Originally, Rhode was trucking around Johannesburg looking for two smashed cars that would form the basis of an operatic piece he had planned for the art fair. Based on Verdi’s opera La Forza del Destino (The Force of Destiny), for Rhode it was destiny itself that changed the direction of his work. The cars would have represented two worlds colliding, a love that would end in disaster and death, against a backdrop of war. But fate brought the jungle gym here.
“I allow my intuitive muscle to be stimulated. And in order for that to happen you have to be open. So in other words, I went out with the intention of searching for cars but then my intuition triggered something else.”
Rhode’s key work at the FNB Joburg Art Fair will still feature a man and woman seeking each other out. But there will be more to their quest. They will, at the same time, be reciting 1970s struggle poetry by James Matthews and Gladys Thomas from the anthology Cry Rage, banned after its publication in 1972.
For Rhode, “art is about past, present, future. I’m following the principal of taking the dead object and engaging with it in the present, to allow the dead object to have a different value system in the future.”
To change the nature of the original metal, and to give it new meaning , Rhode had to take the object “through a transformation, a metamorphosis, into the realm of memory. Into the realm of the ghost. Into the realm of past life.”
In the present, though, the installation was happening in Sandton amid a din of drilling, banging and shifting metal bars. Art does not exist in a vacuum. Rhode’s assistants – young, tough and street – were all wearing the same camouflage jacket as he had on. Ten years later, here we were watching the return of the son who had done good.