LAND – Site Specific Interventions

Unusual exhibition and performance spaces give traction to a series of artistic conversations concerning contested issues around space, land and ownership in GIPCA’s LAND – a project considering the centennial of the 2013 Land Act. The event will take place across various spaces in Cape Town, 21-24 November.

Cape Town’s historical tunnels will briefly turn into a musical instrument as artist Pauline Theart sings from a manhole connecting to these underground spaces. Theart, a Fine practitioner from Johannesburg who uses voice and song as medium, will perform an extended lullaby at selected tunnel interfaces in Cape Town Under: The Third Voice, a guerilla gallery project curated by Kim Gurney. Cape Town’s tunnels were first built as canals by the Dutch and more recently enclosed by the Victorians. Today, they act as stormwater pathways where fresh water flows invisibly under the city from the mountain out to sea.

The performance sites include a manhole on the Castle of Good Hope lawn, a trapdoor facing Strand Street and a manhole on the Grand Parade. The unique acoustics let the sound travel upwards to surprise people above ground through the emotional interiors of song. The sound also loops in the tunnels themselves to create echoes and refrains, in what Theart speaks of as a ‘third voice’ or ‘the unforeseen voice’. Gurney comments: “We hope this feminine, lyrical song emanating from a stark built environment will intrigue and move people in the midst of their everyday interactions. It is a simple, affective gesture that cues past and present while speaking to restorative futures.”

While there have been several significant photographic exhibitions related to ‘land’ in 2013, many of these have been presented as historical overviews. Much of the photography that circulates as ‘art’ is also never seen by the general public, and shown in galleries that only few enter. Concerned with a contemporary view on these complex issues and making work available to a wider public, the curators of Terminala photographic exhibition on street poles in the Cape Town CBD – have asked artists to provide short stories and ‘sketches’ from or about the City. Curated by Jean Brundrit, Svea Josephy and Adrienne van Eeden-Wharton; participating artists Berni Searle, Lindeka Qampi, Nobukho Nqaba, Sipho Mpongo, Ashley Walters, Dave Southwood, Paul Weinberg, Dominique Edwards, Mandla Mnyakama, Brent Meistre, Svea Josephy, Angus MacKinnon, Kyle Morland, Robert Watermeyer and Haroon Gunn-Salie have considered the diverse connotations of Cape Town as ‘terminal’ – the City as related to boundaries, extremities or ends, junctions,  possibly something fatal, or even a new growth.

WITNESS, a site-specific exhibition by Haroon Gunn-Salie, occupies a home in Chapel Street, built as part of phase two of the District Six redevelopment programme, allocated to a family of land-restitution claimants. The body of work deals with still unresolved issues of forced removals and land compensation in District Six, and engages in narrative oral history through a series of social sculptures and installations. Gunn-Salie, a recent Michaelis School of Fine Art graduate, created the artworks in collaboration with four District Six veteran residents between 2011 and 2013. Participating collaborators are Ms Susan Lewis, Mrs Fasia Adams, Mr Abubaker Brown and Ms Zelda Hendricks.

Using a range of different spaces at the Prestwich Memorial site, Jazzart Dance Theatre considers issues of displacement, ritualised regeneration and rebirth. Known for a contemporary dance technique that combines the contemporary release of the body with the taut rhythmmic structures of classical African dance, the work of the company is synomyous with bringing to life issues of national importance. Their most recent work based on the writings of Steve Biko and directed by Mandla Mbothwe, featured at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

Tebogo Munyai’s Right Inside, presented at Prestwich Memorial and the Grand Parade, is a performance installation work that draws attention to issues of displacement and belonging. The artist also challenges the way in which performance is created, and the relationship between audience members and performers; encouraging audience members to reflect on the way in which they engage or (do not engage) with their community realities and to see into a world they choose to ‘not see’. Performers are enclosed in portable, freestanding structures referencing ‘shacks’. Audiences can walk around the performance area, enabling them to shift their viewpoint and proximity to the dancers.

The historic City Hall plays host to several performances. On the boundary of virtual and actual space, Gary Hartley’s SIMilar aligns programmed and performed movement pieces to explore the relationship between the represented and the embodied. In SIMilar, performers move parallel to their projected virtual counterparts. By placing the performers in the abstracted zone of the computer game The SIMs, and simultaneously in the tangible but also questionable performance space, this work interrogates ‘land’ in virtual and actual lived space.

Brought to South Africa by Pro Helvetia, Halfbreadtechnique (post-capitalism for beginners) is a funny and provocative performance guided by Swiss artist Martin Schick, that encourages audiences to discover the beauty of sharing. The result of an investigation about living in a ‘post-capitalist’ society, the piece raises the question of how much we need for our own personal prosperity and investigates the ‘more’ in the ‘less’.

Considering similar themes, the CMMN SNS PRJCT (Common Sense Project) proposes new trading opportunities and forms of exchange within the context of theatre, pushing the limits of theatrical fiction. Allowing for the criteria by which we act and think and according to which we make decisions, the habits and conventions that influence our activities, the things that we take as ‘normal’ and no longer question; the CMMN SNS PRJCT deals with social relationships and the gaps that can be created when operating beyond the logic of economic profit. Shick and fellow Argentinian-Swiss performer Laura Kalauz consider the intersections where intimacy and the unfamiliar meet.  An ode to incompleteness, the theatre becomes an arena of free trade and adventure, a space between voyeurism and participation.

LAND will take place at various spaces throughout the City of Cape Town from 21-24 November 2013. The event is kindly supported by the City of Cape Town’s Arts and Culture Department; and presented in association with Pro Helvetia, Iziko Museums of South Africa, the District Six Museum, Centre for African Studies (UCT) and African Centre for Cities (UCT), with thanks to the Green Point CID and St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.

Admission to LAND is free, but booking for the events at Prestwich Memorial, the District Six Museum’s Homecoming Centre, Iziko Slave Lodge, City Hall and the Land and Erasure tours are essential. For full programme details, consult www.gipca.uct.ac.za. To book, contact gipca.bookings@gmail.com

Please consult website regularly for additional programme information.
Download the LAND PROGRAMME – updated 2013_11_19

Photo credit: Kim Gurney: Cape Town Under, Haroon Gunn-Salie: Witness