Thursday, 10 September 2015

09:00 – 11:00     Archives & Authorship and Artistic Practices: Chaired by Churchill Madikide

Of Culture and Politics: A Delayed Response to Albie Sachs and the Like

Athi Mongezeledi Joja

The role cultural production in post 1994 South Africa has been quite ambiguous and ambivalent. This essay is a delayed response to 1990s array of articles written by judge Albie Sachs and subsequently, the many respondents whose essays are either contained in the book Preparing Ourselves for Freedom and other independently published essays. I try to show how the terms of this debate, the thesis by Sachs, successfully frames and somewhat enjoys hegemony as the reigning paradigm across most contending views on cultural production. By this I mean that more generally artistic production tends to subscribe to the ideological presuppositions that underwrite the ANC even when critical of the status quo. By way of critiquing recent trends across different plains of artistic and cultural production, I argue for a clearer program of repoliticization of the artistic space, theory and practice as means to reconfigure critical artistic imagination.

The Nostalgic Turn: Colonial Aesthetics and Post-Apartheid Ethics

Zamansele Nsele

The critics of nostalgia are justly concerned about the ethics of remembering fondly a “traumatic” past. These concerns are warranted because they caution against the abuse of memory in a ritualised repetitious manner that is blindly reverential about the past (Coullie 2013). “Memory breathes revenge as often as it breathes reconciliation” (Margalit in Coullie 2013). In the Global South, particularly within the visual arts, the evocation of nostalgia would inevitably entail recalling systemic racialised oppressions such as: slavery, colonialism, apartheid through an aesthetic lens. As Marcus Wood (2001) interrogates, “Art which describes or responds to trauma and mass murder always embodies paradox. How can aesthetic criteria be applied to describe the torture and mass destruction of our own kind?” The archive has been at the centre of numerous exhibitions in contemporary art; this paper looks into an emergent nostalgic turn, in art and curatorial practice. Moreover, this paper wrestles with the ethical demands of an undeniable colonial aesthetic emblazoned in the archive. How does nostalgia enable liberatory praxis? What kinds of decolonising methodologies are employed in contemporary visual art, which facilitate alternative readings of the past, readings that are ethically committed to an aspirational future? (Stevens, Duncan and Hook 2013:22). This paper is an attempt to understand how the recent emergence of nostalgia calls upon ethical considerations in the practice of contemporary archival art.


11:15 – 12: 15    Publishing Discussion

13:30 – 15:30       Space & CurrencyChaired by Nontobeko Ntombela

Race, Space: The Creative field and economic power

Londiwe Langa

In this paper I am engaging with the concept of spaces of cultural difference by looking at my pursuit for economic ownership and agency of spaces that generate cultural difference, and where I have experienced direct limitations and blockages and how much of this has had to do with my race and cultural interests. I attempt to make sense of what the implications of this disproportionate economic power means, to the creative expression and production of black creative. Being in an industry economically dominated by a white minority- this being a direct outcome of the white populous being beneficiaries of economic power and cultural advantage, created by the Apartheid regime and colonial era- has not surprisingly created a social order in which people of colour have had very little economic power to realise and determine what Homi Bhabha (1994) calls spaces of cultural difference. If the white minority enjoys a stronghold on the creative economy then to what extent can there be an expectation of radical racial and structural shifts of control within the creative field? Whilst the South African government endeavours to shift the racial disparities and transform the unbalanced economy within the creative sector; this coupled with the tireless challenges posed by independent thinkers and creative practitioners on the problematic racial and ideological state of the field; the economic power of sector remains stubbornly stagnant in its racial make up. What could be extracted from such a study towards putting forward possible strategies shifts towards accelerating the transformation of economic power within the creative sector.

Bhabha, H.K. 1994. The Location of Culture. New York: Routledge.

Remembering of outside the institution: Oume se Huis 

Tiffany Mentoor

Although art and its history have never had exclusive borders, in South Africa it continues to be rooted in colonial thinking and a western understanding of how art should be appreciated. The quest to define art has only exposed its expansion into other territories, venturing away from these western systems of understanding. Artists and art historians are to the humanities what doctors without borders are to the medical sciences. Creatives such as artist Fred Wilson, band The Brother Moves On, and in literature, Chris van Wyk, move between these boundaries. Arts practitioners have broadened the meaning of art including a wide range of media and technique, which do not necessarily conform to western notions of art practice. There has been a shift in thinking and engaging with art, steadily moving away from imposed tradition.

This paper hopes to investigate and explore the way that artists and art practitioners negotiate these western spaces and how new ways of working and understanding art are developed within and outside of these systems.