Public Art in Joburg – the West Side Story Part 1

Taking a walk in Joburg’s inner-city city may just surprise you for all the right reasons… [The brilliant photos are by Wesley Poon]

Ask anyone who lives here to describe the city of Joburg and they rarely extol its beauty. Mostly they point out it’s a city without a sea and until the Nelson Mandela Bridge it was a city without any remarkable landmarks that aren’t communication towers or apartment blocks. And those are the polite remarks.

Over the past five years, it’s a little known fact that the city has installed an impressive and growing number of public artworks – at last count at more than 50 sites. In 2006 a strategy was put in place to use public art as a way of fulfilling a range of Joburg’s developing needs. It called for a public art levy, a common global practice, that would devote up to one percent of the construction budget on major city building projects to this end. This was implemented by the Johannesburg Development Agency at a time when the city has been undergoing something of a boom, and it will continue.

The unofficial public art in the city - District 9

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Tate Modern’s Chris Dercon at Joburg Art Fair

There was something disturbing about listening to Tate Modern’s Chris Dercon at the FNB Joburg Art Fair this weekend. Dercon’s talk was titled “Audiences: How much do we really care?”. It’s a good question, and one that requires an urgent response in a world where every medium, be it visual arts or newspapers and everything in between is being challenged by an economy ruled by a surplus of information and a deficit of attention.

Tate Modern Director Chris Dercon, photo from vintageyoga.typepad.com (who clearly got it from somewhere else)

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It’s the Joburg Art Fair. Head for Sandton

It’s the Art Fair. It’s the Art Fair. I don’t usually blog pre- an event, preferring to experience it for myself before I tell anyone it’s worth doing. But the FNB Joburg Art Fair is a sure thing. Opening night (by invitation only) happens tomorrow and then from Friday morning until Sunday afternoon there’s art and more art, framed and named, performances, appearances, talks of all sorts and lots of of other things in between.

Mikhael Subotzky & Patrick Waterhouse, Blue Ponte / Red Ponte I – IX, 2011

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Willem Boshoff’s SWAT at the Goodman Gallery

The last time I wrote about artist Willem Boshoff I called him a messiannic bergie, and I meant that in the nicest possible way. Last night he was at it again, this time outside the Goodman Gallery in Parkwood, as the crowds rolled in for the opening of his latest exhibition SWAT.

SWAT, 2011 by Willem Boshoff


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Design Indaba 2011, Day 1 and a half

As is my mood I go from feeling like the poor relation to being smug about my tiny teeny carbon footprint. And when I am not feeling envious of all those who are in Cape Town for the event I start loving the idea of being at the Design Indaba Joburg simulcast – all of 10 minutes from home – at the University of Johannesburg.
Yesterday was day one of what has been billed as 72 hours of creativity. It wasn’t as much of a BIG NAME IN LIGHTS all-star line-up as I had hoped for and it was more portfolio than big ideas about design and the future but the speakers made for an interesting mix:  from American graphic designer Dana Arnett [Harley-Davidson and IBM] whose amusing video about the designer and their client – “Can you make that logo a hair bigger? … My logos are not to be read. They are to be communed with” Continue reading

Attend the Design Indaba in Johannesburg

Get excited about this year’s Design Indaba as Cape Town’s premier event will be in Joburg next week. With the main conference sold out in CT the organisers have come up with simulcast events in both cities. I am planning to attend DI2011: A Better World Through Creativity, at the Arts Centre Theatre of the University of Johannesburg, Kingsway Campus, for the three-day programme starting Wednesday next week.

I have been to the Design Indaba Expo a few times and last attended Design Indaba on its 10th anniversary in 2007. Then I was watching a presentation on Germany’s World Cup Fan Fests and trying to imagine what World Cup 2010 would be like. Done that!

I am a huge fan of this event that brings together an incredible array of creative minds to share their experiences and inspiring works. It’s the South African equivalent of TED, just a whole lot more stylish. In 2007 my favourite presenters included Professor Neil Gershenfeld, Director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms (just the name of that centre would have been enough) who spoke about small-scale project centres that enabled people from severely un-advantaged communities to take part in creating technology and not just consuming it. It was brought together under the idea of “personalising fabrication”  – that if you give ordinary people access to modern means of invention – a lab – you get extraordinary things. Continue reading

Public art in Joburg/the world comes to Sandton

Marcus Neustetter's "Erosion"

Go to Sandton Square for the Public Art around the World exhibition. On Tuesday night on a corner of Sandton – called Burghers Walk – I was last at during the height of World Cup fever I witnessed an extraordinary performance by Marcus Neustetter. Titled “Erosion” it involved thousands of brilliantly-lit neon glowsticks being thrown down a stairway in the darkness by a troupe of performers dressed in workman’s overalls who then proceeded to sweep up every last brilliant piece of light, bundling them back into trashcans to be carried off. A comment on the fragility and impermanence of the world of imagination and dreams, Continue reading

Braamfontein’s 70 Juta Street and Pieter Hugo

Protea wallpaper

Protea wallpaper

#216. Saturday morning in brilliant sunshine we took a walk along the hip stretch of Juta Street in Braamfontein. Braamfontein’s re-imagining is more than talk and the colourful little complex of stores and offices on 70 Juta Street bears this out [It officially opened last weekend]. We started off at POST for their homemade lemonade and a tasty snack-sized prego roll. With its glass front POST is a perfect spot to sip something while observing street life (in this city of malls and walls that’s a luxury). Continue reading

Joburg master class with David Goldblatt and Ivan Vladislavic

#215. Explore the double negative. I spent last Saturday at the Goodman Gallery listening to Ivan Vladislavic and David Goldblatt in conversation about their limited double edition [TJ and Double Negative] with the delightful Marlene van Niekerk [author of the award-winning Triomf and Agaat] who had been coaxed from Stellenbosch to speak with the “masters of Joburg”. Both of whom, in her words, have a commitment to the “the reductive mysteries of things as they are”. Warm, full of wit and nuance, the conversation took some interesting turns Continue reading

Apple iPhone4 – here today, jewellery tomorrow

#212. With Apple’s iPhone4 just released locally and Moore’s Law showing no signs of leniency our world is increasingly being filled up with piles of techno-junk. As an early adopter of all things new when it comes to technology,  I have now found a way to offset the environmental hazards of my habit. His name is Kevin Friedman, from Frankli Wild Studio in Norwood and he loves Apple Macs, so much so that given the opportunity he will solder, shape, beat and fashion them into something for you or your wall to wear.

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