Can art make space public in Johannesburg?

French Institute Seminars in Humanities (FISH)
4 February2014

14:00 – IFAS Conference Room, 62 Juta Street, Braamfontein


Pauline Guinard
Ecole normale supérieur – Paris
UMR Lavue-Laboratoire Mosaïques

Based on my PhD thesis, this seminar will look at public spaces in Johannesburg through the lens of art. The issues raised by the use of the Western notion of public spaces are explored in the current urban context. On the one hand, the previous dynamics of separation have tended to divide spaces into different publics, completely isolated from each other. On the other hand, the high rates of violence and feeling of insecurity enhance securitization and privatization of these same spaces. What is at stake is to understand how the publicness of these spaces can be legally, socially, and politically constructed. Because the art that is produced in legally public spaces since the end of apartheid is presented as a means to create spaces of encounter and debate or, conversely, to regulate and control these spaces, I argue that it can be a relevant tool to understand and reveal these processes of construction and deconstruction of public spaces. In a qualitative approach, my study is based on field observations and interviews with artists, sponsors and members of the public of this art. At the crossroads of urban and cultural geography, I am therefore re-examining the concept of public spaces through the prism of art to figure out which kind of city is today at work in Johannesburg.


Doctor in geography, Pauline Guinard is currently lecturer at the Ecole normale supérieure of Paris and member of the UMR Lavue-Laboratoire Mosaïques. Her research focuses on the relations between art and the contemporary city, and more especially on the role of arts in the production of urban practices and representations.