Johannesburg

Wide Angle, Johannesburg, March 2011

Whilst visiting Johannesburg to present and exhibit at a Wide Angle Forum conference on previous artist-led workshops developed in London, Berlin and Barcelona, I initiated three separate photographic projects to examine social values and attitudes to public space: working with a groups of students from Wits University within the campus, with a collaborator Thato Mogotsi in the city centre, and documentary photography on the streets of Johennesburg in Soweto and Kliptown.

These photographs record excursions through the Old City area of Jo’burg capturing the intensive array of visual life there. As an artist it is in my nature to become active through experience, involving myself with a number of everyday happenings and incidents shaped by collaboration. Through this collaborative practice we explored the urban environment, devising ‘happenings’ in the public space in order to address issues of embodiment and self-expression, freedom and autonomy.

The city centre is a space that has been seemingly vacated, with economic changes redirecting investment elsewhere. Within a terrain of empty buildings and streets, where the public spaces are not occupied with a fully-functioning street life, people strive to express their individuality within the social realm, and try to find and express the human in an empty architectural landscape. This photographic project looks at the processes of meaning-making in the city, with a series of street performances and interventions both demonstrating and moving beyond the confines and limitations of socio-spatial norms. The younger generation are shown to be re-assessing the roles and functions of the institutions of the city, and the values they represent. Together with my collaborators we addressed the disjointed relationship between these young artists and wider society, with a call for a response and meaningful interaction though small interventions interlaced with the everyday activities of Jo’burg.

The collaborative projects were developed with staff and students from the Department of Fine Art, University of the Witwatersrand; specifically Natasha Christopher, Zen Marie, Louise Anguria, artist Andrew Esiebo, photographer Donald Tatenda Chipumha, in project partnership with Thato Mogotsi. The photographic project in Kliptown was developed with support from Bernard Viljoen, documenting the project Eat My Dust. My thanks and respects to Henrike Grohs and David Andrew. Additional thanks to Kaj Osteroth ,Naadira Patel and Thato Mogotsi for their ongoing support in organising the conference and exhibition.