Ashraf Jamal: Synthetic Dirt

The title for this paper comes from the English dramatist Peter Brook. Reflecting on the birth of computer technology, Brook notes that when technology was used to record a musical orchestra the end result was curiously sterile; one could not hear the pressure of oxygen, the peculiarly mortal elements which one needs to hear for something to sound alive. The answer? Sample those elements and reintegrate them into the recording.
The name for this reintegration of mortal elements in the recording was called ‘synthetic dirt.’ This phrase aptly describes my current project, which is to analyse the state of contemporary art in South Africa. I argue that we have arrived at that moment when, having passed the novelty of the ‘new’, and worked through the teething problems of a transition, and in the process producing a new cultural canon, we now – at this present
moment – exist after the new cultural establishment. If this is so, then where does one place the new work that is emerging in the mixed and multi-media spheres of physical theatre, installation, and the new art practice?

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