Arts Research Africa Dialogues

ARTS RESEARCH AFRICA  |  Podcast , ±45 min episodes every 6 weeks, 5 days  | 
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 Artistic 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 artistic research in an African context. These podcasts seek to develop a dialogue with both national and international practices and debates.

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ARA Podcast - The Hybrid model of Performance-Research: A conversation with Mark Fleishman

In this ARA dialogue I speak with Mark Fleishman, Professor and Head of the Centre for Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies, University of Cape Town and artistic director (together with Jennie Reznik and Mandla Mbothwe) of Magnet Theatre, an independent theatre company he established in Cape Town in 1987.
Mark has been a leading figure in the development of Performance-Research both in South Africa and Internationally. Since 2008, he has been an active member of the Performance as Research Working Group of the IFTR, and was co-convenor of the group from 2009-2013. His frequently-cited articles have appeared in the South African Theatre Journal, Contemporary Theatre Review, and Theatre Research International. He is also editor of Performing Migrancy and Mobility in Africa: Cape of Flows, in the Studies in International Performance series at Palgrave (2016).
At the same time, Mark has been active in professional theatre practice. His works for Magnet involve development projects in urban townships and rural communities using theatre as a tool for social justice and transformation.

In this discussion we explore Mark's trajectory from a person primarily involved in theatre practice to becoming an academic and researcher in performance. Mark also expands on the thinking and experiences behind the paper he presented at the ARA2020 conference on artistic research in Africa, at Wits in January, and explains the hybrid model of research that has evolved from his work that spans the fluid space between independent theatre, the university, and the activist community. We also discuss strategic alliances necessary to develop artistic research within the university, and the relationship between performance practice and Sciences and Humanities. Mark also discusses the lessons learnt about North-South relations that have been learnt from teaching performance during the Coronavirus lockdown.
Magnet Theatre
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ARA Podcast - Performance and Research: a discussion with Annette Arlander.

In this ARA dialogue I speak with the first ARA artist-in-residence of 2020, Annette Arlander. Professor Arlander is an artist, researcher and a teacher, and one of the pioneers of Finnish performance art, as well as being a trailblazer of artistic research in Scandinavia. As an ARA artisti-in-residence- she will be based in the Theatre and Performance department of the Wits School of Arts for the next two months until 10 April. She has already initiated her residency project, a work she titles "Meeting with Remarkable Trees". Follow the project blog -
In this wide-ranging discussion, Annette talks about the development of artistic research in Finland, and her role in this development. From her own experience as a theatre practitioner who has moved into a praxis more closely allied with the visual arts tradition, she discussed the complex meanings of "performance" and what this means for understanding performance as research., or research into performance. She also discusses the different types of artistic research, and the crucial difference between presentation and documentation. Finally she talks about her own performance art projects in which she has focused on performing landscape by means of video or recorded voice, moving between the traditions of performance art, video art and environmental art.
Annette's own website - with a wealth of links to her academic writings and documentation of her creative works:
Useful links:
Annette discussing the development of artistic research in the Nordic countries at a Middlesex University colloquium:
An Informal presentation of her project, Performing with a Pine Tree, at the Research Days of Academy of Fine Art, University of the Arts Helsinki in :

ARA Podcast - Bones and Dinosaurs: Art/Science collaborations

In this ARA dialogue I speak to three Wits academics who have creatively engaged, in both their research and teaching, with the interface between Scientific and Artistic research. My guests are Dr Justine Wintjes and Joni Brenner who were both members of the History of Art department in the Wits School of Arts at the time of this collaborative project, and Prof Jonah Choinere, from the Wits Evolutionary Sciences Institute.
Although we explore the routes, professional and personal, that led the three to collaborate across the Arts-Sciences divide, the focus of our discussion is the art-science pilot project which they initiated with postgraduate students in History of Art and Paleontology in 2016 and 2018.

In this lively and wide-ranging discussion we cover the following issues:
The different ways in which Joni, Justine, and Jonah approached the collaboration, and the factors in their backgrounds that led them to collaborate;
How the teaching project developed out of the Life of Bone exhibition curated by Joni Brenner with Elizabeth Burroughs, and Karel Nel in 2011 at the Wits Origins Centre Gallery (and published by Wits University Press in 2011);
The similarities and differences between artistic and scientific practice;
The value of drawing as a mode of intense observation;
The design of the collaborative teaching project and the challenge of scope;
The different effects of the project on the arts and science students who participated.
The lessons learnt from the collaboration and the ways that the project could be taken forward into future projects.

ARA Podcast - Creativity, agency, and African feminisms

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.

ARA Podcast - New developments in Artistic Research in Europe

In this ARA dialogue, I discuss new developments in the European space of Artistic Research with Professor Stefan Winter, Head of the Institute of Artistic Research at the Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF in Potsdam, Germany.
Prof Winter also represents Germany in a new institutional development: the European Forum for Advanced Practices, an inclusive research network originating not just from universities but also from NGOs, community-based organisations, independent research entities, museums, and a wide range of arts academies with a focus on emergent forms of artistic- and practice-based research.
In this dialogue Prof Winter discusses a number of important issues, notably the place of Artistic Research as a producer of distinct forms of knowledge; the role the AR can play in relation to scientific and technological knowledge formations; particular instances of AR in action; and the potential of AR for the decolonising project in South African universities.

ARA Podcast - the innovative new PhD programme in Drama for Life

In this ARA dialogue, we discuss the new PhD programme at Drama for Life in the Wits School of Arts. This programme, launched in 2017, has just won the 2019 Wits Faculty of Humanities Individual Teaching and Learning Award for Postgraduate Teaching. The designer of the programme, Dr Petro Janse van Vuuren, and the head and founder of Drama For Life, Warren Nebe, are in discussion with Prof Christo Doherty, the head of Arts Research in the Wits School of Arts. They discuss the role of postgraduate research in the strongly activist DFL department and the way in which the design of the new PhD programme has created a scholarly community of practice amongst researchers across Africa using digital communication technologies together with a decolonial approach to pedagogy in Africa.

ARA Podcast - Ethnographies and Art Practices as Research in Africa

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.

ARA Podcast - The Challenge of publishing artistic research on a digital platform

In this ARA dialogue, we explore the thinking behind Ellipses the innovative online publishing platform for creative research that has been just issued a submission call for its third issue. [] The editor-in-chief/digital editor of Ellipses, Dr Tegan Bristow, and the editor of issue 3, Dr Mareli Stolp, are in discussion with Prof Christo Doherty, from the ARA (Arts Research Africa) project in the Wits School of Arts.

ARA Podcast - Denise Nicholson: Open Access, APCs, and Predatory Publishing Practices

Open Access is an international movement that aims to “make the products of research freely accessible to all.” Here in the global South, the movement is becoming increasingly influential across many universities, with Wits adopting Open Access as official policy in June 2018.
In this ARA podcast, Denise Nicholson, the Scholarly Communications Librarian at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. gives a highly informative presentation on Open Access, APCs, and Predatory Publishing Practices. Her presentation is strongly user-orientated and provides a wealth of practical information on how young scholars should approach academic publishing in the growing open access environment.
Since it is a presentation, the podcast is best accompanied by the PowerPoint slide show that Denise has prepared. It can be accessed from her LibGuides site:

ARA Podcast - Did Watershed bridge the Art-Science divide?

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.

ARA Podcast - Where do you look for lost water?

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.

ARA Podcast - Beyond the Ready Made

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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