Inverting sacrifice : an exploration of Wim Botha’s Premonition of war : scapegoat in relation to gender and nationalism

Strydom, Colijn (2008-03)

Thesis (MA (VA)(Visual Arts))--University of Stellenbosch, 2008.


This investigation draws on theories of sacrifice to explore Wim Botha’s sculpture Premonition of War: Scapegoat in relation to nationalist and patriarchal thought. Since the artist deals with myth, his approach is discussed in terms of Barthes’ formulation of myth as a meta-language. It is maintained that Botha is using a meta-mythical language to deconstruct the narratives he deals with. Sacrifice is seen as an act that binds communities together but that also separates them from threats (Nancy Jay 1992:17). It is argued that the crucifix has been used as symbol of sacrifice to denote immortality, and that this over-emphasis of continuity has been to the detriment of those that do not fall within the boundaries of the “same” as defined by white men. The incorporation and exclusion of the feminine into male structures are discussed, as well as the role that institutionalised religious thought has played in South African Nationalism. An interpretation of Scapegoat using Freud and Žižek seems to point to the necessary compromise made by the Church with the dualisms it has created between its definitions of good and evil. Nietzsche’s conception of sacrifice as a system of debt when applied to the Scapegoat also seems to point to a contradiction inherent within it, since Botha’s inversion puts into question the idea of a gift given outside of a creditor/debtor system. The burnt appearance of the Scapegoat appears to indicate that the attempt to sacrifice the act of sacrifice is futile, since sacrifice eternally returns. However, the “pure gift”, or don pur that Derrida writes of, seems to point to a way beyond dialectics, towards a morality freed from duty.

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