Public art has always been part of who we are on this continent and in this country given our history of public ritual, public protest and celebration. The interconnectedness of the African “us” meets challenge after challenge in a public, social way, brought to vibrant life in artistic expression. There is too that part of our history that impeded this public interconnectedness, throwing people apart and far away from each other, a physical and psychic separation still waiting to be healed. Infecting the City is a small attempt at igniting this interconnectedness.
The 2012 Festival had no definitive theme and instead set itself the task of embracing a diverse range of work – from the cutting-edge contemporary to the classical; from restaged work given new breath in surprising spaces to performances devised especially for the spaces they are performed in; from full-length works to fleeting fragments of the “what was that?” variety; from the serious to the whimsical, the profound to the profane, the beautiful to the disturbing, the strange to the downright estranged, the enigmatic to the absolutely unfathomable.
We are confident that, whether through shared rapture or mutual puzzlement, the Festival offered possibilities for public engagement across a range of divides. The 2012 Festival was curated on a set of routes: where we presented works that were positioned next to each other along different routes, effectively mapping the city with art.
There were the challenges: How to programme work that attracts the festival-goer as well as the passer-by? How to deal with the emptying out of the City at twilight, when people have last trains to catch, but also the time when the magic of performance thrives? What cruel irony for a public art festival! We looked at how to deal with issues of public transport, access and mobility that make it so hard to be truly social across class and race in our public spaces. There are no easy answers. The The Public At Conference took these very real questions further.
The provocations and extraordinary achievements of our artists provided assertive directions and inspiration for public engagement. And that ultimately, is why the Infecting the City Festival exists. And for a lot else besides. And that is not for me to tell you any more about. It is for you to find out. Make sure that you are here for 2013!