Robin Rhode - Biography
Born in Cape Town, Robin Rhode worked for a long time with minimal means, namely with his body and pieces of charcoal or chalk. He drew, for example, a candle on a wall and tried to blow it out; he drew a set of drums and behaved as if he were playing them. In the meantime Robin Rhode's work has branched into various media: video, photography, and Happening. His performances are closely connected with his childhood in Cape Town and Johannesburg. His observations of youth scenes in various townships, including those in the vicinity of Johannesburg, play an especially important role in Robin Rhode's work.
His first Happenings were partly inspired from street scenes he had witnessed, including moments of carefree play as well as instances of violence. A bike, for instance, is the object of a child's desire. At the same time, it embodies the power structures typical of adolescents and youth gangs: while in school, he witnessed older classmates draw objects out of chalk on the bathroom wall-- a bicycle, for instance-- and forced the younger children to interact with it. The bicycle was such a symbolically charged object because no child in the township had one. Thus it simultaneously embodied the desires for possessions, independence, and social belonging.
In 2009, BMW engaged Robin Rhode for a performance with the Z4 roadster. He transformed the tires of the vehicle into painting tools by loading them with paint. The tracks they made resulted in an "action painting", recalling the style of indirect inking invented in the 50s by the American artist Jackson Pollock. Pollock had drizzled paint from cans and paint brushes onto canvases lying on the ground.
Drawings of objects that Robin Rhode sketches onto walls or the floor still play an important role in his performances. They provide the setting and objects necessary for an action to take place. At the same time, these Happenings are marked by tremendous volatility. Robin Rhode's performances are closely tied to the development of performance art in the 60s and 70s; an earlier artist to have "choreographed" such spontaneous performances in streets and public places was Allan Kaprow. At first, Robin Rhode did not document his performances, however over time his interactions with the public grew to be of key importance, so he began recording entire scenes with film or video cameras.
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