Intro

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Context

British Council through the Connect ZA project is aiming at forming strategic partnerships with South African and British organisations who promote cross cultural understandings through projects using creative methods and digital platforms. Connect ZA can deliver its mandate and objectives while adding value to the chosen partners. The SUPERDREAM project creates this opportunity by partnering with several UK and SA artists and organisations to create a city project with creative outcomes and to share these interventions with each other digitally.

Jeppe Park (Johannesburg) / Windmill Hills Park (Gateshead): SUPERDREAM

The cultural and artistic landscape of Johannesburg remains to a large extent physically and psychologically disconnected from itself. For The Trinity Session and its partners, public/ spatial practices have provided insights into new scenarios for organizing and curating in public space; where a creative balance is struck between the performative, temporary and permanent in art, offered up to audiences in the public realm. On the one hand this could be seen as a rebalancing between the cultural production of the museum and that of the street. Where to a large extent, art in public space is a reaction to the current lack of resourced functional art institutions in the city.

The socially engaged and interdisciplinary, relational approach to the artwork places artistic and cultural connectivity at the forefront of its logic; in order to engage and give expression to varied conditions of diversity, language, experience and so forth. In this sense the project approach accelerates the value of ‘the encounter’ by chance or otherwise as the super condition of this city.

In Windmill Hills Park in Gateshead, while presented with different challenges, one needs to acknowledge the need for a similar strategy to understand its potential social relevance and opportunity within the city context. The site becomes an active platform and therefore and aggregator for ideas of artists and audiences for the city at large.

Strategy and Outcome

The audience and artists of both Johannesburg and Gateshead are culturally diverse, transient and fragmented. Opportunities for creative practice and engagement are limited by geography, perception and access to mainstream creative spaces. To overcome the physical and psychological barriers to creative engagement in the city, SUPERDREAM proposes to work with a representative selection of established and emerging artists from the area and Gateshead, and members of the economically diverse communities found either side of the only substantial public park – Jeppe Park – adjacent to the Maboneng Precinct, Johannesburg.

Inherent in the approach is the inclusion of a small group of Gateshead artists in order to generate a creative dialogue between two cities and two sites.

Mapping techniques, both digital and analog, empirical and ephemeral, are utilized alongside a series of live ‘situations’ as a strategy to prompt an exciting collision of new audiences and modes of collaborative, creative practice relevant to the park and the surrounding area.

The Approach

In order to prompt an exciting collision of new audiences and collaborative practice, the strategies are focused on fostering dialogue between established and aspiring artists, and exploring the currently unrecognized creative terrain embedded within the urban fabric of Johannesburg and Gateshead.

Psycho-geographic mapping techniques and experimental ‘situations’ are employed to prompt a territorial and phenomenological investigation of the public realm, revealing new relationships between spatial distributions of phenomena and experience, artists and potential audiences.

By establishing the city itself as a medium for creative practice, SUPERDREAM reassembles seemingly valueless spaces and currently disconnected communities, creating a new vision for what it means to be an artist and an audience.

Restricting investigations of Johannesburg and Gateshead to two defined zones with the similar spatial boundaries, urban conditions and populations, will reveal new relationships between the two cities and establishes new ways of engaging with the public realm.

Overlaying scattered fragments of space, experience and creativity within the bounds of two defined national/international territories, reveals the multiple narratives, contradictions, and possibilities inherent in both urban landscapes – thus “in discovering a small world, we discover the whole world”.

Filming

The video and photographic documentation of the various processes and events associated with the duration and development of this project calls for a documentary approach. The final outcome of this documentation process serves first as a record, and second as an archive to draw from for blogging, public projection, promotional aspects of the project, etc. Should the project gain the type of momentum that would inspire additional sponsorship towards a bona fide documentary, this will be considered and taken further.

City Partners

Johannesburg: Given the Trinity Sessions extensive experience in public art and urban regeneration projects for the City of Johannesburg; Jeppe Park in Jeppestown represents a unique opportunity as already identified. Bjala Properties, owning a large number of the buildings surrounding the park, has been identified as a strategic partner in the facilitation of the proposed work going forwards. The exchange is based on the offering of their spaces towards the creative ends of the work.

Gateshead: Partnerships that have been established by the long-standing relationship of local organizations to the city, has led to a positive dialogue with city commissioning agencies to address the possibilities for further and possibly more permanent interventions in Windmill Hills Park.

Connect ZA

Connect ZA is a major new series of cultural exchanges between the UK and South Africa marking 2014 as a celebration of 20 years of democracy in South Africa. From 2013 to 2015, the programme will support cultural connections between young people aged 18-35 in the UK and South Africa with a series of arts projects and use digital platforms to build creative networks through live music, film, theatre and the performing arts, visual art and design.

Projects will range from partnerships with arts festivals and workshops to working with artists, writers, filmmakers and designers. Connect ZA aims to reach new and diverse audiences for the arts and stimulate innovation, whilst forging new collaborations with organisations and individuals on both continents.

For more information on the British Council and its work, please visit http://connectza.tumblr.com/ or www.britishcouncil.org.

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