Imagining Ordinary Cities

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Birds flying across a city street at sunrise

Imagining the Ordinary City

Arts, Placemaking and Everyday Urban Lives

Project Summary

This British Academy-funded research project investigates literary, visual and performance works that are inspired by ‘ordinary’ (Robinson, 2006) South African cities, such as Makhanda and Pretoria/Tshwane. The project also focuses on artworks and cultural interventions that explore the prosaic aspects of daily life in larger metropolitan areas, such as Cape Town, a city that has recently gained more traction in art and scholarship. In doing so, the project will further shift focus away from the speed and spectacle of cities (including the spectacle of violence) towards the everyday practices (de Certeau, 1984) that form ordinary urban space.

The project includes textual analysis of selected artworks that focus on several South African cities, complemented by archival research and interviews with artists and arts organisations. A practice-as-research component, which employs both original film footage and archival material, is also included in the methodology.

  • Robinson, Jennifer (2006) Ordinary Cities: Between Modernity and Development, London and New York: Routlege.
  • De Certeau, Michel (1984) The Practice of Everyday Life, Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.