Extra consists of a single-channel video installation as well as a series of photographs created on the set of the soap opera, Generations. Broadcast on SABC 1 since 1994, Generations, South Africa’s most loved soap and the most watched television programme on the African continent, seeks to paint a picture of the country’s emerging black middle class against the backdrop of the media industry. Generations does not include any major white characters in its cast: because much of the script is delivered in Nguni languages, white South Africans – who at this historical juncture rarely speak indigenous African languages – simply don’t fit into this aspirational landscape.
The shoot for Extra took place over a two-week period. The cast of Generations was asked to ignore Breitz’s presence on the set to the greatest degree possible. Once each scene had been filmed for broadcast purposes, an extra take including the artist was captured. Breitz inserts herself into a number of actual scenes from the soap, sometimes subtly, sometimes awkwardly and absurdly, always without judgment or easy explanation. Here she resonates as a conspicuously white presence amongst an otherwise black cast. The resulting images are simultaneously thought provoking and uncomfortably amusing – implicitly raising questions about what it might mean to be white in the context of the new South Africa, without offering easy answers. In this respect, Extra returns to many of the questions implicit to the Ghost Series, this time to tentatively explore whiteness from a post-apartheid perspective.