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Wednesday, December 26, 2012


(2013 Standard Bank Young Artist for Performance Art – Anthea Moys. Pic: Suzy Bernstein)

This year, the Standard Bank Young Artist Awards includes a new award for Performance Art. The first recipient of the Performance Art award, Anthea Moys from Johannesburg, believes that creativity and risk-taking is an important generator for initiating newer approaches in engaging with the arts.

“I think it is just fantastic that Performance Art is being recognised for the first time in South Africa with this award, since Performance Art is relatively new here. I see myself playing a role as both an artist and a teacher in developing new spaces for performance art in South Africa,” said Moys.

Moys completed her Masters degree at the University of the Witwatersrand, with a focus on structured play and performance in public space. Her interest in play finds expression in her work through the staging of playful collaborative performances.

“I knew since I was young that I wanted to express myself through the arts, but it took me a long time to figure out if I was a dancer, an actor or a visual artist. When I was registering for my first year at Wits, I filled out two forms - one for visual arts, and one for drama. I held them behind my back, mixed them up, and then pulled one out at random - it was visual art,” she said.

“One moment stands out for me during my studies when my lecturer David Andrews told me to stop worrying and to start playing. He was encouraging me to be more honest with my work. I am a playful person, and he was telling me my art should reflect who I am. That helped a lot to steer me in the direction of the kind of performance work that I do,” said Moys.

Her performances aim to foster new connections between different communities and the spaces they inhabit. They might involve boxers at an inner city boxing gym, the residents of an old-age home, or the security guards at an art gallery.

“Although I enjoyed my studies in visual arts I was never really good at making things and was more interested in creating experiences that evolved over time and in space,” said Moys. ”I think I really only found my feet when I went to Switzerland. I was there as part of a programme for my Masters degree and it was here where I really started experimenting with performance (alone and with others) in public space,” said Moys. “I love this art form because it is immediate. It takes art out of the gallery or theatre. It’s art that uses the body; and I’ve always felt that I am much more expressive with my body than with my words. I think embodied experiences that transgress language – which can often divide - are important and this is a big reason why I do what I do.”

Moys has shown her work at group shows in South Africa, and abroad, in Sweden, Switzerland, London, Australia, Miami and Berlin. In 2009, as the winner of the Everard Read Brait Award, she staged her first solo show in South Africa.

She has been on residency programmes including ‘Infecting the City’ in Cape Town and the Monash University residency in Melbourne, Australia. She has been lecturing periodically at the University of Witwatersrand since 2007 and is currently Vega School of Brand Leadership’s Creative Development lecturer.

“I think artists have an amazing capacity to make connections between things that did not exist before. I think that this then gets people questioning and then opens up a platform for exchange to take place. I think this changes perceptions and then has the capacity to change the world,” said Moys.

“Winning this award is a huge affirmation,” she adds. “I feel braver to do what I want to do and even though I feel a bit afraid, it's a good kind of fear… Change or an engagement with anything new is usually scary – but it means that there is risk and where there is risk I feel most alive… so it’s that good kind of fear…”

The winners of The Standard Bank Young Artist Awards feature on the main programme of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and receive financial support for their Festival participation, as well as a cash prize. For more information on the National Arts Festival, click on the banner advert at the top of this page.