The Art of Public Space: Curating and Re-imagining the Ephemeral City

The Art of Public Space: Curating and Re-imagining the Ephemeral City (Palgrave, 2015) by Kim Gurney follows the manifestation of a trilogy of performative interventions in Johannesburg during 2012 that variously explored public space. Shoe Shop engaged public space through walking and ambulatory thinking, Amaze.Interact through gaming and ideas around playing the city, and Spines leveraged the city’s transport lines with two parallel performance art projects: United African Utopias took participants on a fantastical walk through the city with a narrative script that among other things employed pirate radio and costumed guides to re-imagine reality; and In House activated domestic and hybrid spaces of enclosure as common grounds of potential encounter.

The monograph reflects upon this Goethe Institut project, New Imaginaries, relative to a broader public sphere and puts forward ideas relating to the commons.

“Regimes of segregation and inequality leave rigid marks on urban space that are difficult to undo. In this book, Kim Gurney analyses a series of artistic interventions in the spaces of Johannesburg that challenged those marks. She masterfully shows how performances conceived in the spaces of the ordinary worked to undo rigidities of spatial separations and to forge alternative publics.”

Teresa Caldeira, University of California, Berkeley, USA

“The Art of Public Space powerfully reiterates the ways in which urban actors do not inhabit worlds of preconceived social or subjective forms, but rather ever-shifting milieus where different ways of conceiving and enacting life intersect, and that artistic practice is a critical technology in re-imagining and reshaping these intersections. All technical practices conduct events, but artistic work is proving most salient in opening up urban contexts to events that anticipate and posit new ways of living together. Leveraging the multiplicity of performances that make up everyday Johannesburg, the artistic projects offered here attempt to reconfigure what its residents already see and experience but in ways that push it somewhere else, which collate and intensify these perceptions and experiences into new common grounds.” – AbdouMaliq Simone, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Germany, and Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK

” […] an important text in [South Africa’s] bid to grapple with ephemeral art, raising interesting discussions around definitions of value, public commons and the use of uncertainty and the unknown in art practice” – Lloyd Gedye,The Con