Three Men at a Party
28.09.19 – 01.12.19

The homosexual became a personage, a past, a case study, and a childhood, in addition to being a type of life, a life form, and a morphology, with an indiscreet anatomy and possibly a mysterious physiology. Nothing that went into his total composition was unaffected by his sexuality. It was everywhere present in him: at the root of all his actions because it was their insidious and indefinitely active principle, written immodestly on his face and body because it was a secret that gave itself away.”
Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality

Drawing this year which saw LGBTQ+ liberation celebrations clash with political turbulence to a close, KELDER is proud to present THREE MEN AT A PARTY; an immersive and intimate exhibition where drawing and performative mapping are used to investigate the effect of heteronormative nationalism on the queer body. Roelof Petrus van Wyk provides not a rainbow-soaked celebration, but a poignant reminder that fifty years of Stonewall’s so-called gay liberation cannot guarantee the end of violence against the queer body.  

Van Wyk shapes his visual practice by focusing on South Africa circa 1969. Not only was he born in that year, but homosexuality was also legally criminalised in the month of his birth. He specifically traces through the acts of drawing and performance, the parliamentary proceedings that led to the criminalisation. The resulting ‘homosexual bill’ was ratified by the South African Parliament as the Immorality Amendment Act, No. 57 of 1969, also known as the “Three Men at a Party” clause which criminalised any ‘male person who commits with another male person at a party any act which is calculated to stimulate sexual passion or give sexual gratification,’ and defined a ‘party’ as ‘any occasion where more than two persons are present.’

Mark Gevisser in the queer history landmark publication, Defiant Desire, describes the operation of the hegemonic state apparatuses as such: ‘Nationalist control over South Africa was consolidated through the construction of bogeymen, and to the black conspiracies, communist conspiracies, English conspiracies, Jewish conspiracies, could now be added the ‘queer conspiracy.’ The homosexual body now also threatened the continued existence, and much needed biological reproduction, of the anxious white population of South Africa.

Building on the artist’s ongoing phenomenological research into processes of psychological ‘picturing’ shaped by relations of power, van Wyk invites participants to sit with him individually and only one at a time, scheduled on the hour. Artist and guest re-live in front of a graphite drawing of the Republic of South Africa’s first Parliament, a reading of the final “REPORT of the SELECT COMMITTEE on the IMMORALITY AMMENDMENT BILL,” tasked with investigating the ‘homosexual problem’.

The group of Parliamentary representatives of South Africa consisted only of white men and two white women who voted unanimously for the new Bill. The gazetted Bill is also on show in a set of graphite drawings in the gallery space. Van Wyk further complicates this founding and formative narrative by inserting his own affective and poetic memory into the text.

Once the series of performances have been completed, visitors will be able to scrutinise the performed texts written into the walls of the underground space, throughout the exhibition period. The exhibition will be complimented with a range of public events to be announced.

Roelof Petrus van Wyk is an interdisciplinary creative cultural and arts practitioner and has published visual work as well as writing on contemporary queer performance art in South Africa. van Wyk holds academic degrees in Architecture, Visual Culture and is a Creative Work PhD Candidate in History of Art at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Van Wyk has regularly exhibited personal art work, including photographic work in the V&A Museum and a performance in the Tate Modern in London. In the role of curator and producer, van Wyk spearhead the Johannesburg Pavilion during the Venice Biennale in 2015. Van Wyk has recently completed the architectural transformation of the Rupert Art Museum in South Africa, imagining a concept called 'Museum without Walls", an approach to open-ended museum-making practice.