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and speaking of eKapa

By james

Here’s another review of the conference, sent by a friend who agreed I could re-post:

Rules of Engagement - a few notes from the eKapa Sessions

Cape Town 04 - 06 December 2005, Jose Ferreira

[....]The role of these sessions was to solicit interest in a major question. How do we re-contextualise art practice and our cultural institutions as meaningful ciphers for people in this country, especially after the erroneous structures created by apartheid? [....] The first day opened with minister Pallo Jordan speaking about the endeavour of Arts and Culture to address the "hidden genius" of people in this country. His words echoed a sentiment that was present throughout the gathering, which is to re-locate art practice within a global, African context. [....] This is a topic that was close to everyone attending, that somehow artists from ‘developing’ continents want to be represented within new systems, new cultural institutions, and ones that don’t reinforce stereotype, mimicry and fetishism of their work. It is an intensely political debate as the role of the museum too is essentially a western canon of representation, very lucidly argued by Sylvester Ogbechie, therefore any art project of significance must take into account a deep interrogation of the museum as a "pre-eminent signifier of western power". [...]

There was a lot of talk about "informal networks", and the ability to integrate systems of art practice that may not be expected or established genres into the public domain. This term, borrowed from Fritjof Capra’s book Hidden Connections is not new but perhaps its application to art practise and curatorship is. Perhaps by engaging with a place over time it is possible to initiate projects that are more meaningful to the cultures that have to digest them. Capra writes, "With the new information and communication technologies, social networks have become all-pervasive, both within and beyond organisations. For an organisation to be alive, however, the existence of social networks is not sufficient; they need to be networks of a special type. Living networks, as we have seen, are self-generating. Each communication creates thoughts and meaning, which give rise to further communications. In this way, the entire network generates itself, producing a common context of meaning, shared knowledge, rules of conduct, a boundary and a collective identity for its members." [....]

Jose Ferreira
10th December 2005

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