Since 2015, Kim Gurney has published from arts-based research three books where contemporary art tells larger stories about the urban everyday, collective life, and social imaginaries, with a fourth in the works for 2023. These have generally focused upon ‘offspaces’ – exploring public space in Johannesburg inner-city through walking, new media and performance art; the artistic inner life of a studio building in existential limbo; the working principles of non-profit project spaces on the continent; and the invisible labours revealed by a back room institutional archive. Kim will share the processes behind assembling publications as creative outcomes which aim to perform the subject matter, and the challenges involved.
The books referenced in this talk are: The Art of Public Space: Curating and Re-imagining the Ephemeral City (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), August House is Dead, Long Live August House – The story of a Johannesburg Atelier (Fourthwall, 2017), Panya Routes: Independent art spaces in Africa (Motto, 2022), & Flipside – The Inadvertent Archive,which is currently in production with iwalewabooks (Bayreuth, Lagos & Jhb).
Dr Kim Gurney is based at the Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape, where she has been investigating sites of counterfactual imagination – independent art spaces, back room archives, and artisanal workshops. She brings a fusion of fine art, urban studies, and journalistic expertise together, favouring arts-based methods and experimenting with narrative forms. Her own art practice largely concerns disappearances of different kinds and makes restorative gestures – spanning studio work, public art, discourse and curation. She runs ad hoc a nomadic platform guerilla gallery; in 2023, it inhabits The Shed – a tiny space for big ideas. Kim has extensive experience as a writer and former editor in different genres, currently focused upon book projects.
IT GIVES US GREAT PLEASURE TO ANNOUNCE THAT, TOGETHER WITH PROTEA DISTRIBUTION, KARAVAN PRESS IS THE SOUTH AFRICAN DISTRIBUTION PARTNER FOR KIM GURNEY’S PANYA ROUTES (2022) & AUGUST HOUSE IS DEAD, LONG LIVE AUGUST HOUSE (2017).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kim Gurney writes in multiple genres, and is the author of three non-fiction books: The Art of Public Space: Curating and Re-imagining the Ephemeral City (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), August House is Dead, Long Live August House! The Story of a Johannesburg Atelier (Fourthwall, 2017), and Panya Routes: Independent art spaces in Africa (Motto Books, 2022). Kim first worked as a journalist; she was News Editor of a weekly newspaper (FT Business Group) while in her twenties. She then pivoted into the artworld where she collaborates on public space interventions and makes slow art from a Salt River studio. Another foot is in academia: Kim is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape, and a Research Associate at African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town which supported the research behind Panya Routes. She holds advanced degrees in Journalism and Fine Art, both awarded with Distinction, a Masters in International Journalism, and a PhD exploring art as a vector of value. Kim lives in Cape Town, South Africa, working on her next creative non-fiction book Flipside.
Independent art spaces on the African continent have flourished, particularly over the past twenty years in tandem with a youthful population in fast-urbanising cities. This book takes the reader on a journey to discover their DIY-DIT working principles: horizontality, second chance, elasticity, performativity and convergence. The itinerary begins at an empty plinth in Cape Town to closely track the performative and artistic afterlife of a colonialist statue whose toppling turned public space into common space. Next stop: Nairobi, Accra, Cairo, Addis Ababa and Dar es Salaam — all rapidly changing cities of flux. The author visits five non-profit platforms that build narratives in public space by stitching together art and everyday life. They create their own panya routes, or backroad infrastructures of divergent kinds, in response to prevailing uncertainty. Working largely in collaborative economies and solidarity networks through refusal and reimagination, these “off-spaces” demonstrate institution building as artistic practice. By thinking and dreaming beyond the status quo, they fast-forward to creatively inhabit city futures that have already arrived in the global South. The key platforms featured in the book’s research are: The GoDown Arts Centre, ANO Institute of Arts and Knowledge, Townhouse Gallery, Zoma Museum and Nafasi Art Space.
PRAISE FOR PANYA ROUTES
“This beautifully crafted book represents a new generation of scholarship, bringing together the fields of urban studies and art history. While cities and urbanization are themselves formal manifestations of the intersections across economy, politics and aesthetics that define modern life, the role of creative practice as a form of sociality is under theorized. Kim Gurney explores that role in the making of new urban societies in the Global South. She shows how Panya Routes or ‘backroad infrastructures’ that define Southern cities are neither temporary nor epiphenomenal but rather major forms for the formation of collective solidarities. A much-needed volume, it explores the emergence of new institutions as themselves a genre of art. This book is a tour de force of creative research and writing and should inform and serve the next generation of urban scholars with a new vision of how contemporary forms of art making and creative performance have become an integral part of the infrastructure of social and political life in the twenty-first century.”
— Vyjayanthi Rao, Senior Editor of the journal Public Culture, and Visiting Professor at Yale School of Architecture
“In an engaging analysis of five African independent art spaces, Kim Gurney convincingly highlights the powerful artistic and political potential of such autonomous art initiatives: to formulate novel propositions that creatively engage with the continent’s varied social realities; to redesign its material realities; to innovate the contents of what constitutes its public spheres; and to generate imaginings of alternative futures that bypass the tired discourses and practices of institutionalized political levels in order to embrace more inclusive and collective modes of living together. Panya Routes is an original, hopeful and timely reflection on the role of public art to rethink urban worlds in Africa and beyond.” — Filip De Boeck, co-author of Suturing the City: Living Together in Congo’s Urban Worlds (Autograph, 2016)
“Gurney’s book deserves conversations with works on independent art spaces in Asian cities, where they have also been an important development in the last two decades. Gurney’s documentation and analysis are pioneering, and should inspire colleagues in Asia, because they are crucial in furthering the critical role of arts in contemporary dramatic transformation of their cities.”
— Marco Kusumawijaya, architect and urbanist, Director of RUJAK Center for Urban Studies in Jakarta
“Evocatively written, Panya Routes juxtaposes five stories about the creation of independent art spaces on the African continent. At a time of heightened capitalist co-option and the concomitant fetishization of ‘African art’, these stories about agential capacity, abilities to shapeshift, and ways of ‘doing art’, importantly position African creatives at the forefront of our contemporary moment of thinking in excess of the artworld status quo.”
— Ruth Simbao, National Research Foundation SARChI Chair in Geopolitics and the Arts of Africa, and Head of the Arts of Africa and Global Souths Research Programme at Rhodes UniversityBottom of Form
PANYA ROUTES: INDEPENDENT ART SPACES IN AFRICA
Publisher: Motto Books, Berlin
Editor: Mika Hayashi Ebbesen
Designer: Márcia Novais
Publication date: August 2022
ABOUT THE BOOK
In the east end of the inner city of Johannesburg, a former textiles factory undergoes a dramatic transformation to become, over the next several years, one of the city’s foremost artists’ studios. When the sale of the building seems imminent, not only must the artists face the daunting prospect of relocation, but a remarkable chapter in the complex narrative of contemporary South African art seems about to close. Sensing the importance of this moment, Kim Gurney, herself a former tenant of the atelier, follows the stories of several of the August House denizens through some of the artworks that came to life in their studios. The result is a fascinating study of the role of the atelier and its artists in South Africa’s fractious art world, and a consideration of the relationship between art and the ever-changing city of Johannesburg.
PRAISE for August House is Dead, Long Live August House! The Story of a Johannesburg Atelier
With the eye of an urbanist, artist and resident, Kim Gurney [constructs] a compelling assemblage of individual, visual and urban narratives brilliantly illuminates the complex life of a building, August House, located in inner city Johannesburg. Her cast of characters – artists, workers, neighbours, August House and the city – lend poignant contours to the ebbs and flows of daily life, the pressures of gentrification, the ruthlessness of poverty, the radicality of the imagination and the ghosts of history.
—Mabel O. Wilson, Columbia University
Kim Gurney’s biography of August House weaves together a diversity of … narratives that capture an intimate, layered view of a city in flux and the precarity of artists’ spaces in Johannesburg. August House is Dead, Long Live August House! sensitively explores the tensions between competing impulses in the city, and who ultimately gets to shape what Joburg is and who it is for.
—Mpho Matsipa, University of the Witwatersrand
August House is Dead, Long Live August House! The Story of a Johannesburg Atelier
If you are a bookseller, please contact Protea Distribution to order copies of Panya Routes and/or August House is Dead, Long Live August House!. If you are a reader, please ask your local bookshop to order the book for you via Protea Distribution.