Creative practice in public space explored at Thinking the City

The Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts (GIPCA) partners with the Public Culture CityLab (African Centre for Cities, UCT) on Thinking the City, from 12-15 March 2013.

This series of talks and discussions seeks to strengthen thinking and practice at the intersection of culture and public space, particularly in Cape Town. These sessions will take place at the Infecting the City Festival Centre (6 Spin Street) from 10:30 – 12:00 daily, from 12-15 March 2013, and are presented as part of the Africa Centre’s annual Infecting the City Public Art Festival.

Cape Town has a long history of public art and culture, and has more recently embraced the notion of a ‘creative city’. This is an exciting prospect for creative practitioners, yet the question of ‘creative city for whom?’ keeps bubbling to the surface of public debate, as different interest groups lay claim to the creative expression in, and of, public space. Thinking the City will contribute to the Infecting the City programme by unpacking a series of examples and contested territories related to cultural practice in the city, in order to foster a more critical dialogue about creative practice in public space. It will comprise four presentation and discussion sessions.

Led by Public Culture CityLab co-convenor, Rike Sitas, and Oddveig Nicole Sarmiento (Centre for African Studies); the opening session Public space, festivalisation and contested cultural expression will take place on Tuesday 12 March. It aims to unpack questions of cultural expression in the increasingly prevalent phenomenon of public events and festivals. The Kaapse Klopse Minstrel Carnival in Cape Town is simultaneously the most popular and one of the most critiqued public space events in Cape Town. Discussing this case in the context of Infecting the City, the speakers raise questions about the problematic popular culture vs ‘high’ art binary, asking us to rethink cultural claims to expression and knowledge production in the city.

In Design and the creative city: the creative city for whom? on Wednesday 13 March, the Africa Centre for Cities’ Jenny Fatou Mabaye and Ralph Borland lead the discussion. They consider how, in the run-up to World Design Capital 2014, quirky art and design projects that intervene creatively in urban space are presented as ways of changing our interaction with the city for the better, opening up public space to new uses. The speakers discuss how this local repurposing of city space borrows from movements around the world, and ask how this functions in our particular city: who are the audiences and participants in such projects – what do they include and what, or whom, is left out – highlighting how these reflect dual tensions between the global/local, planned/organic, official/civic, legal/illegal nexus.

On Thursday 14 March, African Centre for Cities Director Professor Edgar Pieterse, and Public Culture CityLab co-convenor Ismail Farouk, address Managing access: spatial challenges and the regulation of culture, delving into challenges related to achieving the design ambitions set out by the World Design Capital bid. Cape Town’s World Design Capital discourse speaks to the use of design for social transformation, yet the city continues to exhibit skewed social and spatial legacies characterised by inward facing disadvantaged township areas and a highly regulated and exclusive central city, along with highly restrictive regulatory frameworks around cultural access. This session explores how this discourse limits what is thinkable in contemporary African cities, and touches on the Public Nuisance Abatement Bylaws and Graffiti Bylaw in order to raise questions around the regulation of cultural practices of art, skating, street trade and homelessness.

In the final session on Friday 15 March, What makes art ‘public’?: publicness, participation and critical practice, Johannesburg-based Rangoato Hlasane (co-founder Keleketla! Library) and Kim Gurney (University of Johannesburg’s Research Centre: Visual Identities in Art and Design) respond to the notion of ‘infection’ in Infecting the City. In a context where the novelty of public art has worn off, and in the face of urban crisis; public art is beginning to take on a more critical approach to public space. Adressing the potential of truly infecting the city through cultural action, this session will draw on a range of examples and experiences from contemporary public art practice in South Africa in order to unpack the complex relationship between public(s), publicness and participation in public art practice.

Thinking the City is presented by the Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts (GIPCA) and the Public Culture CityLab as part of the 2013 Infecting the City Festival. The sessions take place at the Infecting the City Festival Centre (6 Spin Street) from 10:30 – 12:00 daily, from 12-15 March 2013, and are free. No booking is required. For more information, please visit www.gipca.uct.ac.za or contact the GIPCA office on 021 480 7156 / fin-gipca@uct.ac.za.

About the speakers
Ralph Borland
is a South African artist, designer and technologist, and a postdoctoral fellow at the African Centre for Cities. With an undergraduate degree in Fine Art from the University of Cape Town, and a Masters in Interactive Telecommunications from New York University, he completed his PhD in the School of Engineering at Trinity College, Dublin. His thesis Radical Plumbers and PlayPumps – Objects in Development (2011) analyses the relationship between first world audiences and developing world users via designed objects. Borland’s protest-performance suit, Suited for Subversion (2002) is in the collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art.

Ismail Farouk is an artist and urban researcher living and working in Cape Town. He holds the position of Researcher at the African Centre for Cities, where he convenes the Central Citylab project and is responsible for the urban culture portfolio. In his artistic practice, Farouk focuses on developing creative responses to social, spatial and economic injustices.

Kim Gurney works across disciplines in visual art, academia and journalism. She has held two solo exhibitions, participated in numerous group shows and more recently engages with other artists through curating. Kim is a Research Associate at UCT’s African Centre for Cities and University of Johannesburg’s Research Centre: Visual Identities in Art and Design. Her current research focus is an art project that broadly explores public space in Johannesburg. She holds a BA Fine Art degree from the Uniersity of Cape Town, an MA International Journalism from City University London, and a B Journ from Rhodes University.

Rangoato Hlasane is an artist, writer, illustrator and DJ and based in Johannesburg, South Africa. He completed MTECH in Visual Arts from the University of Johannesburg, FADA. His dissertation was an investigation into the role of the arts in mobilising communities. He is the co-founder and co-director of Keleketla! Library, an independent, interdisciplinary library based in Johannesburg. Hlasane has facilitated and coordinated community-based arts and development projects around South Africa over the last five years, most recently with Thenjiwe Nkosi, Raymond Marlowe and Musina artists for a formation of a community-led functional arts network in Musina. He acts on the advisory committee of VANSA Gauteng.

Jenny Fatou Mbaye is the recipient of the Postdoctoral Ray Pahl Fellowship in Urban Studies hosted at the African Centre for Cities. Her research interests include cultural development and entrepreneurship, creative work and industries, practice and policy of cultural production in Africa, especially in the Francophone West African fields of urban music. She has a PhD in Human Geography (urban cultural economy) from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE, 2011), a Graduate Diploma in Management of Cultural Organisations (HEC-Montreal, 2006), an MSc in International Studies specialised in Ethnomusicology (University of Montreal, 2005), and a BA in Sociology (Concordia University, 2003). She is part of UNESCO pool of experts on the 2005 Convention on Diversity of Cultural Expressions for Francophone West Africa, and worked as a research consultant for the next Creative Economy Report (2013, UNESCO).

Professor Edgar Pieterse holds the NRF South African Research Chair in Urban Policy, and directs the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town. He is a founder member of Isandla Institute, serves on the Boards of Magnet Theatre, the Sustainability Institute and the Cape Town Partnership; and also serves on the Council of the University of the Western Cape. Professor Pieterse holds a PhD from London School of Economics, an MA in Development Studies from the Institute of Social Studies (The Hague, The Netherlands) and BA-Honours from the University of the Western Cape.

Oddveig Nicole Sarmiento is a multidisciplinary artist and PhD candidate based at the University of Cape Town Centre for African Studies. She anchors her work on carnival aesthetics and the body in order to probe questions of epistemic violence as well as contemporary forms of social and spatial exclusion in the context of the city of Cape Town.

Rike Sitas spends most of her time exploring and experimenting in the intersection of urban studies and creative action. She is particularly interested in the relationship between art, technology, and democratic spaces of social justice through an ‘art of intimate encounters’ (Miles). Sitas is the co-founder and co-director of the NPO, dala, an interdisciplinary network of creative practitioners that believe in the transformative role of public creativity. She also co-convenes the Public Culture CityLab at the African Centre for Cities, where she is completing her PhD.

About the Public Culture CityLab:

The African Centre for Cities’ Public Culture CityLab is a platform for research, creative practice, and teaching. It has a conceptual focus on urban culture studies and is a response to the need for theorisation and research on the intersection of culture and public space in South African cities. More specifically, the Public Culture CityLab focuses on exploring the following interconnected themes: public art / art in public; public culture and public space; and culture-led development.

The Public Culture CityLab is co-convened by Ismail Farouk (ACC) and Rike Sitas (dala).

http://africancentreforcities.net