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Arts Research Africa Dialogues

Arts Research Africa

These dialogues from the Wits School of Arts, Arts Research Africa project, are intended to stimulate practice, enable research, and inspire collective engagement around the question of Arts Research in Africa. Art lecturers and postgraduate students in the Wits School of Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, are grappling with the challenge of positioning arts research in an African context. These podcasts seek to develop a dialogue with both national and international practices and debates.

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Where do you look for lost water? - Artistic research, arts pedagogy, and environmental politics in the Global South. A dialogue between Prof Atul Bhalla and Prof David Andrew. Held on Wed 10 October CNS Smart Seminar Room, 1st Floor, Solomon Mahlangu House.
The recent ARA Artist in Residence in The Wits School of Arts, Athul Bhalla, is in dialogue with David Andrew about the experience of creating his installation Looking for Lost Water (Explorations at the Cradle) for the Watershed Conference, and the challenges of artistic research and arts teaching from a global South perspective. [PLEASE NOTE: Atul Bhalla's audio was recorded using a Skype feed from New Dehli. The poor sound quality was due to network problems during the recording.]
Atul Bhalla is Associate Professor, Department of Art Design and Performing Arts, Shiv Nadar University, Dehli. Professor Bhalla is a conceptual artist whose work has been exhibited widely in the US, the Pompidou Centre, Paris, Valencia, Spain, London, Shahjar and India. Professor Bhalla spent time in Johannesburg in 2012 as a fellow of the Nirox Foundation, exploring in particular illegal mining and water sources around the city. In 2018 he returned to Johannesburg to further this research project by creating his installation for the "Watershed: Art, Science and Elemental Politics" Conference at Wits.
David Andrew is Associate Professor and Head of the Division of Visual Arts at the Wits School of Arts. He studied at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, (BA Fine Arts 1985) and the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, (H Dip Ed (PG) 1986; PhD 2011). He is an artist and lectures in Fine Arts and Arts Education courses. HIs current research interests include the tracking of histories of arts education in South Africa and southern Africa more broadly; the Another Road Map School international research project; and the reimagining of the arts school and artistic research in the context of the Global South.
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Did the Watershed Conference bridge the Art-Science chasm? A dialogue between Prof Lenore Manderson and Christo Doherty.
This is the 7th dialogue in the Arts Research Africa, Creative Work Supervision series in The Wits School of Arts and was held on Wed 17 October.
Lenore Manderson conceptualised and directed the historic, Watershed: Art, science and elemental politics, conference at Wits this Septermber. The conference was driven by her conviction that art research practices are as necessary as physical science investigations to engage with the massive implications of climate change and pollution, ecological crises and environmental justice, particularly in South Africa.
The conference brought together artists, engineers, scientists, and activists, recognising them as people working in distinctive ways on knowledge systems, stewardship, water insecurity and threats to planetary survival. Practicing artists, from India, USA, Peru, and South Africa were a central component of Watershed, presenting their work in the form of installations; performance interventions and walks; poetry and book readings; and exhibitions across the Wits campus; while also engaging with the discourse of scientists, engineers, and activists in panel discussions and seminars.
In this dialogue Doherty and Manderson discuss the background to the conference and the international experiences which informed the curation of the event. They also address the effectiveness of such an event to create new forms of engagement and new imaginings of the issues raised by questioning water in a transforming society.
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In this ARA dialogue, we look at the changing relationship between ethnographies and art practice as research in Africa.
The dialogue was prompted by the recent workshop on African ethnographies which was organised by Dr Jung Ran Annachiara Forte and Prof Sakhumzi Mfecane from the Department of Anthropolog and Sociology at the University of the Western Cape as part of the ongoing African Critical Inquiry Programme.
The workshop was intended to prompt reflection around the concept and practices of ethnograpy which the workshop organisers describe as "slippery, changing, dense, polysemic, and composed of a plurality of voices". And in a formulation that resonates with the manner in which artistic research practice is often understood, they describe contemporary African ethnography as enabling "conceptual work that transcends simple divides between the empirical, the methodological, and the theoretical." Of particular relevance to these dialogues, one of the major aims of the workshop was "to re-rethink ethnography from the African continent."
In this ARA dialogue, three Wits colleagues who attended the workshop will be discussing the changing relationship between ethnographies and artistic practice as research with particular reference to their own work at Wits in the light of the African Ethnographies workshop.
Prof Brett Pyper, Principal Investigator on the Arts Research Africa project and Head of the Wits School of Arts is in discussion with Dr Nosipho Mngomezulu and Dr George Mahashe, both lecturers in Wits Anthropology.
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This is a podcast of the 5th dialogue in the Arts Research Africa, Creative Work Supervision series in The Wits School of Arts, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.
Entitled “Can we go beyond the Readymade? - the creation of new artistic works and the art of collaboration (within an academic environment)”, this was a dialogue between ARA Artist in Residence, Dr Kathleen Tagg, and Dr Cameron Harris from the Wits Music Department, held on Wed 12 September 2018.
In this podcast Kathleen Tagg and Cameron Harris reflect on the lessons learn from her creative collaboration with a group of 4th year Music Composition students from Wits Music Department which was inspired by the visual art exhibition at the Wits Art Museum, Beyond the Readymade, curated by Dr Alison Kearney.
Dr Kathleen Tagg, currently an Arts Research Africa Artist in Residence in the Wits School of Arts, is a 2014-15 Composition Fellow of the Dramatist Guild of America, and is a pianist, composer, producer and music director based in New York City. Over the past decade she has been prolific as a songwriter, but has also written for combinations as diverse as symphony orchestra, choir, string quartet, piano with electronics and six-piece band.
Kathleen holds the Helen Cohn Award as outstanding Doctoral graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, where she taught for four years, as well as well as degrees from Mannes College and the University of Cape Town. She is currently on the faculty of SongFest in Los Angeles.
Dr Cameron Harris is Senior Lecturer in the Music Department in the Wits School of Arts, were he teaches music theory and electroacoustic composition. He was the chair of NewMusicSA, the South African section of the International Society for Contemporary Music from 2008 until 2012 and has curated a number of festivals for the organization including New Music Indaba festival, and the Unyazi electronic music festival. He is currently on the board of the ‘Bowed Electrons’ music
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In this ARA dialogue I speak to Professor Sharlene Khan and Fouad Asfour about the recent African Feminisms (Afems) Conference which was held at the Wits School of Arts from 5 to 7th September.
Sharlene and Fouad were both organizers of the conference together with Lynda Gichanda Spencer. Sharlene is an associate professor in the department of Fine Arts at the Wits School of Arts and is a visual artist whose multi-media work focuses on the socio-political realities of a post-apartheid society and the intersectionality of race-gender-class. Fouad is a writer, editor and publisher who organises independent spaces for discourse and artistic collaboration. He is currently a visiting research associate in the Wits School of Arts.
The conference is the third in a series of annual events that bring together African feminists for two days of intellectual engagement, art, and networking. With an insistence on the centrality of creative practice to African feminist thinking, the conference was an intense amalgam of conventional academic forms such as academic papers, keynotes, panel discussions together with performances, art exhibitions, creative dialogues, and book launches.
Amongst the topics covered in this dialogue are:
the background and history of the Afems conferences;
the relationship between the history of the conference and intergenerational black feminist scholarship in Africa;
the central role of creativity in black women's creation of self and identity; and the challenges of staging the conference on Wits campus during a turbulent week of politics, and particularly gender-based politics in the city and South Africa;
the plans for the future of the conference, including an innovative approach towards crowd-funding.
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