Conceptual artist

Vaughn Sadie

When William Kentridge had his much celebrated collaboration with Dada Masilo, some in the arts community were suitably enthralled by the historic collective effort. One voice demurred, that of Vaughn Sadie, who said such collaborations are commonplace. He should know — he is what you would call a serial collaborator. “I can work across five disciplines,” he says. In the past year alone, he has worked on various productions with choreographers Jay Pather and Sello Pesa and director and writer Neil Coppen.

Sadie, with a master’s in fine arts from the Durban University of Technology, is fascinated by artificial light, how it “can be both an object and a medium”. He discusses “the social and political ramifications of light”, how in areas with RDP houses, for instance, public lighting is “brutal” and “functional” and not of the aesthetised variety we see in the city.

Sadie moved to Johannesburg last year after teaching at the Vega The Brand Communications School in Durban for six years. “I do miss teaching,” he says. Now doing freelance work, he is “literally going from project to project”, working for different organisations and with different choreographers.

Sadie’s first professional partnership was in 2003 when Pather invited him to give lighting workshops to his dance troupe. He is routinely described as a lighting artist but Sadie thinks of himself as a conceptual artist, as seen in his partnerships with Pesa, collaborations in which he doesn’t just tend to the production’s lighting needs but is also a “co-creator”.

This year he is working on a project dubbed “Streetlights”, exploring the city of Johannesburg through its lighting strategies, examining “the role artificial light plays in shaping and defining the way people either move through or occupy these public spaces”.

— Percy Zvomuya