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Tandile Mbatsha, I AM, ICA Live Art Festival 2022. Photo by Xolani Tulumani. Courtesy Institute for Creative Arts and the artist

Reflecting on Janet Frame’s short story, “Prizes” (published in 1962 in the New Yorker Magazine) author Miranda July points our attention to what she refers to as “the difficulty of winning prizes”. July seems to be proposing an arc of fulfilment by contemplating the difficulty of knowing what to do with a finished thing. She suggests that the joy is in wanting to make something, in working through it but not necessarily in “having it.” I imagine that for many art practitioners across disciplines, the joy is often in making and sharing. Once the work is out in the world, it can be quite difficult to know what to do with it.

When I started working on Season 3 of The ICA Podcast, as host, I began reflecting on this “arc of fulfilment”. I spent a lot of time thinking about what it meant for artists to make, in a continuously disorienting world that is hungry for things that are bigger, better, faster, newer and shinier. What happens to work once it has been performed? How is it documented?  How is it archived? How is it spoken about? How does it continue to live in the world and what affect does it continue to permeate? The podcast became a way for me to think about live art in a slower way, leaning into practices of slow looking and deep listening and thinking about the aural form as a place where the vitality of live art could have a different space to breathe. The kind of art that concerns itself with resistance and repair has to refuse being trafficked in speed. It has to insist not only on its initial existence (making and sharing) but also in its continued “life” through time, for it to achieve its purpose. It has to be documented, archived and spoken about.

Launched in 2020, The ICA Podcast is a production of the Institute for Creative Arts at the University of Cape Town. It emerged out of the publication, Acts of Transgression: Contemporary Live Art in South Africa, edited by director of the ICA Jay Pather and audio maker and researcher Catherine Boulle and expands on the work that began through the book — which was to probe live art’s intersection with crisis and socio-political turbulence through an exploration of identity, belonging, trauma, loss and the need to trouble colonial systems of knowing.

Qondiswa James, We are everywhere, ICA Live Art Festival 2022. Photo by Xolani Tulumani. Courtesy Institute for Creative Arts and the artist.

Moving between different modes; personal anecdotes, concept, scenery, costume, lighting, and sound, the podcast is an open and critical platform through which interdisciplinary artists and curators who perform or curate live art share their process. Each episode is a deep dive that allows audiences to experience the sound aesthetics and conceptual structures of performance work that occurred at a different time — perhaps a small gesture to disrupting notions of performance work as expendable. Season 3 takes an in-depth view into performances presented at the 2022 ICA Live Art Festival, focusing on seven artists —Tandile Mbatsha, Asemahle Ntlonti, Qondiswa James, Russel Hlongwane, Lukhanyiso Skosana, Nkosenathi Koela and Kolawole Gbolahan. The conversations traverse multiple themes including; reflections on queer histories, survival, the burden of remembering and recording, the interrogation of invisibility through acts of witnessing, questions around death, grief and loss, indigenous knowledge systems, poetry and storytelling.

The ICA Podcast is available wherever you find your podcast, including; Apple podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and out the ICA website.

Qondiswa James, We are everywhere, ICA Live Art Festival 2022. Photo by Xolani Tulumani. Courtesy Institute for Creative Arts and the artist.

Further Reading In Articles

African Artist Directory

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