Pavilion prototype II: U406
Can we transform the colonial museum while still stuck in the same old building that sought to marginalise us?
This is an old question with many answers, ranging from a hard “No”, to the nostalgic “they are such lovely buildings” all the way to “it’s complex”. This question is particularly hard when one factors in heritage laws that essentially protects such building, and the reality that most of its budget is taken up by its up keep.
U406 , now at Iziko Bertram Parking lot, and it’s previous iterations like Thabana ya Dafida, proposes ambivalence to the important work of redress, contestation, fugitivity and creativity. It attempts instead to ask “what kind of space do I want?” and devotes its energy towards recovering an ability to build period. To recognise that it is only by building new building, that news types of expressions can flourish. —defunct context hopes to remind us that an impulse to build is not standard, and we should cultivate it vigorously.
Taking advantage of art’s use of the format of a Pavilion; the ease of working timber; and the liminality of a parking lot. —defunct context takes the Msinsi tree, catalogued U406 as an anchor point, acknowledging its many associations, like new beginnings, fire, and more interestingly, a final resting place for dingaka.
Over the next months the pavilion will morph towards a camera obscura installations, inviting and accepting interventions. From simply occupying it as a space of pause, play or rehearsals; an artist studio and so forth. At the end it is the curiosity of its public, whom ever they might be, that shapes it.
—defunct context is a premise, and curatorial strategy concerned with taking seriously the idea of personal Archives. It began as a public space responding to persistent colonial aesthetic in the refurbished Anthropology museum at the University of Witwatersrand. It has also functioned as an immersive exhibitions space hosting a camera obscura located on an abandoned hill in my grandmother’s home village of Gasekgopo, asking the question “what kind of an image is land”. In its current form it looks to consider the space limitations of an art school while addressing the presence of Lobedu material in colonial museum buildings.
—defunct context is a research project by Dr George Mahashe, hosted around the theme of intangible heritage in collaboration with Iziko Museum. The project is supported by the UCT NRF BAAP grant and NIHSS Catalytic Research grant Vice Chancellor’s 2030 Future Leaders Project