ATUL BHALLA is Associate Professor, Department of Art Design and Performing Arts, Shiv Nadar University, Dehli. Professor Bhalla is a conceptual artist whose work has been exhibited widely in the US, the Pompidou Centre, Paris, Valencia, Spain, London, Shahjar and India. Professor Bhalla spent time in Johannesburg in 2012 as a fellow of the Nirox Foundation, exploring in particular illegal mining and water sources around the city. He will be using a methodology he has employed in recent years in Shanghai, Hamburg and elsewhere, with an initial reconnaissance and research visit(s), then a longer visit culminating in the fabrication and installation of work. Since he has been looking at water as a repository of meaning and 'memory', he revisits locations, and spent three weeks in December 2017 in Johannesburg to explore on site the current setting. http://www.atulbhalla.com/
About the work
The work is an attempt to examine water as repository of history, meaning and myth within the Johannesburg gold mining context taking references of land and water from historical contexts. The occupation, exploitation and commodification of water, land and its resources have been reverberating across generations to now pose concerns of and to future life.The emphasis on natural resource ‘greed’ and what is ‘need’ to protect areas and resources has been nuanced within the work, and pose question which reverberated within the local politicical situation and beyond it illiciting responses from all directly concerned and the unconcerned.
I would like to profusely thank from the bottom of my heart Oupa Sibeko,for the time, effort and sense of enquiry, his guidance and expertise on the field without which I would not have been able to access a lot of locations and people. I would also like to thank Paulose Mvulane,who accompanied us on many occasions and joined in the conversations.
And not to forget connection with people who are most often under the earth,Lebohang Phaketsiand Moses without whose help this project would not have materialised.
Brian House is an artist who explores the interdependent rhythms of the body, technology, and the environment. His work has been shown by MoMA (NYC), MOCA (LA), Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center, Ars Electronica, Transmediale, ZKM, Eyebeam, and Rhizome, among others, and has been featured in publications including TIME, WIRED, Neural, Creative Applications, Hyperallergic, and Creator’s Project. He recently completed his PhD in Computer Music and Multimedia at Brown University and is currently an Associate Research Scholar at Columbia University's Center for Spatial Research. http://brianhouse.net
CHRISTINE DIXIE is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Fine Art, Rhodes University. Her work is predominantly focussed on two interlinked concerns, the visual strategies deployed in frontier landscape representation and the narratives used in constructing images of gender. Extending the boundaries of print making as a medium by working in installation and by using a variety of matrix’s and materials, her work is intent on drawing the viewer into a mesmeric yet disquieting space. She was awarded an Artist Research Fellowship at the Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C. Her work is represented in national and international collections including The New York Public Library, The Johannesburg Art Museum and the Iziko National Art Museum. The installation The Binding, 2010, examines the relationship between sacrifice and male identity, and was acquired by the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. Her latest multi-media installation, To Be King was exhibited at the Venice Biennale and in London in 2017. http://www.christinedixie.co.za/
About the work
Under the Sediments
In the series Under the Sediments(2018) I superimpose two visual registers or languages. The first register is a depiction of a karoo landscape in which over two thirds of the image depicts the earth below. The inversion of the traditional depiction of the karoo landscape is part of a long-standing interest of mine in subverting traditional representations of ‘the picturesque landscape’. It is artwork that, in part, refers to ‘art history’. The second register is one that comes from the realm of science and engineering. I adapted the diagrammatic images I came across on the internet of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, (commonly known as fracking) to create hard edge ‘pipes’. The karoo landscape depicted on the front panels has literally been cut away to create the scientifically ordered, ‘pipes’ laid below the ground to extract gas from below the surface of the earth. The collision and collusion of the two ‘languages’ in Under the Sedimentsreveals the different epistemological strategies of art and science. In this artwork the two ‘languages’ are brought together to speak not only about this collision but about disturbing the dead that lie under the sediments.
Hannelie Coetzee uses natural materials, unlikely partnerships and industry waste to build site specific artworks. Her artworks are sometimes permanent, but often ephemeral. Research into the material and the ecological scar the extraction leaves on the landscape is fundamental to her process.Coetzee’s work in sculpture and photography centres on the use of these art forms to engage partners to draw audiences to nature and see nature in a more empathetic realm. Coetzee’s work specifically aims to integrate art and succession science research to inspire active citizenry.
Hannelie Coetzee (b1971) is a Johannesburg-based visual artist. Coetzee believes her ‘open source’ practice grows an audience that appreciates art whilst contributing to environmental awareness. She received BTech degree in social documentary photography from the Vaal University for Technology (1990 – 1994). She followed it up with an Advanced Diploma in Fine Arts (Cum Laude) at The University of the Witwatersrand whilst working in the Wits Fine Arts Department (1996 – 1997). She studied Social Entrepreneurship at the Gordon Institute for Business Science (GIBS) on A Rand Merchant Bank Grant in 2013. Coetzee has done many site sensitive public artworks, works in Sculpture Parks around the globe and Exhibitions since 2010. In 2017 she received a Trade and Industry Grant to research her own concrete vertical garden system that would pixelate imagery by using different colored plants. The Wildwall Tile will physically help cool cities down, once the research concludes towards the end of 2018.
About the Work
Hannelie Coetzee continuous her exploration of the fragile relationship between humans and nature in presenting the Hyena sculptures from the Synanthrope Series II(2018) in the Origins Museum Spirit room as well as map artworks of the intercontinental watershed that runs through Johannesburg.
As an immersive experience, not to have to imagine the watershed, Chris Brooker recently mapped it for Coetzee. The artist will walk from Wits following the actual Continental Watershed on 8, 15 and 24 September. Following this high ground, the water that falls north of this ridge flows towards the Indian ocean, and water that falls south from this ridge flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Brooker calls Johannesburgers equal opportunities polluters.
A synanthrope refers to an animal or plant that lives near and benefits from an association with humans and the artificial habitats that humans create around them – like an urban environment. Coetzee urges viewers to consider their own impact on nature and to rethink how mankind will live with limited natural resources well into the future. Made from reclaimed materials, her artworks become a vehicle outside and inside the exhibition space to expand this conversation about what’s beneath the urban landscape and the incorporation of integrity back into natural resources, highlighting the ever-present link between human, nature and land. Surprisingly, Hyenas frequent green corridors in urban sprawl areas. Read more here.
Professor Cock has published widely on issues relating to gender, environmental and militarisation issues. Her best known works are Maids and Madams: A Study in the Politics of Exploitation (Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1989); Going Green: People, Politics and the Environment (co-edited with Eddie Koch) (Cape Town: Oxford University Press, 1991); Colonels and Cadres: War and Gender in South Africa (Cape Town: Oxford University Press, 1991); From Defence to Development: The Redirection of Military Resources in South Africa (edited with P. McKenzie) (Cape Town: David Phillip, 1998); Rainbow Nations and Melting Pots: Conversations about Difference and Disadvantage (with A. Bernstein) (Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2002); and most recently The War Against Ourselves: Nature, Power and Justice (Wits University Press, 2007). Her current research focus is on struggles for environmental justice.
Writing the Ancestral River is an illuminating biography of the Kowie River in the Eastern Cape. This tidal river runs through a formative meeting ground of peoples who have shaped South Africa’s history: Khoikhoi herders, Xhosa pastoralists, Dutch trekboers and British settlers. Their direct descendants in the area still interact in ways that have been decisively shaped by their shared history.
This is also a natural history of the river and its catchment area, where dinosaurs once roamed and cycads still grow. The natural world of the Kowie has felt the effects of human settlement, most strikingly through the development of a harbour at the mouth of the river in the 19th century and a marina in the late 20th century, which have had a decisive and deleterious impact on the Kowie.
People are increasingly reconnecting with nature and justice through rivers. Acknowledging the past, and the inter-generational, racialised privileges, damages and denials it established and perpetuates, is necessary for any shared future. By focusing on this ‘little’ river, the book raises larger questions about colonialism, capitalism, ‘development’ and ecology, and asks us to consider the connections between social and environmental injustice.
“Jacklyn Cock has penned a love letter that is as hopeful as it is elegiac. Drawing on family connections to the Kowie that go back to the 1820 settlers, Cock asks big questions about the relationship between nature and culture, between humans and other forms of life, and about the place of rivers in human history. It is only by rethinking our relationship to nature that we can save ourselves”.
JACOB DLAMINI, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY
“Jacklyn Cock has made the story of a small and fairly insignificant river into a metonym of the biological glories of South Africa and the ecological devastation they have endured, and continue to endure. The result is at once lyrical and trenchant. As a history rooted in the landscape of South Africa, it has few peers, and no superiors”.
ROBERT ROSS, PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF AFRICAN STUDIES, LEIDEN UNIVERSITY
“This book is not just an intellectual engagement, though it does have that tranquil thrill of great academic writing — dramatic truths are stated soberly and are backed by vigorous research.”
REVIEW IN THE BUSINESS DAY
LENORE MANDERSON conceptualised and is the director of Watershed: Art, Science and Elemental Politics.
She is Distinguished Professor of Public Health and Medical Anthropology in the School of Public Health at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), internationally known for her work in anthropology, social history and public health. She joined Wits early 2014, after a decade as Honorary Professor while working in Australia. She has played a lead role in training and research in inequality, social exclusion and marginality, the social determinants of infectious and chronic disease, gender and sexuality, immigration and ethnicity in Australia, Southeast and East Asia, Solomon Islands, South Africa and Ghana. She has trained to graduation some 160 postgraduate research students, and is the author, editor or co-author of some 630 books, articles, book chapters and reports, including Sickness and the State(1996), Surface Tensions: Surgery, Bodily Boundaries and the Social Self(2011), Technologies of Sexuality, Identity and Sexual Health(ed., 2012),and Disclosure in Health and Illness (ed. with Mark Davis, 2014), and senior editor of theRoutledge Handbook of Medical Anthropology(2016).She is an NRF A-rated scholar, a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa, and a Fellow of both the World Academy of Art and Science and the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. In 2016 she was awarded the biennial Career Achievement Award of the Society for Medical Anthropology for her theoretical and methodological contributions to the field.
Lenore isalso Distinguished Visiting Professor of Environmental Studies in the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society (IBES), Brown University, Providence RI, USA. At Brown University, her work includes a five-year program bringing together the natural and social sciences, humanities and the arts in conversations on environmental change and sustainability; this work inspired her to produce Watershed at Wits. At Brown, she also teaches a course on biodiversity loss and innovation to mitigate this within the IE/Brown Executive MBA.
While she is primarily a medical anthropologist, social historian of medicine and public health professional, she is also an actor, most recently appearing in a show in Melbourne (July 2018).
LUCIA MONGE isa Peruvian artist and anAdjunct Professor in the Department of Visual Arts at Brown University. Her artistic research focuses on the way humans position themselves within the natural world—probing proximity and distance through material and movement exploration. She has exhibited widely in South America, Europe, and the United States as well as at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21). Most recently, throughout 2018, she has participated in residencies at Whitechapel Gallery and Guapamacátaro Center for Art & Ecology, presented in the Open Engagement conference at the Queens Museum, and published in the journal Global Performance Issues and in Ansible magazine. She has received a Fellowship from the Oak Spring Foundation and an Education Partnership Grant from Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. The body of work planned for South Africa, is being developed in collaboration with the Centre in Water Research and Development (CiWARD), and directly addresses a South African audience by focusing on different species of plants from the region and studying their water collection and conservation strategies. http://luciamonge.com/
About the work
Mi niño, your dry spell, their waterfallis a long-term project that focuses on the tools used to collect, treat and transport water in different parts of the world, starting with South Africa and Peru. I am interested in these tools as both an expression of our anthropogenic touch as well as an indication of the way water touches us back shaping gendered,social, economic, and political structures. To research water-tools is a way to understand different relationships to water and to come into contact with an array of material cultures that involve advanced technology, creative low-budget solutions, and nonhuman strategies.
When talking to Craig Sheridan, Director of the Centre for Water Research and Development, I found out about a water collecting tool they had designed and which had been inspired by a South African curly-whirly plant. The morphological adaptations in this group of plants have resulted in incredibly smart designs that respond to the challenges of water scarcity in areas such as the Namaqualand desert. Plant-inspired design has become the focus for this stage in my project.
I am researching the ways in which desert plants collect and conserve water to re-think and re-shape human tools designed for similar tasks. Their morphological adaptations inform sculptural explorations that hybridize human tools and objects which are then arranged to map speculative water systems. To observe how plants face the challenge of water scarcity serves as a lens to revisit the way humans handle water and organize its distribution. The resulting installation piece focuses on plant species endemic to South Africa and includes tools and objects collected during my time in Johannesburg.
MARK LEWIS is based in Johannesburg. He has worked in documentary, with a specific focus on the African continent, freelancing for German and other European publications. He has photographed workers in Swaziland, the city of Mogadishu and Ship breakers in Bangladesh. He is currently working with writer Tanya Zack on a ten book series of Johannesburg stories called Wake Up, This is Joburgpublished by Fourthwall Books, Johannesburg. Recent solo exhibitions include Wake Up, This is Joburg (2014) and 2015), and The Grande Hotel, Beira, Gallery Momo, Johannesburg (2013). His work from the series Wake Up, This is Joburgwas selected for the Venice Biennale 2015.http://www.marklewisphotography.com/
About the work
The Komati River rises near Carolina in Mpumalanga and wends its way, through Swaziland via a granite valley, to come out at Maputo in Mozambique. In Swaziland it gets dammed before continuing its 480 km trajectory to Maputo. In this forced pause, the nature of the river is altered – details reveal themselves that were previously unexposed.
These images record a moment in this endlessly transformative cycle of the interaction of the elements and time. The current and ancient watermarks mingle in indentations and along channels carved over thousands of years through the still and flowing water. Stains that appear permanent on the rock dissolve and reappear instantly with the ebb and flow of the water, washing over previous traces and, in the process, creating new patterns and possibilities of transformation in the landscape. Some indentations and rivulets will direct the persistent movement of water to cause massive changes in the shape of the granite. And all the time the water and memory of water will leave its mark. These images aim to record these residual traces.
O | 32 (or to be more precise 0°00’ : 32°00’) are the co-ordinates for the Ssese Islands in Lake Victoria. The Ssese islands serendipitously lie at the centre of the geographical triangle in which I live and work and that inspire my work – Johannesburg, Lagos and Dubai.
I first visited the Ssese islands in 1993, which at the time involved a day long journey from Kampala on a decrepit streamer. Then as now the islands represent a romantic enigma –the 84 islands scattered across a huge shallow lake that lies at the heart of Africa. Partly cloaked in forest, that give way to grasslands and sandy beaches –they are tropical islands that would appeal to any latter day Gauguin. But these island are also home to densely packed and desperately poor villages, the people infected with malaria and HIV, the blue waters of the lake unswimmable due to bilharzia. The villagers fish, but smuggling is a more important economic activity. When I first visited the islands, fish stocks were falling due to the invasion of water hyacinths plants that were reducing oxygen levels in the lake, and the income of the villagers. The images in the paintings are maps, worked until unrecognisable and combined with imagined maps formed by the flow of paint. They reflect the experience of the world from the air but are also experiments in paint, which forms shapes indistinguishable from the shapes eroded and formed in nature by the flow of water.
RICHARD KETLEY has painted since a young age. After a career break, Richard recommitted to his painting career in 2013 and has held a string of exhibitions across the continent. His exhibitions include Art Makes Water: Minerton Gallery, Kampala, November 2017; Creekskyde, Al Fahidi District, Dubai, 2018; O|32 The Point of Order, Johannesburg, 2018 and Wayfarers, ArchiAfrica Gallery, Accra, 2018. He works principally in charcoal, acrylic and oil, and seeks to develop images that are drawn from life but extend the viewer’s imagination. He is presently interested in formal elements of painting and drawing inspired by the world around him and the many countries he visits, and in finding meaning where others do not - light on water observed from an airplane, the jumble of exports on a Dubai Creekside, fishing boats on the shores of Lake Victoria. But within these spaces there is balance and form and structure - all elements abstracted in his work. Richard is completing a Master in Fine Arts at Wits. www.richardketley.com
Thomas Patrick Pringle
Thomas Patrick Pringle is a PhD candidate with the Department of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University. He is a graduate affiliate with the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society and has held fellowships with the SenseLab Montréal and the Digital Cultures Research Lab at Leuphana University. Thomas has published work on the entangled history of photography and radiation in NECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies and on new documentary politics in The Journal of Film and Video. His current work focuses on contemporary ecological crises as they circulate in digital culture with reference to how the history of cybernetics has influenced systems ecology, critical theory, neoliberal economics, and the philosophy of technology. https://www.brown.edu/academics/modern-culture-and-media/thomas-pringle
Wendy Woodson is Roger C. Holden 1919 Professor of Theater and Dance at Amherst College and the Five College Dance Department, and is a choreographer, director, writer and video artist. She is also founder and Artistic Director of Present Co. Inc. She has created over 100 works for stage and video presented in the U.S., Europe, New Zealand and Australia at venues including the John F. Kennedy Center, LaMaMa Etc. NYC, LaMaMa Melbourne, Immigration Museum (Melbourne), the Smithsonian, Jacob's Pillow, Emerson Majestic Theater, Washington Project for the Arts, PS 122, and the DeCordova Museum. In addition to her set pieces, she is a veteran improvisational performer, and has received numerous fellowships and grants in choreography, playwriting and video. https://www.wendywoodson.com/
Yvette Christiansë, a prominent poet, novelist and academic has done more than most to put South African literature at sea. South African literary traditions have long been focused on land telling stories of the farm, the mine, the township. The city.
Christiansë’s work has re-inserted slavery and the ocean into our literary awareness. She will be taking part in two events as part of the Watershed festival at Wits University that runs from Sept 10 to 21. On Sept 13 she will be reading from her creative work and Sept 14 she will be presenting her academic research on slavery and slave registers.
Christiansë has published two collections of poetry and a novel, all concerned with themes of maritime slavery and its implication for South Africa. Her novel Unconfessed (2006) examines a slave from the Mozambique region, Silla who is imprisoned on Robben Island for killing her son. The novel moves between the plantation/farm and the prison island, recontextualizing one of the major themes of southern African literature, the farm novel, by linking it to narratives of slavery and the sea.
Her two collections of poetry Castaway (1999) and Imprendehora (2009) concern the intersection of slavery and indenture. After the abolition of slavery in the British empire in 1833, British naval squadrons in the Indian Ocean ‘freed’ slaves found on the vessels of French, Portuguese and Arab slave traders. These slaves were nominally liberated but where then consigned to work as indentured labourers. Christiansë explores the difficulty of reconstructing these double experiences of servitude. She has been writing about, and researching these themes for nearly three decades.
Christiansë is a multi-talented intellectual. In addition to her creative work she has produced an academic monograph, Toni Morrison: An Ethical Poetics (2013).
She is also a librettist and has worked on the opera version of Adbulrahman Munif’s novel Cities of Salt.
Born under apartheid, Christiansë emigrated with her family via Swaziland to Australia when she was 18. She lives in New York City where she works at Barnard College at Columbia University. She is Ann Whitney Olin Chair, Professor of Africana Studies and English, and Chair of Africana Studies.
Thomas Patrick Pringle