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FADA Home Preface About Artists

Kim Gurney

Cape Town


Type of book work: Unique / sculptural book-object (one-of-a-kind)
Dimensions: 810 x 295 x 10
Media: Ink, graphite, beeswax, glue, highlighter, and interest over time

Artist's / designer's statements

This artist's book, Word Launder, is a durational artwork made in response to language and to site. It engages ideas around work, time, and exchange. The artwork was made at Cape Town's Platteklip washhouse, an historical place where slave washerwomen used to do the laundry in colonial times. It is a site of hard labour but also of socialising, according to archaeological excavations. The artwork was made in response, and parallel, to closed academic discussions by urbanists around 'Vernaculars of Urban Multiplicities'. These discussions were hosted by African Centre for Cities and Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity following on from an earlier engagement around public space and diversity.

The resulting artist's book, itself a work of performative labour, comprises nine chapters plus a preface.

Each double page (or chapter) records a key word picked up from nine participant speakers in turn. I ran the word through Google analytics for its frequency in media reports. The resulting graph is plotted out across the pages of a wage register, already coded for farm labour with work 'in kind' factored into its columns. I then write out the key word repeatedly against this graph for as long as the speaker holds the floor.

At the end of each session, examples of media headlines using the key word are randomly inserted into this script. Related statistics are written up to the right, including the word's geographical dispersions. The artwork indicates among other things the difficulty of finding appropriate signifiers for complexity.

My art practice generally responds to disappearances of different sorts and makes restorative gestures. This has ranged from mixed media works commemorating people forcibly 'disappeared' during oppressive political regimes to largescale paintings about scorned urban space, visualising statistics of vulnerable species, sculpting and performing a defunct San instrument of communication from archival documentation into a sound art installation, and exploring financial crisis through word play. Most recently, I created in collaboration with Daleen Nel Hall a time-lapse film burning a defunct beehive to ashes.

In addition to being a slow maker of things, and engaging curatorially with other artists, I am a researcher and writer. Two book projects track the journeys of artworks as they make their way into the world. 'The Art of Public Space: Curating and Re-imagining the Ephemeral City' (2015) followed a trilogy of curated interventions exploring public space in Johannesburg. A book of creative nonfiction that climbs four floors of an inner city atelier is in press with Fourthwall Books.



2003-2006 BA(FA), Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art.
University of Cape Town, Michaelis School of Fine Art, Cape Town, RSA
1997-1998 MA, Master of Arts in International Journalism, City University London, UK.
1993-1996 B.Journ, Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, RSA.


2016 THAT Art Fair, The Palms, Woodstock.
2014 Suspicious Mind, Iziko Museum Annex, Cape Town. 2012 Pointure, University of Johannesburg Art Gallery
2009 Frugi Bonae, Artspace Gallery, Johannesburg
2008 Disjecta Membra, Gordart Gallery, Johannesburg


University of Cape Town, South Africa.
MS Group, South Africa
Private: South Africa, Norway, UK, Ireland, Germany, Canada.

© Jack Ginsberg Centre for Book Arts (JGCBA). All rights reserved.