“there is no ‘homogenous’ public and one has to be careful not to curate for just one public in mind”
The Infecting the City festival is taking place from 5- 8 April, bringing our spaces, places and buildings alive through art, performances, music and spatial interrogation. Rashiq Fataar had a chat with the curator, Jay Pather about this year’s event and the lessons thus far.
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Rashiq Fataar: Each year I look forward to the Infecting the City festival, both as a citizen, but also as an observer of the city, city life and the spaces which enable or hinder such life. Over the years of the festival, what are some of the more compelling learnings about the nature of public and semi-public space or lessons that have resonated most with you? What is now more apparent or clear to you about the nature of this citizen or person and space relationship than a few years ago.
Jay Pather: That the public is not to be taken for granted. That there is no ‘homogenous’ public and one has to be careful not to curate for just one public in mind. That possibly, the most democratic spaces are the public spaces, and inviting a range of different people into that space through a work of art is particularly magical. At the same time I have found that this does not mean that the artist does not take risks. The risk lies in the interaction and the quality and insight within that experience and not just in the work itself, this has been a telling lesson for most artists. These are wonderful lessons in demystifying that relationship and bring artist and audience closer together. It’s what makes the infection so addictive…
RF: In light of the above, what are some of your key thoughts about how the festival has challenged or interrogated the reality of the control of space in the city.
JP: We have created a certain sense of ownership of space and this ownership at various hours of the day is wonderful to witness and be a part of. However we are under no illusion that this is the result of timeous, bureaucratic permission processes. The city gets back to a controlled environment straight after. There is definitely a loosening up of controls and much more accommodating – but we do have a way to go.
RF: In a previous interview in 2012 we briefly spoke about some of the challenges of legislation, by-laws and so forth in the making public of public space(s) and in the news since then many incidents have highlighted and amplified this tense and almost disjointed relationship with authority and policy and people. Do you feel that since 2012 progress has been made?
JP: Yes, there is every attempt to implement a public art policy within a broader art and culture policy framework instituted by the City. I think there are changes and with these come new challenges evidenced in the controversies of recent public art projects. There is much learning to be done.
RF: Future Cape Town has recently started a community called Young Urbanists, aiming to connect 20 and 30 somethings with a passion, care and interest in how our cities are developing. Which of the festival events, this year do you think would be most interesting for these Young Urbanists to explore.
JP: They should certainly go on all the routes as each one is filled with relevance and there is also the more exploratory Programme C that will be a way to imagine how public art could be instituted regularly through temporary installation. And – if possible, they should attend the Symposium, Remaking Place where panel discussions and a range of international and national speakers will pursue innovative practice and public art.
RF: How would say people are perceiving public space differently than a few year ago? (if at all), and how has the festival contributed to this?
JP: I really cannot tell but I do know that as is evidenced by other Public Art events such as First Thursdays and the recent Museum Night, the trend is gathering a wonderful, steady momentum: people are enjoying the city through art practice.
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