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When a farmer seeks a wife...Absa L'Atelier 2013 winner explores the culture of marriage

by Marilyn de Freitas posted on July 26, 2013.

Pauline Gutter, Die Huweliksaansoek
Video, old farm telephone, engraved plaque and wood

When a farmer is in search of a wife, the community is as much involved as the couple in question. The television programme "Boer soek 'n vrou" [Farmer searching for a wife] sees ten women parading themselves in hope of catching the bachelor's heart. Pauline Gutter's Die Huweliksaansoek raises the question: does the farmer choose his wife on the same base that he breeds his stud bull? The 1,8m high monument-like installation lures one to view the plaque sized video of a stud-bull's seminal discharge. The viewer is encouraged to 'listen in' voyeuristically to the 'agri-porno' on the screen through the farm-line handset to the soundtrack of the commanding voice of Gerben Kamper (recognisable as that of the heroic musketeer, Brakkenjan) of statements the participants made in the programme "Boer soek n vrou".

This satirical won her the first prize at the Absa L'Atelier Awards 2013. The works contain an aspect of voyeurism and exhibitionism where the bull is the main figure, and the trophy in the same way the wife is where she is expected to be fertile, have good qualities and serve her husband. Gutter offers a tongue in cheek approach to what is deemed tradition in an ever-changing society. Her works have a strong rural and agricultural focus and are anchored in her childhood on her family farm in Nuwe Orde, close to Brandfort. She has often dealt with rhino poaching, farm murders and the influence of traditional culture often with a satirical view. She questions everyday issues such as marriage and how it is threatened by globalised ideals.

Gutter was born in 1980. She studied for her BA (FA) at the University of the Free State. She has participated in a number of group and solo exhibitions, including the Absa L'Atelier from 2002 to 2007, and in 2012. Her artworks are also represented in a number of corporate collections. As part of her prize, Gutter won R125 000 from Absa, a return air ticket to Paris and a six months residency at the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris.

Die Huweliksaansoek is layered but it has a lot of personal aspects pertaining from her own life growing up on a farm. The 'farm-line' was the only form of communication and entertainment in the rural farmlands. The now old-fashioned tradition symbolises the first phase in the search for a wife and how the entire community is integrated unintentionally. In the video, the stud bull is forced into a gauntlet constricted into the act. Gutter references societal customs and what is expected from us. Her use of the historical symbolism of a monument pokes fun at the idea of the bull as well as the wife as both trophy and status symbols. The exhibition of the top 100 works will be on public display from 18 July to 22 August 2013.


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