The Demolishers


March 20, 2014 by petrujviljoen

Linked to Friday Fictioneers.

old-building-staircase copyright rochelle wisofffields

Genre: biography/reality

100 words.

Steven Cohen, The Chandelier Project

Steven Cohen, The Chandelier Project

Cold, grey, mud and garbage. These people’s daily fare. He’s done it before. I saw him myself, visiting the homeless. People living in drain pipes. He’d dress up like no other, I mean, no other, and go off and dance for them. I’ve seen the light of understanding and appreciation in their eyes, with my own eyes.

They had this place earmarked. Him and Elu. At six in the morning he would do his performance. The demolishers also had the place earmarked. At six in the morning they’d raize the shacks.

”A wondrous day for making art”, he said later.

copyright coudinsky

copyright coudinsky

Constructive criticism welcomed.

47 thoughts on “The Demolishers

  1. AnnIsikArts says:

    P S I checked out the ‘Chandelier Project’, which is subtitled: ‘Creating in Destruction’. That’s EXACTLY why I posted my ‘Inspired Light’ photos this week! Ann

  2. AnnIsikArts says:

    Incredibly, I am reading this after a nightmarish week in which I’ve had to stand my ground alone in the face of unlawfull demolition/subjected to antisocial behaviour. Your story has helped me find balance and perspective and greater compassion – nothing in my life can compare with the lives of these poor people. And thanks for ‘liking’ my photos.

    • I’ve had to listen to people better off: ”what’s the poor doing tonight?” or ” Oh, they somehow make do.” or ” the poor should do something.” and so on and so on.

      • AnnIsikArts says:

        But they don’t ‘make do’. They die of disease and starvation. Your story also focuses on the power of art. I am always looking for ways to ‘be useful’ as an artist. Without forgetting that the very art itself is a force, a weapon of the spirit.

        • Twice now I thought of Matisse, regarding your comments. Seeking light, creating beauty in the midst of extreme poverty and war. He also insisted that art has to be useful. I don’t think Steven Cohen tried to create beauty. His chandelier and shoes and so on, highlighted the absurdity of the situation.

        • AnnIsikArts says:

          Well, I think before art is turned to any ‘practical’ purpose, the creative act in itself is a connection with ‘Light’. That’s beauty. Art is useful first and most importantly in that it engages with Light. As I wrote this I got an image of Michaelangelo’s Creation of Adam on the Sistine Chapel! Those outstretched fingers! Is God creating Adam, or is Adam creating God!? And Steven Cohen, it’s the first time I’ve seen a chandelier put to compassionate use. That’s about as beautiful as it gets. Speech over. Sorry! Ann

        • I stand humbled. You are of course quite right. Don’t be sorry.

        • AnnIsikArts says:

          It’s just an opinion. I’m almost certainly wrong. I usually am! The idea of being ‘right’ makes me perspire – I think I must have been a sheepdog in a previous life – one of those who inexplicably led flocks off the edge of cliffs and had to be shot.

        • Aren’t we ever so good at putting ourselves down? The only thing that I’d like to add to the Steven Cohen phenomenon is that, apart from the chandelier, he also had his penis tied up rather tightly and probably had a dildo up his backside. Or a battery charger for the lights of the chandelier!

        • AnnIsikArts says:

          I am unshockable – either by battery affixed to any part of my anatomy, or in any abstract sense – I live near a high street and of a weekend, most of the youngsters out for a night ‘on the town’ can be seen similarly ‘dressed’. 🙂

        • 🙂 nice talking to you.

  3. shailajav says:

    Pain and progress well juxtaposed! Nice 🙂

  4. katlabrador says:

    This is really good! You created very different images from two perspectives in such a short story. I look forward to reading more of your writings.

  5. Thanks for sharing this extraordinay happening with us. People often suffer when others are calling it progress.

  6. I love when art can make a real difference.. this is wonderful reminder of the hardships of those that have a most difficult life…

  7. It’s difficult to know what to say in response other than the already-much-used “Truth is stranger that fiction.” A line in the article you linked said, “Part of the intention of the Chandelier Project is to shed light on what is seldom seen” and that was certainly true in this case. I think I’ll just say thanks for sharing this and leave it at that. Oh, and nice to see you again. 🙂


    • Hi Janet. I was thinking of changing the title to ‘the living chandelier’ but since Steven Cohen is so adapt at demolishing boundaries of cultural norms I decided to leave it at that. Nice to speak again. I always seek out your writing from the zillions of people taking part these days.

  8. Very moving and very provocative. Unfortunate to be living where they want to build a Mandela Bridge leading to privileged middle-class Braamfontein. A long way to go yet.

  9. Very inspiring! He’s so compassionate and giving! A true artist and human.

    • I didn’t know him personally, but I met him on one of his performances. What you say is true. He’s probably the most avant guarde artist in South Africa if not not the world. I think he’s on a par with Damien Hirst.

  10. JudahFirst says:

    Wonderful, beautiful story. Thanks for sharing this!

  11. Gorgeous depiction of the human spirit bringing light to those most in need of it.

  12. Dear Petruj,

    The reality of this is more chilling than fiction. Well done.



  13. Sandra says:

    It’s a long way from the Sandton suburbs isn’t it? Thanks for this and the link, took me back to a different time and place. Well done, on both counts.

    • Alexandra, another poor black township, is just down the road from Sandton. But this indeed happened in the inner city of Johannesburg. When were you in RSA last?

      • Sandra says:

        We lived in Jo’burg in the nineties, but left around 98. We lived in Lonehill and Gallo Manor. Been back briefly once to Jo’burg but twice to Cape Town, last in 2010. The Mandela funeral and (sadly) the Pretorius trial have brought back quite a lot of memories of our time there.

        • Blegh! Can’t talk about the Pistorius trial. It’s most sordid. Luckily I’m in a position to avoid most of the hype; i don’t watch tv and read the newspaper in my mail inbox. The media are sharks having a frenzy. It’s sick.

  14. Nan Falkner says:

    He is a true artist and very dedicated. Thanks 🙂 Nan

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