A feature on some of the diverse research projects and curated exhibitions produced by the 2015 Honours in Curatorship class. 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. More research projects will be posted in a second post soon.

MEMORY IN MOTION – Metaphors in the archives of dance and trauma

Curated by Nala Xaba

We give life to our idea of self not by the experiences we have but by how we remember them. How we remember the experiences of our parents and theirs is just as puissant.

The term ‘postmemory’ describes this relationship tothe memories of their collective trauma – how we can never fully understandnor recreate them through the documents we read, stories we are told andpictures we are shown. Yet, still, we feel them so deeply through our imaginative projections, that they sometimes threaten to overshadow and displace our own narratives, forcing us to process pain, guilt, anger, which is not ours to have.

The word ‘choreography’ itself is derived from ‘Orchesgraphie’: “the writing of the dance”. Artists such as Trisha Brown, Andy Warhol and others have explored how bodily motion can be fixed in two dimensions by translating it into various drawn and recorded forms. Movement theorists, such as Rodulf von Laban, have developed systems of dance and movement notation to perform this same arrest in a standardised, transferable manner.

My exhibition draws a metaphor between tensions: that of dance’s inherent resistance to veracious documentation, and (post)memory’s resistance to faithful transferal through imperfect, national and familial archives. Dance drawings,both exposed and hidden – like memory itself – catch fragmented projections of struggle memories, and the post-struggle generation remembering them.

Memory in Motion catalyses perception of this vicarious baggage of the postgeneration, its weight on our lived experience and its contribution to our disillusionment at the New-Old South Africa, in which movements like#FeesMustFall remain painfully relevant.

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An exploration of digital presence in Cape Town museums

By Alex Abrahams 

In this essay I analyse ways in which four museum exhibitions in Cape Town utilise digital curation. Digital curation encompasses tools and technology as well as digital media literacy. The museum exhibitions I discuss are the Springbok Experience, Tutankhamun: His tomb and his treasures, the South African Jewish Museum and the District Six Museum. I use the concepts of robotism and participatory practice to locate these exhibitions in the digital age. Robotism refers to a quality of the electronic age that allows for decentralised thought patterns and global connectivity. Participatory practice refers to interactive experience, critical enquiry and civic engagement. Key elements of project design are used to structure the descriptions of the exhibitions; this is supplemented by the use of photographs. I acknowledge the digital divide and discuss how it manifests in these exhibitions. I conclude by arguing that the digital presence of an exhibition is a function of both technological and cultural factors.

Cape Town’s Memorial Landscape: Symbols of Betrayal

By Muvhuti Barnabas Ticha

The City of Cape Town’s public spaces are occupied by statues and monuments that remind its inhabitants of an oppressive and painful apartheid and colonial past. Many of these emblems are of Afrikaans heritage.This biased representation betrays and alienates the majority of the City’s residents, and does injustice to the City’s claim to be a home “for all people.” These memorials are not far from the City’s central business district, and are within walking distance from each other. The City of Cape Town only adopted a Memorialisation Policy at the end of July in 2015 – arguably due to ‘transformation’ becoming such a topical issue in the media space in South Africa. The influence of movements such as the Rhodes Must Fall Movementat the University of Cape Town, as well as political opposition such as the Economic Freedom Fighters, in demanding transformation in the nation’s leading institutions ought to be acknowledged. In line with the curatorial nature of this project, I have focused on the Iziko Castle of Good Hope Monument, part of the Nobel Square Memorial, and the statues of Maria de la Queillerie, Louis Botha and Cecil John Rhodes. The City of Cape Town has to work on improving the memorial landscape so that it reflects the diverse groups that make it such a complex, multicultural city.

Re: Spoons – Curatorial conversations 

Curated by Antonia Bamford

The act of turning an ordinary, everyday, found object into an art form has been popular since the early twentieth century. Surrealist artists, such as Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Cornell and Meret Oppenheim, are among those known for this kind of artistic repurposing.

The spoons in this exhibition demonstrate the transformation of an object from domestic utensil through decorative object, to contemporary art – tracing the shifting significance of its materiality. Through showcasing the manufacturing processes and the changing contexts of prior use, the exhibition invites conversations centered on the changing lives of these spoons.

A personal affinity for spoons as souvenirs of my travels, has turned into a curatorial journey, bringing together materials, designs and techniques from across South Africa, Africa and the United Kingdom. Collecting spoons and documenting the skill behind their making has involved collaborations and conversations, and formed an archive, which reveals the interpretive potential of these objects and invites awareness of the relationships between object, text and subject.

The labels give the provenance of each spoon, allowing viewers to engage with the histories of these everyday utensils, found objects, formal collections and commissions from artists. Bringing a disparate group of spoons together in this exhibition, creates a new set of relationships and the possibility for new insights into material culture.

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Through Glass 

Curated by Daniël Geldenhuys

Fashion is not just about clothes. It is the way clothes are seen: the way they fold, swish and pose for the camera. When clothes perform they become fashion: you can be the performer or the spectator. Either way, you are standing on one side of a glass layer that mediates the fashion performance.

The glass layer, be it a photographer’s lens, the screen of a device live-streaming a runway show, or any type of display cabinet, has a direct effect on the object it displays. My installation allows the visitor to stand in a projection of runway or photographer footage on opposing sides of a room, seeing themselves reflected as spectators or part of the spectacle in a traditional museum display case.

The aforementioned display mediums are a defining feature of fashion. When assessing their agency through the lens of ideologically-charged curatorial examples, such as EntarteteKunstand Magiciens de la Terre, yet another statement can be made about these display mediums. In addition to how they prompt a fashion performance and mediate the way viewers experience fashion, they play a curatorial role in making fashion desirable to the global market in the ways that they decontextualize, recontextualise and, in the case of runway coverage, transmit the vision of the designer.

When fashion is successfully curated in a museum setting, such as the case study of Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty shows, elements of these display mediums are still drawn on, but their functions change completely. They no longer prompt a sense of desire, or allow the viewer different avenues through which to access fashion. The only function that remains is that the clothes are still performing for a glass sheet – in this instance, the display case.

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What Time Is It?  WTII

Curated by Michelle Mlati

What Time Is It? (WTII) is an intertemporal project of indicting the linear progress of imperial modernity that denied black subjects the right to belong to the enlightenment project. It argues that modernity was founded on slavery in the middle passage of black Atlantic temporality, leading to Toni Morrison’s argument that ‘‘slaves were the first moderns because they underwent real conditions of existential homelessness, alienation, dislocation, and dehumanization that philosophers such as Nietzsche would later define as quintessentially modern’’ (Kodwo Eshun, 2003: 288). This renders modernity forever suspect. It uses this space to address contemporary issues of displacement caused by gentrification in both South Africa and the United Kingdom and highlights concealed histories where black people have progressively contributed to society. It uses a series of 12 sun clocks to talk about a global African history from the Atlantic Slave Trade in 1400. It surmises that the things that have gone unseen are those that are audible which are more brilliant than the sun. It is also a criticism of art history that has appraised visual culture and substantially undermined aural culture, thereby creating an audio-visual-mobile experience.

The exhibition is set in a cultural desert in the year 3000 when poorer communities have been shifted from their homes and community centres due to rent increases. The only surviving thing within this age of super modernity is the speaker which voices their grievances made many years ago (which consists of real interviews I conducted with these communities this year). It is set in the middle passage of black Atlantic temporality which can be viewed as a non-place or ”third space” of political empowerment, described by Homi Bhabha as a transitional space where culture is located. Most importantly the question of what the time is, is posed towards the viewer to re-think the notion of progress within an alienating space, to come to terms with the self, to rethink personal and collective responsibility. In particular, being black – the definition of being black and an individual, or black and something else – is shifting where blackness is not the entirety of who a person is. It proposes a post-black era, which addresses a shifting understanding of blackness to address blackness in a multicultural and multinational environment.

It is grounded by the framework of Afrofuturism which is described by Ytasha Womack as the intersection of the ”imagination, technology, the future, and liberation’’. It has a dual nature of the critical and utopian to not just critique and create content, but to use the latter to found structures of emplacement to contain that content where there isn’t one within the built environment, to curate for permanence for marginalized communities. It addresses issues of displacement beyond race within the disciplinary realm of art, curatorship, politics, public policy and urban planning, using concepts of postblackness, postapartheid, posthumanism and postcolonialism to address structural issues that are fundamentally classist, racist and complex. It elaborates on John Clammer’s notion of visual justice defined as the right of everyone, and not just the rich, to beautiful and pleasing environments, physically, culturally and architecturally (Clammer, 2015: 11). WTII further conceptualizes ‘‘sonic’’ justice as the right of everyone to pleasing audio-social / audio-spatial environments, such as music venues, public facilities and social landscapes that contribute to an aurally pleasing environment physically, culturally and acoustically. It interrogates ‘‘mobility’’ justice to explore the unequal experience in how the marginalized occupy space. This is to negotiate the making of structures of emplacement within the built environment, to enhance an equal inhabitation of architectural,‘‘cultural’’ or public spaces and landscapes.

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 Interested to find out about more of the research projects conducted this year? See our website again on Monday.