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The Impossible Auction



The Impossible Auction was a commissioned work for th GIPCA Live Art Festival 2014 and played with the rules of an auction in trying to auction the intangible. An experiment in auctioning off re-enacted performance art, the performance was a curated experience of some of the best live art from South Africa and abroad – past, present and future, real and imagined. It took the form of an interactive art auction, at which the audience could make bids on 50 extraordinary artworks, ranging from re-enactments of seminal performance art pieces, to works by contemporary artists, musicians and performers. Only serious bids were entertained: in Rands, Dollars Rupees, Jellybeans, or Specific Dance Moves. 


Art auctions are dramatic public spectacles of conspicuous and competitive consumption; ritualized displays that fix value to the intangible. Auctions at Christie’s or Sotheby’s attract international press attention, and the prices paid for major artworks are widely reported. But only the hyper-rich could participate in these spectacles… until now. The Impossible Auction was an auction for the rest of us. The audience as a collective collaborated on creating the rules, under the firm guidance of the auctioneer. The Impossible Auction allowed the audience to participate in the high stakes drama of an art auction, whilst also giving them an opportunity to engage with the context and history of live art, all while enjoying a piece of irreverent and highly entertaining dadaist theatre.

The Impossible Auction is a collaborative work created by myself, the actor and dancer Gerard Bester, and the writer Gwydion Beynon and was performed by UCT Drama students who helped re-enact the performances: Gina van der Ploeg, Lwanele Nqambi, Sizwesandile Mnisi, Cleo Raatus, Sanchia Davids, Anele Kose, Tankiso Mamabolo.

Thank you to all the participating artists: James Webb, Dineo Bopape, Myer Taub, Zen Marie, Jelili Atiku, Daniel Friedman, Nicole Seiler, Robyn Orlin, Wura Ogunji. And thanks to the following seminal artists whose work we have referenced in relation to ‘performance art’: Hugo Ball, Andy Warhol, Yayoi Kusama, Vito Acconci, John Cage, Piere Manzoni, Ana Mendieta, Chris Burden and Marina Abramovic. Thank you to GIPCA Live Art Festival for supporting this new work! 

Produced by Nicola van der Linde

Photographs by Sydelle Willow Smith

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