complex hegemonic matrices, and modernist grid, within the context of feelings – grappling with the projections, perceptions and senses of the contemporaneous world “now”.

There are so many different ways of knowing, and valuable things to know. Yet growing up in a strange fake approximation of ‘The West’ -the colonial outpost, the settler enclave- myself, my teachers, their teachers, and their teachers’ teachers, wittingly and unwittingly were tightly trapped into, entangled, entwined and merrily co-opted into specific limiting ideas and hierarchies about the world and knowledge-value systems. These systems caught, framed and filtered people, places and things – ideas about truth, reality, knowing, being, feeling and self.  

Working through this trouble, creating new forms, juxtapositions, gradated groupings and configurations allowed me to feel into my world and my reality through the confusing, complex, devastating ambivalence (jaunty hope and nihilistic resignation) of Nina Simone’s song [see below]. 

The Trouble is my inheritance. It’s me, I’m the Trouble, it’s me. There is no elsewhere, no “away” and no way around but through.

Exhibition Text by Julia Rosa Clark, Feb 2024

“Trouble in mind, I’m blue
But I won’t be blue always
‘Cause the sun’s gonna shine
In my back door some day

Trouble in mind, it’s true
I have almost lost my mind
Never had so much
Trouble in my life before

I’m gonna lay my head
On some lonesome railroad line
Let the 2:19 train
Ease my troubled mind

Trouble in mind, I’m blue
But I won’t be blue always
‘Cause the sun’s gonna shine
In my back door some day… [etc.]”

Excerpt from Nina Simone Trouble in Mind (Live at the Newport Jazz Festival, Newport, RI, June 30, 1960)


“Trouble is an interesting word. It derives from a thirteenth-century French verb meaning ‘to stir up,’ ‘to make cloudy,’ ‘to disturb.’    We—all of us on Terra—live in disturbing times, mixed-up times, troubling and turbid times. The task is to become capable, … of response. Mixed-up times are overflowing with both pain and joy—with vastly unjust patterns of pain and joy, with unnecessary killing of ongoingness but also with necessary resurgence…”

Excerpt from Donna Haraway’s Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (2016)


“Plastic is amoral, atemporal, sensorially rich, and yet a profoundly anxious substance. The ubiquity of plastic is evidence of the state of paralysis in the face of the ecological condition. It airs a negative dialectic: what art [engaged with plastic] reveals is precisely the inefficacy of acts of revealing”. 

Excerpt from Anna Boetzkes’ Plastic Capitalism: Contemporary Art and the Drive to Waste (2019)


Julia Rosa Clark

Trouble, 2024
Found paper [pigment, resin, chemicals, solvents, drying agents, chlorine dioxide, sulphur compounds and sulfuric acid], Kimball-tags [polypropylene], lamination pouches [Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate (EVA) plastic, Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)], glitter [polyvinyl chloride (PCV) & aluminium], polymer clay [polyvinyl chloride (PCV) pigments, fillers, lubricants, plasticizers, oils and binders], plastic stickers [MYLAR®], marker pen [propylene carbonate] & pencil crayon. Installation: dimensions variable.




Julia Rosa Clark is the coordinator and curriculum developer of the Contemporary Art Degree programme at Creative Academy. She also lectures across the undergraduate and Honours programmes. She has practised and exhibited as an artist, designer and curator including solo shows I Want To Carry Everything With Me For Always (1997), A Million Trillion Gazillion (2003/4), Lalaland (2006) Hypocrite’s Lament (2007), Fever Jubilee (2007) Paradise Apparatus (2010), Booty (2012) and Two Works (2015).

Her personal artistic practice explores and critiques contemporary cultural consumption, value and the fallout of late capitalism via explorations of found objects, collages, sculpture and installation. She has worked for many years as a teacher and lecturer in various disciplines, including Painting, Printmaking, Curatorial Practice, Art History & Discourse, Graphic Design, Drawing and general practice on multiple educational levels, from primary to master’s and at a number of institutions.

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