13 March 2013 by Dianne Tipping-Woods

Infectious art

Infecting The City, an annual public art festival, will change your conception of Cape Town as it pioneers new ways of seeing the city and the people who live in it. Curator Jay Pather gives us some insight into what it’s all about.

Stop Start Continue, Isgak Stemmet. All photographs by Sydelle Willow Smith, courtesy Infecting the City

'Art is as old as ourselves. We seek ways to express a hidden inner world through metaphor and symbol so we do not feel alone; we feel witnessed and part of something,' says Jay Pather, curator for the annual Infecting The City public art festival that takes place in Cape Town until 16 March.

The idea that art somehow relates to our humanity, allowing us to connect with people and places while going about our daily lives, is a founding premise of Infecting The City, a festival that is growing and changing each year, along with the city itself.

The aims of the festival are to bring excellent, socially engaged performance and visual art out of theatres and galleries and transfer these into communal spaces in Cape Town, 'thereby transforming the CBD for one week into an outdoor venue where art is free and accessible to everyone', says Pather.

Art is as old as ourselves. We seek ways to express a hidden inner world through metaphor and symbol so we do not feel alone.

Infecting The City has done this to maximum effect and this year's programme of public art includes works from local and international artists who have produced original new work, as well as works that are being restaged in new spaces. 'A highlight is the number of artists who are international, from the United Kingdom, United States, Nigeria, Mozambique, France, Switzerland, Germany and The Netherlands,' says Pather.

While he believes that public art is a way of countering the alienation inside a city, the festival does this in many different ways, making the city 'more human', giving back to its inhabitants and 'making the city a living, breathing space'.

'It’s also about making art accessible to a diverse range of people, celebrating the architecture of the city, being entertained, appreciating art, and making people think about issues that have social relevance in new and unexpected ways,' he adds.

This year’s audiences are in for a 'splendid treat' of various performing and visual art disciplines and many quirky works.

Among the many highlights, Pather mentions 'the substantial musical offerings of the likes of the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra and theatre dynamo Catherine Henegan performed on historic public squares such as Church, Greenmarket and Thibault; quirky experiences such as watching a fleet of paper jets boasting drawings by respected artists let off from the top of a building; a light symphony where the participants are flat dwellers; an audio tour of Cape Town by UK's famous punchdrunk; playing scrabble with large scrabble pieces at St George's Mall; watching the startling fresh work of choreographers such as Mamela Nyamza, the Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winner for Dance; flash mobs that will take your breath away literally, such as a large puppet flash mob by Puppetry South Africa (formerly Unima); gospel singers on bicycles flooding the city; an entire flute orchestra of about 40 players suddenly pitching up and playing; and over 400 skateboarders in a skateboarding extravaganza whizzing through the city'.

While it’s been a challenging programme to put together, 'making the city a space of awe and wonder for a short period has been exciting and fulfilling', says Pather.

A huge amount of creative and conceptual planning has been involved in designing a programme that encourages audiences to discover, define and experience Cape Town in new ways, altering their perception of the city as they engage with public spaces differently.

'Finally, and particularly with relevance to the fact that there are night-time routes that go up to 10pm and beyond, it is about owning the city at all hours and feeling free to move and enjoy these communal spaces outside of work, where the spaces become a large theatre and a larger gallery,' says Pather.

To find out more about how to enjoy the festival, visit the event website, which details the clearly defined routes around which the festival is planned (which you can download) and gives all the event programme information.

Background to the festival

Infecting The City (ITC) is a project of the Africa Centre. According to Pather, 'most of the 4.5-million people living in Cape Town rarely experience, because of financial or geographical constraints, dance, theatre, performance art, music and large-scale visual art installations. ITC works towards changing this reality and focuses on finding ways for everyone to see, hear and find themselves in the art produced, engaging with public spaces, urbanism and issues of the city. The festival brings public art from international, national and local artists.'

All photographs by Sydelle Willow Smith, courtesy Infecting The City.

comments powered by Disqus