Archive: Issue No. 55, March 2002

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Ralph Borland

Ralph Borland, Jessica Findley and Margot Jacobs in ceremonial conflict suits

Art at Work

Art at Work
Earth Ball project

Dynamo Kiev football club

L/B (lang/baumann)
Drawing on the stadium of Dynamo Kiev football club, November 2001

Beyond the Gallery: Art in Public Spaces

What is "public art"? Where can it be seen? What role can it play in the transformation processes of South Africa? Are our city planners paying enough attention to it? Can it change your life? These and other questions will be addressed in an international symposium entitled 'Beyond the Gallery: Art in Public Spaces' to take place from March 15 to 17 in Cape Town. Originally scheduled to take place at Spier Wine Estate, the venue has been moved to the Cape Technikon in District Six.

Planned as a core event of the Cape Town festival, the symposium has been organised by Public Eye, a Section 21 company dedicated to initiating new public art projects. Artists, city planners, architects and community organisers have been invited to make presentations in a series of panels which will look at what is being done - or not being done - in the field of public art, both here and internationally.

Speakers have been drawn not only from South Africa, but from the rest of Africa and the world. From the Ivory Coast, Professor Yacouba Konate will talk on 'Short Adventures in Public Art in Black Africa'. From Chicago, Gregory Sholette will talk on REPOHistory, an 11-year-old artists' collective that has produced over a dozen collaborative art projects around the unknown or forgotten histories of working-class men and women, minorities and children. From Germany, performance pair Art at Work will show videos of their crowd-based public performances on such issues as racism and environmental abuse which have taken place around the world.

Other speakers are Ahmedy Vawda, former director of community development for the city of Cape Town; Dorothee Kreutzfeldt, co-curator of the Joubert Park Project in Johannesburg; Iain Low, architect and urban planner; French artist Francois Davin; Swiss artists lang/baumann; Cape Town critic Melvyn Minnaar; Virginia MacKenny of the Technikon Natal; Sabine Marschall from the University of Durban/Westville; and performance artist Robin Rhode. Ex-Michaelis student Ralph Borland, now based in New York, will send a video on some recent activists' and artists' projects for reclaiming public space, from Las Agencias' line of Pret a Revolter protective clothing for direct action street protests, to MIT's Brad Pitt (no, not that one) and his Bikewriter device, which turns your bicycle into a graffiti machine. Borland will show some of his own work with "ceremonial conflict-suits".

Opening on Friday evening at the old Moravian Chapel in District Six, the symposium will be initiated with a keynote speech by the interdisciplinary Professor Jane Taylor of the Skye Chair of Dramatic Art at the University of Witwatersrand, who, in a paper entitled 'Inside/Out' will explore the complexities which lie within question of who precisely the public is, and what is intended by the catchall phrase "the public". Dance director Jay Pather will show extracts from a work in progress in which dancers interact with public spaces in Durban. A finger supper on the lawns of the chapel will follow.

The main day of the symposium will be Saturday March 16, with four panels addressing such questions as memorialisation and the commemoration of the past; how previously tainted spaces can be reclaimed; the sensitising of the public on social issues through art projects, and public and performance art in cyberspace. The venue will be a lecture hall in the Commerce Building of the Cape Technikon.

On Sunday, in a closed session, invited speakers and special guests will give feedback on the previous day's proceedings, and pursue questions that have arisen, exploring possible collaborative projects for the future.

Booking for the Friday evening and Saturday events is through Computicket. The opening evening will cost R60 including supper, and the four panel discussions on Saturday, including teas and lunch, will cost R100. A student discount of 15% will be available with a card.

The sponsors for the symposium are the Cape Town City Council, National Arts Council, Pro Helvetia, SDC - Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, IFAS - the French Institute of South Africa, the United States Embassy, AFAA - Programme Afrique en Créations and the Royal Netherlands Embassy.

The symposium director is Sue Williamson, assisted by Julia Clark; the organiser is Dale Dodgen, and the Public Eye Co-ordinator is Robert Weinek. Inquiries can be directed to Dale Dodgen at 082 417 5166 or

Click here for the full programme.