Postdated Solvency is an exhibition, or rather a semblance of an exhibition, by Johannesburg-based artist Nare Mokgotho, whose work often endeavors to deconstruct and interrogate the established reasons for making, exhibiting, and purchasing art. Mokgotho’s art negates traditional understandings of space and meaning, playing with the allocation of value within the institution of the gallery and the art market. In Postdated Solvency Mokgotho points towards the fetishization of object-based art processes, manufacturing, and the hedonistic economy that surrounds it, by amalgamating the contemporary market in South Africa with the notion of an I.O.U. From this perspective, Mokgotho exposes the often-ambiguous relationship between the artist’s studio, the gallery, and the patron-collector. He goes further to question the underlying motivations of art sellers and art buyers, thus establishing a dualism between the patron and the collector, suggesting the meaninglessness of the meaningful in a hemorrhaging, post-capitalist society.
Mokgotho makes this statement by creating commodities from non-existent artworks, before they have been created. He does so by using postdated cheques, usually used to purchase commodities, transformed into objects for sale. By itself, the artistic process, or moment of realization, where making begins, can be regarded as a ‘meaningful’ object in itself, and therefore a valuable commodity. Mokgotho’s approach thus makes the relationship between value and meaning ambiguous. That is to say, the act of ‘making’ is something that can be objectified allowing it to be purchased and owned, tantamount to selling one’s soul. Thus, the desire within the artist to make and produce meaningful things becomes meaningless, enticed by a counter-desire within the collector, which is fueled by the virulent materialism that normally dominates consumer-society, to buy artwork as real estate, making it inaccessible and unaffordable, subverting the exact reasons for art to exist in the first place.
Appropriation has been a common mechanism in the production of art for over a century, specifically hailing back to the efforts of Marcel Duchamp. In somewhat of a homage to Duchamp’s “Fountain”, Mokgotho’s appropriation of the I.O.U. exposes the paradigm of the art market, where he finds himself at a point of departure, or rather non-point, alluding to the fact that he can’t make art at present due to writers block, and cheques can bounce. The question also arises; will the I.O.U. cheque be cashed? In trying to find a creative route, Mokgotho arrives at Duchamp’s Fountain and stops to take a figurative piss, reminding one of Piero Manzoni’s Merda d’Artiste (canned artist shit), which recently sold for R650,000. Maurizio Cattelan’s valuable signature also sold on auction for R100,000 for a cheque to the amount of $1 signed with his own mark, implementing parody in order to erode the tired notion of the artist as genius whose signature is all encompassing no matter if she/he produces work or not.
Postdated Solvency further contextualizes this view of commoditization and consumerism in the form of an ongoing virtual auction, where the signed I.O.U. stamped cheques, were placed for sale to the highest bidder over a period of two weeks. Prospective bidders were allowed to place their offers online at the Outlet Project Room’s website where an electronic bidding form was available. After two weeks the top three bids were tallied and the relevant individuals were contacted. Postdated Solvency opened on the 27th of November 2010, and closed December 17th 2010.