RALPH ZIMAN’S THE CASSPIR PROJECT
Thursday, December 5 through Sunday, December 8, 2019
Ralph Ziman has been selected for the special project section of the 2019 edition of PULSE Art Fair where he will present SPOEK 1, an 11-ton decommissioned, apartheid-era Casspir vehicle that has been restored and reclaimed. Ziman is known for his work that interrogates human rights issues such as apartheid, the over-militarization of police, and state violence. SPOEK 1 is the central part of Ziman’s traveling series, The Casspir Project, which also comprises installation, photography and film. The work will be located at the entrance to PULSE Art Fair where it can be viewed December 5 – 8, 2019 during fair hours.
First presented in 2016 at the South African National Gallery in Cape Town, SPOEK 1 continued to travel as part of The Casspir Project and went on to be exhibited at venues throughout Johannesburg in 2017, including The Turbine Art Fair and The Melrose Gallery. In 2018, SPOEK 1 arrived in the United States and was the Special Projects selection at the fourth edition of 1-54, the Contemporary African Art Fair, in New York, where it remained on view at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn throughout the summer. In February 2019, The Casspir Project made its West Coast debut at an exhibition hosted by The Rendon Gallery in Los Angeles.
Restored and refitted, the Casspir has been transformed into a work of art for SPOEK 1, its surfaces covered in 70 million, elaborate and brightly-coloured glass beads, arrayed in panels of traditional patterns. Completed in collaboration with artisans from Zimbabwe and the Mpumalanga province of South Africa, including women of the Ndebele tribe, known for their craftsmanship, Ziman’s work subverts narratives of violence and oppression, reclaiming SPOEK 1 as a symbol of beauty and humanity.
Casspirs are armored, bulletproof, mine-proof, all-terrain vehicles developed in South Africa in the 1970s. They were used extensively by the South African Police, as well as the South African Defense Force, against civilians in urban township areas from the late ‘70s through early ‘90s during apartheid. Developers of these vehicles named them Casspirs, an anagram combining the name of the designer (the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, CSIR) and the end user (the South African Police, SAP).
Post-apartheid, Casspirs were decommissioned in South Africa, their hulls left to rust, a relic of the past better forgotten, except for the ones that were sold to the United States during the Iraq war years, rebranded as the MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected). After the war, these Casspirs were given free of charge to local United States police departments under the Pentagon’s 1033 Program.
In the age of Ferguson and Black Lives Matter, the Casspir has returned, a poltergeist from the past that continues to haunt us. The issue of over-militarized police departments has come to the forefront of the American debate on police tactics and aggression. Policing in the Western world resembles apartheid-era policing more than ever. Through the resurfacing and reclamation of SPOEK 1, Ziman seeks to challenge the viewer to confront how cultural memory, often entangled in violence, may bear upon the contemporary.
SPOEK 1 and The Casspir Project will be presented by The Rendon Gallery at Miami Art Week, December 5-8, 2019, as part of the special projects section at PULSE Art Fair. The Casspir will be parked just outside the entrance to Pulse. Visit The Rendon Gallery in Booth 201 to experience related artwork from The Casspir Project, including Ziman’s photography, film, sculpture, and installation work.
ABOUT RALPH ZIMAN
Ralph Ziman was born in 1963 in Johannesburg, South Africa, and currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California. He has had solo exhibitions at Joseph Gross Gallery in Tucson, Arizona, and C.A.V.E. Gallery in Venice, California, as well as group exhibitions at the National Gallery in Cape Town, South Africa, Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts in Brooklyn, New York, and the FNB Art Fair in Johannesburg, South Africa. His work has been written about in Art in America, CNN, and The Guardian, among other publications.