Elfriede Dreyer is an Art Professor, curator, writer and artist. She has been affiliated with Unisa since 2015, after lecturing there full-time from 1990 to 2003. She also taught full-time at the University of Pretoria from 2003 to 2014. Except for works taken up in public and private collections, the majority of her art production has been destroyed by the Knysna Great Fire of June 2017. She has participated in group exhibitions at major museums and galleries throughout the country; she was a finalist in most national competitions, including the Brett Kebble Award; and held solo exhibitions in Pretoria, Paris and Johannesburg.
My main conceptual preoccupation has been focused on worldmaking discourses and the ideologies of place and space. Central concepts are utopia, dystopia and heterotopia as nuances of a family of constructions around place, such as a good place; a bad place; non-place; cocooning; displacement; and migrancy. Perceptions and projections of a good place as utopia are common, but exist mainly as fictions. Although many utopias have been conceived over the ages, few have worked out. Still they persist in appearing in a social and political sense; in addition, most people nurture personal ideas about a ‘good’ place.
In many of my works the imagery of a vessel, boats and a ship of fools on a boat recurs. To me a boat represents human life between birth and death, and it is tied to place and space. A journey on a boat implies a destination or movement between place and it is here that the nuances on the theme of utopia enters. As a transportation mechanism the boat is interwoven with the teleology of human carriage and the self-inscripted and self-inflicted autobiography of a ‘good ending’. The Renaissance notion of a Ship of Fools entailed the practice of removing mad citizens − considered as Others being unwanted, abject and incapable – from society by consigning them to ships and sending them into the ocean without any supervision. In Madness and Civilization, Foucault describes the Renaissance Ship of Fools as a ‘strange ‘drunken boat’’, a ‘pilgrimage’ boat and a ‘liminal’ vessel reserved for the ‘insane’. The boat holds a liminal position on the threshold in-between place
Following on the theme of people on a boat en route with or without a destiny, the title of Transshipped for this exhibition connects the artworks conceptually and also relates to the major changes that covid-19 has brought about in most people's lives and to people experiencing feelings of displacement and uprootedness. When cargo or a container is moved from one vessel to another while in transit to its final destination, it is called transshipment. It speaks to the readjustment and rerouting taking place throughout one's life while pursuing our individual teleological 'good endings' that one is hoping for. Witnessing and experiencing crisis and collapse in many domains of life, covid-19 has made many people restructure their finances, work and home environments. The concept of transshipment communicates the idea that nothing is fixed, also not place or perceptions about place.
Human life is transient and fundamentally ‘reroutable’.