Kronos: Southern African Histories
This article analyses the bed installation in Simon Gush’s Red exhibit to draw attention to the ‘sleep-in’ aspect of the 1990 East London Mercedes-Benz strike. It shows how the strike narrative’s emphasis on the shop workers and Nelson Mandela’s flawless red Mercedes-Benz automatically insulates the strike’s central sleep-in component from the topic of queer desire. By revealing Red’s beds and the acts thereon as the strike narrative’s ‘queer limit’, the article uses Gush and Emma Sulkowicz’s techniques to reinvent the sleep-in as a complex space of homosociality and queer self-discovery. Doing so builds on Gush’s installations and uses performance to deliberately ‘pervert’ the strike’s collective memory and offer up strategies for queer critique in (South) African historiography.
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution–ShareAlike 4.0 International license (CC BY–SA 4.0)
James, Elliot, "Screwing the Assembly Line: Queerness, Art-Making and Mandela's Mercedes-Benz," in "Red Assembly: The Work Remains," ed. Leslie Witz, Helena Pohlandt-McCormick, Gary Minkley, and John Mowitt, special issue, Kronos: Southern African Histories 42, no. 1 (2016): 56-70.