Born in the rural town of Hammanskraal, South Africa in 1974 and having grown up on several farms since then, Alastair McLachlan’s early work was particularly influenced by his “sense of place”, by the land itself and the primary elements of fire, earth, water and air.
Living on a farm in Zwartkops, on the Hennops river made him increasingly aware and alarmed by what seemed a ruthless and ill conceived invasion by industry and development – large tracks of land and vegetation seemed to disappear overnight – it was the scale, rate and sheer disregard for beauty, as evidenced by the proliferation of uniform cinder block houses and corrugated factories that scared him. What resulted was a series of “underground adventure installations” – rescued tree roots hung from ceilings in darkened spaces, reminiscent of fairground horror houses, designed to be investigated by torchlight.
In 1996 he began documenting Drive-ins around the country – an intriguing counterpoint to human endeavour but with the same vestige remnants of neglect. In 2000 he exhibited a series of “Fireworks!” – cathartic, mixed media works dealing with a sense of loss and cultural memory cycles at the Generator Art Space in Newtown. He was subsequently invited to participate in the “Tour guides of the inner city” art intervention program under the auspices of the “Urban Futures 2000” conferences. By the light of a projector strapped to the top of a pink bus, and showing homegrown video art on neglected spaces and building within the city, he found new inspiration.
Given the chance to live in Johannesburg, he decided to investigate the heart of the matter, so to speak, and made the 19th floor of the Lister Medical Building his home. From this vantage point and over more than 12 years he witnessed and tried to understand and make sense of Johannesburg.
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