Part 2 of a feature on some of the diverse research projects and curated exhibitions produced by the 2015 Honours in Curatorship class (see Part 1 here). Note that Honours in Curatorship students are given two options for their research project – writing a dissertation; or writing a dissertation and producing a curated project/exhibition.
Sonic Display: Expanding the Sensorium in Curatorial Practice
By Charis de Kock
This paper addresses the continued exclusion of the senses from visuocentric curatorial practices. It argues that this visuocentricity limits the possibilities for varied and affective exhibition experiences, and ignores the complexity of the human sensorium. It specifically suggests that sound, as a phenomenon that fosters feelings of affect, embodiment, and immersion, should be considered more often and more seriously as a curatorial device in its own right. The paper looks to perceptual psychology to prove that perception is multimodal, and as such the senses cannot be separated and isolated from one another, but rather work as one fluid, interconnected system. Thus, art exhibitions that include multi-sensory elements will engage and expand the sensorium by acknowledging the visitor to be a fully embodied sensorial agent, and thus broaden the possibilities for different modes of interpretation, mediation, and subjectivity.
Curated by Sinazo Chiya
Rough hewn and minimal, this exhibition came about as an embodiment of a paper that sought to examine how art is constituted. The aim was to display how symbolic meanings displace materialities, neutralizing provocation and incoherence. The works in the show all occupy precarious positions as objects. A Poem About Letting Goby Saskia Druyan is constituted of soil, an animal’s skull and bird nests. Regardless of its aesthetically pleasing composition, the shrine-like work is an illustration of how art has the capacity to transform organic debris into something valuable and meaningful. If Henry Matisse Met Nicki MinajIn Arcadia,by SiwaMgoboza meshes high art and pop culture in an imaginary post-colonial utopia. The work illustrates how the preeminence of high-art and its institutional entrenchment can render even pop-cultural references cerebral.
On a more literal note, Byron Eksteen uses cardboard stolen from a movie poster in a mixed media work called Now It Knows. The explicitly graphic painting depicts the evisceration of creativity by institutional forces. Finally, the exhibition features The New Aesthetic by Callan Greciaa series of digital paintings. Displayed by projector, the works are at the mercy of light-conditions and technology. The properties of paintings that make the medium significant are void; there are no brush strokes with which to trace the hand of the artist.
All these works fail in the project of creating Non-Art which is makes the project successful as evidencing the institutional theories of Georgie Dickie and Arthur Danto. With this exhibition, the viewer gets to see how there is no ‘outside’ of Art after being initiated.
Theatre of Memory
Adele van Heerden
My project, titled Theatre of Memory, consisted of a written thesis accompanied by a creative project. The exhibition displayed various objects embedded with memory, both personal and institutional. Objects relating to personal memory were collected from friends and family, while objects of institutional memory were loaned from the UCT Libraries’ Special Collections. The objects loaned from Special Collections were objects relating to the early establishing of the South African Nation State and the University of Cape Town. These objects embody the memory and narrative of a collective, or group of people, rather than personal memories belonging to a single person.
It became clear that objects relating to personal memory often related to the personal memory of loved ones, or the remembering of specific important moments in the individual’s life. The tricycle, which belonged to my partner and his father before him, dragging along cabinets and memory objects made itself known to me as a device for personifying the idea progress and the passage of time, which is often implied by the museum. I chose to draw the objects as I collected them, getting to know them by observing and externalizing them in the form of micron ink pen drawings. Through these object studies, I found relationships between them in my mind.
The copper wire, connecting the tricycle to all the other objects and cabinets became the thread linking the objects of personal and institutional memory together.
Through the research I undertook for my thesis it became clear that objects, through their ability to trigger emotions and memory, interact with the social identity of individuals and groups alike. Remembrance, as an individual act or a collective habit, occurs through the encountering, collection and care of objects. This response to objects has gained an important place in the lives of individuals, leading to the creation of a separate category of objects dedicated to being material reminders of the past.
Community-Focused Museum: Collaboration as a significant component for contemporary museum practice
By Gcotyelwa Mashiqa
The role of the museum has changed from being curator-centred to an audience or community centred space. Museums have taken communities as partners in their programmes and activities. The involvement of the community in the production of different events brings on board many previously unheard voices into the museum space. This adds a wider range of views, experiences and values to the voice of the museum.
The research object investigated in this paper is viewers as co-creators of the cultural object’s meaning, and it highlights approaches that museums can adopt to make visitors feel comfortable and accepted. This is especially true for the visitors whose histories are being told from a perspective they find alien. is this paper’s aim that museums prioritize interpretation towards the needs of the viewer by placing the viewer in the “right frame of mind’ to engage with objects/exhibits.
Viewers as co-creators of meaning-making will require a change in the professional practices of the museum, where interpretation is something which is done for others – to point out the significance of certain works or to construct a display-based narrative. The museum can no longer treat its visitors as mere consumers of knowledge but should see them as contributors in the meaning-making process. Therefore, museums should place more emphasis on collaborative work by involving the viewer/community in decision-making. This leads to healthy and sustainable partnerships in which communities will treasure these institutions. It is about time that museums adopt collaborative methods which go a long way in dismantling the colonial model. This paper accompanied by the curatorial project encourages collaboration between museums and their communities.
It Runs in the family: The creation of the Ordinary Archive of Extra-ordinary Times
By Nina Carew
This project locates itself on the threshold of private-and-public space, between past-and-present memories within a fraught South African society. It looks at the notions of home and belonging through the lens of five houses in Harfield Village, a southern suburbs area of Cape Town. It draws closely to the traumatic experiences felt by those whose sacred spaces were invaded, as well as the need for awareness when moving into such homes. I explore the personal ties I have to the area as my own genealogy adds to the skewed archeological of lives. It reveals the frustratingly necessary and painfully relevant exploration into South African histories that have not been dealt with.
The foundations of apartheid were based on an exploitative colonial conquest. Harfield Village was declared a ‘white-only’ area in 1969, forcibly removing an entire community. Black dispossession and white ownership created binaries within common social practice; oppressor-oppressed, presence-absence, white-‘non-white’, dividing families and rendering voices mute.
Family photographs and recipe books act as a point of departure into the interior of the home. Boxes represent a means of archival preservation, remembering tangible traces of past moments, as well as the direct link to physical movement in and out of the sacred space of the home. The archive reveals, in itself, the direct link it has to apartheid supremacy. Jacques Derrida’s theory states that there is no political power without power of the archive, challenging us to consider what gets written out of archives, more so than what is included. The acknowledgement of the ‘void in the inventory’ presents a gap in the apartheid archive, where, what was absent can now be remembered. This gap has allowed for the creation of the ordinary archive of extra-ordinary times. Domestic photographs trigger intimate memories, offering a new form of extended intimacy, sharing, and knowledge of the apartheid regime in affecting the interiority of the family home. Such stories are re-told within the ordinary archive.
The Martin, Mustapha and Thorne archives look at the invasion of the home, as they were all subject to forced removals in the 1970’s. The Rosenberg and Carew archives are from the opposite side of the extremity, addressing white privilege and the need for awareness within such emotionally charged spaces of the home. Everyday accounts were explored through domestic photographs, addressing what is important regarding the notion of home runs in the family.
Shared skewed histories, from both sides of the extremity, connects and creates the fibrous links that run in the family, recognizing the similarities of social practice within these shared sacred spaces. The fundamental appreciation of all human life, especially the sacred space of the home, is restored within the four walls of the archives. The documentation of the archeology of lives is seen in the selection of photographs, alongside intimate re-readings of these social objects. Histories that are separate due to apartheid now run on one continuum as shared experiences of such fraught and unequal histories.