The tale of The Troyeville Bedtime Story
At the opening night of The Troyeville Bedtime Story, charged with wine and merriment, Lesley Perkes is jolly and loud beneath the glare of Gallery Momo’s fluorescent white lights. She stands on a staircase, hip above the head of the average person in attendance.
She is dressed in an all-black outfit: black ankle-length dress, black leather heels and straightened black hair to match. Looking more like a cabaret singer, Perkes goes retrograde to tell the tale that first formalised its own narrative online one Wednesday evening.
It began on April 13 2011 to be specific. It’s a story of a concrete and cement bed installed on the corner of Bezuidenhout and Viljoen streets in Troyeville, Joburg. In this exhibition, its tale is told through the photographs of Johannes Dreyer and a video projection, along with Perkes’ jovial welcome note.
They also worked with designer and concrete form worker Damian Grivas. The whole affair is part speech, part performance and involves an explosion of feathers unleashed on the crowd from an old pillow by Perkes herself, the keynote speaker. The snow effect of the scattered feathers wraps up a collaborative project commissioned by artatwork, an organisation run by Perkes to facilitate public art projects.
Together in The Troyeville Bedtime Story, the trio has set in motion a contemporary public art context with an open-ended meaning. It attracts random participatory performances or interventions by anyone who encounters the concrete. Hence the project’s creative meaning keeps expanding.
The concrete bed the trio has created has been occupied by vagrants, playful children and curious adults and performing artists alike.
The stories are captured well in the photographs that Dreyer has produced. The pictures not only include phases in the process of how the bed was made, they also include the many evidences of people interacting with it. They are at once funny and probing.
There’s a picture of a romantically reclining couple, Rastaman and his sweetheart. This is Kwena Ramaboya and Phindi Ndlovu, who came especially to test the bed.
Agrenet Mbatha from down the road from where the bed is situated, possibly one of the helpers who work in the area, is also pictured at the site of the bed. Dreyer produced a lovely image of Mbatha sitting at the foot of the bed. Her bag is on the floor next to her. She looks into the camera’s lens like a woman gazes into the mirror one last time before heading out to work in the morning.
The looped video projection lends a macabre touch to an otherwise playful spectacle. Audiences are confronted with an image of a homeless person who has fallen asleep on the concrete bed. The soiled figure has wrapped itself in plastic sheets and lies curled up with its head resting on concrete cast pillows.
The bed sports a cement headboard cast from a mould of a life-size original. The base had been adapted from a pre-existing brick structure.
In another image, titled Once High Upon a Time, a woman sits elegantly on the bed dressed in what could be her sleeping apparel. She holds out her hands like one holding a book to read. It doesn’t matter who she is. She is every exposed female. She is Perkes imbibing a bedtime story.
» The Troyeville Bedtime Story can be followed at: http://www.artatwork.co.za
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