Arts Research Africa Dialogues

ARTS RESEARCH AFRICA  |  Podcast , ±50 min episodes every 6 weeks, 2 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 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.

Subscribe to this channel

You can subscribe to new audio episodes published on this channel. You can follow updates using the channel's RSS feed, or via other audio platforms you may already be using.

RSS Feed

You can use any RSS feed reader to follow updates, even your browser. We recommend using an application dedicated to listening podcasts for the best experience. iOS users can look at Overcast or Castro. Pocket Casts is also very popular and has both iOS and Android versions. Add the above link to the application to follow this podcast channel.


This channel is available on Spotify. Follow the link above to view episodes on Spotify.

Signup to

Sign up for a free user account to start building your playlist of podcast channels. You'll be able to build a personalised RSS feed you can follow or listen with our web player.

Re-centering Africa through artistic research and decolonial pedagogy: a conversation with Prof Samuel Ravengai

In this dialogue, I speak to Prof Samuel Ravengai, a leading exponent of artistic research into African modes of performance and theatre making, a multi faceted mode of enquiry that he theorises as Afroscenology.
Samuel is a Zimbabwean born, South African based, scholar and theatre director with a doctorate in Theatre and Performance from the University of Cape Town. He was most recently the head of the Department of Theatre and Performance in the Wits School of Arts, and has just been appointed as the editor of the South African Theatre Journal. He has also just co-edited, with Owen Seda, an important collection of essays in the Palgrave Macmillan Contemporary Performance Interactions series. Entitled Theatre from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe with the subtitle Hegemony, Identity and a contested identity the collection encompasses many of Samuel’s interests which span both research and creative work in the areas of theatre making, directing, theatre historiography, critical theory, post-colonial/ de-colonial theory, performance analysis, cultural studies, performance art, installation, site-specific theatre, curation, race, cultural identity and African studies.

In this ARA dialogue we discuss Samuel’s personal background in Zimbabwe, his studies and professional work. We unpack his theory of Afroscenology and its application in the Wits School of Arts where Samuel led the transformation of the old department of Drama into a department of Theatre and Performance. We also look at his new book on the emergence of Zimbabwean theatre in the context of the postcolony and how the iconoclastic writer/poet Dambudzo Marechera can be understood through Afroscenology. Finally, we explore Samuel’s perspective as a Zimbabwean on the possibilities of pan-African engagement and the kind of networks necessary to foster artistic research on the continent.
Further reading: Artistic research in Africa: Formulating the theory of Afroscenology -

Taking contemporary art practice into the forensic lab: a conversation with Dr Kathryn Smith

Dr Kathryn Smith is an interdisciplinary visual artist and curator who has moved from an initial education in Fine Arts (with a BAFA and MAFA from Wits) to actively explore applied sciences at the University of Dundee where she earned an MSc in Forensic Art, and a PhD from the Liverpool John Moores University. It is a journey that has taken her from advanced contemporary art practice, she was winner of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award in 2004, to a deep engagement with the practicalities and theoretical and ethical challenges of forensic facial imaging.
In this dialogue, we discuss the trajectory of Kathryn's career from "crime artist and muse" - starting with her MA on Joel-Peter Witkin - to applied forensic facial reconstruction projects such as the recent Sutherland Reburial Initiative.

We also discuss the postgraduate work Kathryn did at the Dundee Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification and the challenges raised by the "Laws of the Face" which she explored in her PhD; as well as her contributions to the Face Lab research group, including the development of the MA Art in Science degree at Liverpool John Moores University.
We talk about her return to South Africa and how she is establishing resources to promote forensic imaging skills through VIZ.Lab, as well as new understandings of this scarce skill in the African context, most recently for the Charting the Uncharted exhibition.

Finally we explore Kathryn's thinking about the relationship between art and science practice; the management of "pracademic" exchanges between operational, institutional, and research environments; and the notion of knowledge generation in arts-science-technology research.
Stellenbosch University profile of Kathryn:
The Sutherland Reburial Initiative:

ARA Podcast - A ludic approach to artistic research - a conversion with Prof Margarete Jahrmann

In this dialogue I speak to Professor Margarete Jahrmann, the internationally renowned media artist, artistic researcher and games theorist who has just been appointed head of the new department of Experimental Game Cultures at the Vienna University of Applied Arts. Margarete was previously a Professor in Artistic Research at the Vienna University of Applied Arts and was a Professor of Games Design at the Zurich University of the Arts. We discuss how her background in Game Design led her into the realm of Artistic Research; the different ways in which Artistic Research has been taken up across "Europe"; the challenging relationship between games, contemporary art, and commercial game design; her approach to developing the new Experimental Games Cultures programme; and the challenging work which she has been pursuing during the lockdown.
Two of Margarete's recent publications, which we discuss in the podcast, are accessible at:
Margarete Jahrmann, 2021. Ludic Meanders through Defictionalization: The Narrative Mechanics of Art
Games in the Public Spaces of Politics. In: Narrative Mechanics
Jahrmann M (2021). Ludics: The Art of Play and Societal Impact. In Franke, B. (ed.): NOT AT YOUR SERVICE. MANIFESTOS FOR DESIGN. Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel. pp.319-329.
Margarete's own website, containing links to all her work is

At the centre of the Centre for the Less Good Idea - a conversation with Bronwyn Lace

In this dialogue I speak to Bronwyn Lace, perhaps best known as the animateur, and now co-director, of the Centre for the Less Good Idea in Johannesburg, but who is also a visual artist with specificity, responsiveness and performativity as central concerns in her practice. We explore all these aspects of her rich engagement with performance and visual arts in this podcast.

In the dialogue we discuss the how the Centre for the Less Good Idea began and the ways that the project has evolved over the first four years of its existence. We also look at how Bronwyn became involved in the Centre and her role as the “animateur”.
We examine the evolution of the “Academy" within the Centre and its relationship with orthodox forms of institutionalised arts education in Gauteng. We then go on to discuss Bronwyn's understanding of artistic research and the involvement of the Centre in the international Octopus artistic research project.
Finally we discuss Bronwyn’s deep interest in the Arts-Science relationship, her previous Arts-Science projects in South Africa and the ways that she is continuing to investigate this challenging area in the Vienna arts environment.

After graduating with a BAFA from the Wits School of Arts in 2004, Bronwyn has developed a combination of introspective, process-led studio practice together with a gregarious, collaborative communal practice operating from her studio in Maboneng and the Centre for the Less Good Idea which she joined William Kentridge in establishing in 2016. Bronwyn is now based in Vienna, Austria, but continues to play an active role in the Centre as the Co-Director and leads the Centre’s development of an Academy and its engagement with international artistic research developments.
Important links:
Arts-Science projects: "My Room at the Centre of the Universe"

ARA Podcast - The aesthetic as a research modality - a conversation with Dr Alex Arteaga

In this dialogue I speak to Dr Alex Arteaga, a leading European artist-researcher who works with text, sound, video, photography, essays and installations according to the nature of his projects and their specific research issues.
Alex has received professional degrees in piano and theory of music, has a Masters degree in electro-accoustic music. He studied architecture at Berlin University of the Arts and obtained a PhD in philosophy at Humboldt University Berlin. He is currently teaching courses at the Berlin University of the Arts (at the MA Sound Studies and Sonic Arts), film university of Catalonia (ESCAC) and the graduate school of the University of Lapland. As a researcher, he’s connected to the University of Applied Arts Vienna
In the dialogue we discuss how Alex's complex background led him into the realm of artistic research and his sense of how artistic research has been taken up across Europe.
We look closely at Alex's major projects: the Auditory Research Unit at the Berlin University of the Arts  and the relationship between the auditory and the visual in architectural thinking; the Architecture of Embodiment and Alex's non-hierarchical approach to the structure and methodology of the research; and his collaboration with the Austrian media artist Nikolaus Gansterer exploring concepts such as the "presence of situations" in Contingent Agencies. We also engage with the more provocative aspects of Alex's thinking such as his insistence that "aesthetic research" should be distinguished from "artistic research". We cover his involvement in the new African-European collaborative project, Artistic Research and City Spaces which is linking The Wits Schools of Art and Architecture and Planning with a range of different artistic research initiatives in Europe. Finally we discuss Alex's critique of the notion that artistic research produces forms of (alternative) "knowledge" and the implications of this view for strategies of decolonisation.

ARA Podcast - Artistic Research in Africa - a conversation with Berhanu Ashagrie Deribew

In this ARA dialogue I speak with the Ethiopian artist-researcher who gave the closing address at our ARA2020 Conference.
Berhanu is currently a lecturer in the Alle School of Fine Arts and Design at Addis Ababa University and is a doctoral candidate in the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. He graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Alle School where he was the gold medal winner in his final year, and subsequently studied for his Master of Fine Arts at the Utrecht Graduate School of the Arts in the Netherlands.
Berhanu has been engaged with numerous individual and collective artistic projects both inside and outside the studio environment and has exhibited the results of his projects in Ethiopia, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Georgia, Italy, Greece and Spain. In the last few years, Berhanu has been working with a particular emphasis on the human issues that have come from the modernisation of urban spaces, notably in his home city of Addis Ababa.
In this discussion, Berhanu talks about the ground-breaking Interdisciplinary Arts Practice MA programme which he helped introduce at the Alle School in 2014. The two year programme allows students from a range of backgrounds - fine arts, music, performing arts, as well as architecture, psychology, and philosophy - to work collaboratively using different research modalities.
We also explore Berhanu's own artistic-research projects, notably his contribution to the collective project Despite Dispossession, and his own intervention into the history of dispossession in Addis Ababa: "Care and Become".
Finally we explore Berhanu's ideas concerning mourning in the context of the suffering and anger in the global south, and the role of artistic research in such conditions.
Useful Links:
Despite Dispossession: An Activity Book.
Closing Address: Artistic Research in Africa-rethinking the" avant-garde"

ARA Podcast - Transversing the Rural - a conversation with Dr Same Mdluli

In this dialogue I speak to Dr Same Mdluli, who was the recipient of a 2020 ARA grant for her book project: Transversing the Rural: Revisiting the works of South African artist Johannes Mashego Segogela.

Dr Mdluli is the Manager and Chief Curator of the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg and an Associate Researcher in the Wits School of Arts. She is an artist, art historian and writer, and holds a PhD in History of Art, and an MA in Arts and Cultural Management, both from Wits University, and a B-Tech degree in Fine Arts (cum laude) from the University of Johannesburg. She has worked as an administrator at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg and other art projects, and has also participated in a number of international residencies including at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles and the INHA in Paris.
Her research interests are in contemporary African art, black expressive modes and aesthetics as well as the conversations between jazz and visual art. Dr Mdluli also serves as an advisory council member for the South African Arts Council.

When Dr Mdluli was appointed to manage the Standard Bank Gallery in 2018, the Bank’s Head of Brand, Sponsorships and Events announced that “Dr Mdluli brings a visionary energy to the role.” She went on to say that “We are convinced that Dr Mdluli will help us take the gallery to a new level of leadership as a stakeholder institution of the art industry in the country and beyond. Her leadership as a respected creative and academic, along with her easy accessibility will surely help to open the doors to more people to fall in love and support art in our country.”

All those qualities were very much in evidence during our conversation which ranged from her work as curator, in particular her first major exhibition for the gallery - "A Black Aesthetic" of 2019 - to her engagement with the rural-urban divide in South African art, to her analysis of the obstacles to real transformation in the South African art industry.

ARA Podcast - Researching the Arts of Movement - a conversation with Prof Jane Taylor

In this dialogue I speak to Professor Jane Taylor, who, together with Nhlanhla Mahlangu, gave the opening performance and dialogue, at the ARA2020 Conference, which was held here at Wits University in January.

Jane currently holds the Andrew W. Mellon Chair of Aesthetic Theory and Material Performance at the Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape where she heads the Laboratory of Kinetic Objects. A highly regarded academic, Jane is also a playwright and author and is a frequent creative collaborator at the Centre for the Less Good Idea in Johannesburg, where she has directed a number of their seasons. Jane has written several plays for puppets, working with the artist William Kentridge and Handspring Puppet Company, notably the internationally celebrated Ubu and the Truth Commission. She has also written a puppet play for the American Renaissance scholar, Stephen Greenblatt, a work interrogating the early history of neurology. Her second novel explores the complex politics of heart transplants in South Africa.

Amongst the topics explored in this dialogue are the significance of a Chair of Aesthetic Theory and Material Performance at UWC, a university which historically has not had creative arts disciplines. The research questions prioritised in the Laboratory of Kinetic Objects. The challenges for accepting creative arts as a form of thinking. Aesthetics and a virtual future.

The links which support/extend our discussion are -
The website of the Laboratory of Kinetic Objects (LoKO):
NYT video on the Japanese funerals for robotic family dogs:
Video documentation of the complete performance of Pan Troglodyte at the Centre for the Less Good Idea, Johannesburg.
Jean-Luc Nancy, Being Singular Plural (Stanford University Press,2000)
Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter (Duke University Press, 2010)

ARA Podcast - The Journal for Artistic Research: a conversation with Dr Michael Schwab

In this dialogue I speak to Dr Michael Schwab, the co-initiator and inaugural Editor-in-Chief of JAR, the Journal for Artistic Research. Michael was most recently a keynote speaker at the ARA2020 Conference, on the theme of artistic research in Africa, which was held here at Wits University in January.

As a JAR editor and a leading exponent of the 'practice turn in contemporary theory', Michael has been at the forefront of conceptualising the expanding field of artistic research in Europe, and increasingly internationally for more than a decade. Michael is also himself an artist, and an artistic researcher who interrogates post-conceptual uses of technology in a variety of media including photography, drawing, printmaking and installation art.

His ARA 2020 keynote address, "Dynamics", can be accessed at
The Journal for Artistic Research (JAR), an international, online, Open Access, peer-reviewed journal is available online at

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
Google Scholar

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.

35 episodes

« Back 13—24 More »