Archive: Issue No. 73, September 2003

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Very Real Time residency project in Cape Town

Artist Gregg Smith, formerly of Cape Town and currently based in Roubais, France, is initiator and curator of 'Very Real Time', an unusual residency and project programme currently running in the city.

Having spent two years at Amsterdam's acclaimed Rijksakademie, Smith is now participating in another two-year programme at Le Fresnoi Studio National des Arts Contemporains, a film, video and new media studio in Roubais. 'Very Real Time' has been partly facilitated by RAIN Artists' Initiative Network. This is an umbrella organisation associated with the Rijksakademie, which provides infrastructural support to a large number of artists' initiatives and programmes in developing countries, principally in the Southern Hemisphere (Greg Streak's Pulse initiative based in Durban is supported by RAIN). The Royal Netherlands Embassy and the National Arts Council have funded Real Time project along with RAIN.

Short-term residency programmes with a workshop-like format culminating in an exhibition are pretty common throughout the world, but 'Very Real Time' differs from these. Soon after the programme finishes a catalogue will be produced, which will serve to document what has happened in Cape Town during the month-long programme. Some of the work will have been seen or experienced by an audience, other work will remain un-shown.

Smith has designed the programme, and managed to fund its unusual agenda, as a kind of working process, concerned not so much with producing a finished article as with the imprint of place on participant and vice versa. 'Very Real Time' provides a context for interaction and relationship between the artists and their temporary situation. The extended duration and lack of pressure is deliberate and is designed to allow the artists to establish relationships in the city and to foster the creative process. At this stage, work is taking the form of performances, intervention and research.

Artists were chosen on the strength of proposals submitted to Smith and are sharing accommodation with various Capetonians. Participants come from a wide range of situations and experience. Smith himself is involved in a project as are Jo O'Connor, Bridget Baker and Thembinkosi Goniwe. Former Durbanite James Beckett, who like Smith spent two years at the Rijksakademie, is also taking part. Vienna-based Michael Blum and Cinthia Marcelle (from Bello Horizonte in Brasil) complete the party - and that's not too inappropriate a term.

Goniwe, who is soon to return to Cornell University in the US where he is involved in a postgraduate programme, has been busy with a work entitled 'Parties in Different Spaces'. So far this has involved all of the artists setting off for an afternoon session at Goniwe's favourite shebeen in Nyanga. This was followed by lunch at another shebeen the following day in Langa.

Blum is busy researching the home where he is staying in Vredehoek from a variety of different angles. He has been gathering information from the city archives and plans to obtain a clairvoyant's reading of the house. Smith has been tracking down Tango dancers in the city and will present a performance whereby couples swap dance partners and dance simultaneously with their new partners in various locations around the city.

Blum will present a lecture on past work, in particular a recent project in Indonesia at 12pm, Friday September 26 in the Michaelis Lecture Theatre - see Listings.