Victoria Wigzell: Raising up the undercurrents

This up-and-coming South African artist tells us how her move from Johannesburg to Switzerland has impacted her work.

Victoria Wigzell is among an exciting new generation of artists born after 1989, who represent a distinct shift in how they produce their art. The South African multimedia artist grapples with issues such as class divisions and how this plays out in the urban context. 

Wigzell was awarded the Hans Joerg Wyss Scholarship in 2013 and is currently completing a Master of Arts in Public Spheres (MAPS) at Ecole Cantonale D’Arts Du Valais, Sierre, Switzerland. She took part in the panel discussion at Design Indaba Conference 2014 hosted by 89plus, an international research programme mapping a new generation of innovators in science, art, design and other fields.

"I am living and working with a lot of different cultures at the moment – artists from South America, the Middle East and other parts of Africa. It has been really great to get perspective on what I bring as a South African into that kind of environment," she says."My work has changed. Rather than being focussed on issues at play in the context that I am from, I am looking for ways to engage people and culture in this new context." 

In her presentation at the Conference, she shares a photo taken in Jeppestown, Johannesburg, that represents the emergence of her artistic voice. The image shows a section of wall outside a home in the city's suburb that had been boarded up to keep passers-by from using the area as a urinal. Spraypainted on the wall are the words "No more toilet for you." 

The photo speaks in it own way about the wider tensions that are playing out continually in the city, she reflects.

"Johannesburg is a city that is growing rapidly and developing all the time but it is also a city that is operating on very pronounced divisions between classes," she explains. "The middle classes in particular exist largely in isolation from what is happening in the rest in the city. It is these shifts in perspective in terms of what is acceptable or what is considered beautiful or what is considered desirable that I am interested in working with." 

Wigzell also finds soap operas fascinating and fertile material to work with. She uses footage from soap operas in her artwork and recreates scenes through performance pieces that highlight the often ignored undercurrents of the genre. 

She is excited by the possibility of collaboration offered by the 89plus platform and thinks the opportunity to share her work outside of exhibitions is important for sparking conversations about art.