Call for Contributions

Kim Miller Discussion


*Call for contributions: Edited Volume on Public Art in South Africa,

Immediately following the First Democratic Election which took place on
April 27 1994, and during Nelson Mandela's presidency, there was extensive
activity in regard to art and imagery in the public domain of South Africa.
The early years of a new dispensation saw, for example, the development of
a number of new museum and heritage sites as well as increased funding for
the commissioning of various artworks for public settings. Visual culture
in the public sphere became a major focus of scholarly, popular, and
national concern, and was at the centre of many debates about national
transformation, national identity, and political reconciliation. Through
national and local initiatives, South Africa made a tremendous political
and financial investment in public visual culture including commemorative
efforts to tell the story of the liberation struggle.

  There has also been a tremendous amount of activity in the
public domain in the new millennium. Crucial to note, however, is that such
activities have taken place in an environment which has shifted
dramatically in mood and spirit since the early years of democracy. Thabo
Mbeki's loss of grassroots support during his presidency, which commenced
in 1999, was coupled by diminishing investment confidence through his
denial of the mounting HIV crisis in South Africa as well as refusal to
condemn the violations of human rights in neighbouring Zimbabwe. A sense of
unease with ANC governance would, however, become increasingly pronounced
following the recall of Mbeki at the ANC's meeting in Polokwane in 2007 and
the replacement of him by Kgalema Motlanthe and, in 2009, by Jacob Zuma -
the latter accused of (amongst other charges) rape, corruption during a
national arms deal and illegally using public funds for a lavish upgrade of
his Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal.

 Although work from the new millennium has continued to engage
with the liberation struggle and issues around its memorialization, artists
have also made works which are not always obviously linked to the impact of
colonial or apartheid histories and questions around memory. Statuary
continues to enjoy some prominence when matters pertaining to commemoration
are raised. Nevertheless, objects intended to rejuvenate city streets,
parks and public buildings include, for example, benches, bus stops, paving
and other utilitarian elements. Also, artists working in a South African
framework, like those elsewhere, sometimes produce experimental work which
troubles conventional understandings of 'public art' as a category. Along
with instances of artists working with forms conventionally outlawed from
the public domain, such as graffiti, there has been work in the public
domain which has involved performance, sky-writing, activist engagement at
symbolically charged spaces, and other temporal modes of articulation.
Artists have also from time to time used billboards, LED signage and other
modes of communication associated historically with advertising.

 While a number of scholars have critically analysed various
initiatives from the 1990s, there has not been focused engagement with how the
impetus underpinning the creation, display, management or reception of art
in the public domain may have shifted in the very changed political
circumstances of the new millennium. Nor has there been work which explores
the idea of public art in South Africa in a comprehensive sense. Indeed,
work outside the domain of liberation histories is at present somewhat
marginalized in discourse on public art in South Africa.

*The volume we are proposing*

There has not to date been a comprehensive edited volume on public art in
South Africa which brings together the research and ideas of academics,
artists and other experts who have done work on this important aspect of
visual production. The study we are planning will have the value of
enabling different viewpoints to be articulated. It is hoped also that the
volume will include examples from a range of geographical areas of South
Africa rather than being focused exclusively on, for example, Johannesburg,
Cape Town and Durban.

 Our study takes as its starting point 1999, which saw the
appointment of Thabo Mbeki as president. Its closure is 2014, a year which in some
sense signifies the end of an era. Less than five months after the death of
Nelson Mandela, April 27 2014 marks two decades since the First Democratic
Election in South Africa. Those South Africans who cast their votes in the
general election in May 2014 will for the first time include the so-called
'born free' generation - individuals who were born subsequent to the demise
of apartheid and, while often still victims of the long-term structural
inequities it created, nevertheless understand it as an historical
occurrence rather than in terms of their immediate circumstances.

 While very receptive to new studies of works linked to issues
of memorialization and memory, particularly those revealing how changed
attitudes to ideas of 'nation' or 'community' in the new millennium may
have underpinned choice and treatment of imagery, we also seek essays which
focus on public art which addresses other sorts of concerns.

 Essays may (but do not necessarily need to) address questions
and issues pertaining to the following:

·      Individuals and issues selected for commemoration, the modes for
constructing ideas about heroism, and the implications of these choices

·      The politics of identity, gender or race

·      Critical interventions to historical statuary or monuments

·      Endeavours to regenerate buildings, sites and environments

·      New forms of public art and their social meanings or significance

·      Contentions and controversies that have arisen

·      The use and maintenance of public art or the lack thereof
(including, for example, the destruction, vandalism, neglect, or removal of
sculpture or sites)

·      The creative use of the urban or rural landscape as a
support/setting for art interventions, and the photographic documentation
of these visual productions

·      Ephemeral initiatives

·      Queer visibilities in public space

·      Local responses and objections to national artistic initiatives

Please note: While welcoming contributions which engage with new
understandings of the category 'public art', we do not wish to include
explorations of temporary exhibitions in museums or galleries. Including
museum exhibitions will simply widen the scope of the volume in such a way
that 'public art' is in danger of becoming a catch-all phrase for any and
all art, and the overall study will end up lacking coherency. Furthermore,
a considerable amount of scholarship has already been published on museums
and their role in a democratic South Africa.

 We envisage close and particular case studies by individual
authors rather than chapters which are broad in focus and scope. An author
should frame a proposal in such a way that the envisaged chapter can be
illustrated with no more than four photographs.  Final essays should be
between 6000 and 8000 words, including notes and references. Submissions
must not have been published previously or submitted elsewhere.

*Submitting a proposal*

Authors interested in proposing a chapter for the envisaged volume should
e-mail us both the following by June 1 2014

·            Title of proposed chapter

·            Abstract of proposed chapter (between 400 and 500 words)

·            A short CV which includes the institutional affiliation,
position, list of key publications and/or other relevant experience of the

·            Full contact details (primary e-mail address, secondary e-mail
address, telephone numbers, fax number, postal address)

We will communicate our decisions by August 1 2014.

Kim Miller, Associate Professor of Art History and Women's Studies, Wheaten
College MA. and Research Associate of the Visual Identities in Art and
Design Research Centre, University of Johannesburg,

Brenda Schmahmann, Professor with a Research Specialisation, Visual
Identities in Art and Design (VIAD) Research Centre, Faculty of Art, Design
and Architecture, University of Johannesburg,