The Institute for Creative Arts (ICA) is an interdisciplinary institute based in the University of Cape Town’s Humanities Faculty. Since 2008, the Institute has fostered innovative practice and research in the creative and performing arts that works across the disciplines of music, dance, fine art, drama, literature and film. UCT has very strong performing and creative art disciplines – the ICA supports these disciplines, and pioneers research and artistic practices that blur disciplinary boundaries. This interdisciplinary vision drives the ICA’s key areas of work: Postgraduate Programme; Fellowship Programme, Interdisciplinary Festivals, Establishing Networks, Interdisciplinary Symposiums, Public Lecture Series, Publications and The ICA Podcast.
Decolonisation and transformation are central to the study and practice of live art. Live art asks us to break down disciplinary silos in education, and to think of art outside of neat or pure art forms and the discrete study of each one, for these art forms borrow from and influence one another in constantly shifting ways. As such, live art is a recognition of the fact that inherited models of curation, of teaching, and of learning do not always serve our current moment, and the voices that artists are trying to articulate within it. This decolonial impulse is central to the postgraduate programmes that the ICA runs in collaboration with the Centre for Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies (CTDPS).
Honours in Live Art
This course investigates, through practice and theory, notions of live art and performance art. Theoretical perspectives consider the history of interdisciplinary practices in the West with the development of performance art at the turn of the twentieth century, as well as the roots of elements of live art in classical African tradition. The course focuses on the practice of live art in present-day South Africa and the conceptualisation and production of a live art work.
PhD and MA Study in Live Art, Interdisciplinary and Public Art
The ICA’s MA and PhD Programme in Live Art, Interdisciplinary and Public Art is open to choreographers, visual artists, performers, directors, composers, curators as well as creative and performing arts researchers and engages students in a rigorous programme of written explication, seminars, practice as research, a full studio programme and coursework. The Institute offers scholarships to pursue this study.
Fellowship Programme & Workshops
The ICA offers fellowships to artists and academics interested in extending their research while engaging with the postgraduate creative arts community at ICA. Fellowships provide candidates with time on UCT campus and access to the University’s facilities; the opportunity to engage extensively with UCT’s research community, and interaction with ICA’s Live Art, Interdisciplinary and Public Art postgraduate cohort. The ICA offers Curatorial, Live Art, National and International Fellowships – and, most recently, an Online Fellowship.
Live Art Workshop
These have been held over several years. Most recently, in March of 2019, the ICA collaborated with Pro Helvetia, and held a comprehensive interdisciplinary Live Art Workshop under the direction of Jay Pather. The Workshop was aimed at all creative artists, thinkers and practitioners in a range of fields with an interest in experimental practice and performance. The Workshop engaged 27 participants in a rich programme of workshops and lectures in choreography, sound and lighting design, dance and movement, amongst other disciplines, presented by 10 esteemed practitioners and educators from South Africa, Mozambique, India, Germany, Switzerland, Brazil, China, Palestine and Egypt. It culminated in a Public Showing on 14 April, where each participant presented a concept for a new live art work developed during the course of the Workshop. The concept is scheduled to travel internationally, with the next workshop envisaged for New Delhi.
Live Art Festival
Our flagship project, the ICA Live Art Festival, is a biennial interdisciplinary festival. Since 2012, it has challenged and extended the public’s experience of live art in a non-commercial environment, and made accessible the work of visual and performing artists who explore new forms.
Infecting the City
The longest running public arts festival in South Africa, Infecting the City takes art, music, dance and performance out of theatres and into Cape Town’s streets and public spaces. ITC returned to the streets of Cape Town in November 2019, hosted by the UCA. The rich six-day programme featured a series of daytime and nighttime events presented by the ICA, and curated by ICA Director Jay Pather. See the full ITC programme
Public Lecture Series
Great Texts/Big Questions
The ICA’s Great Texts/Big Questions lecture series, launched in 2010, aims to engender an exchange of ideas and opinion structured around a specific text or piece of work that is of interest or importance to the public. The ICA has invited a wide range of prominent academics, artists and writers to present at the Great Texts lecture series over the years – William Kentridge, Gayatri Spivak, Sisonke Msimang and Achille Mbembe are just a few.
The Medical Humanities public lecture series comprises medical practitioners, scientists, theatre-makers, artists and poets whose lectures and presentations engage with the growing interdisciplinary field of medical humanities, in pursuit of intellectual synergies and their application to medical pedagogy and practice. It is presented by the School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics, and the ICA.
Black Art & Communities at Heart (BACAH)
BACAH conceptualised and hosted by theatre activist, director and ICA National fellowship recipient Mandisi Sindo in collaboration with ICA Director, Jay Pather, is a conversation series that explores the importance of Black art, Black artists and Black communities in a democratic South Africa. Importantly, these conversations take place outside of traditional centres of discussion (e.g. universities and city centres). They are held inside of the communities most affected by the subject of the talks.
Live Art Network Africa (LANA)
The Live Art Network Africa (LANA) is a network of African artists, researchers, academics, curators and writers practising and/or researching in the field of live art. LANA was launched at the ICA, University of Cape Town (UCT) at a three-day event, held from 17–20 February 2018, comprising a symposium, performances and networking sessions. Read more about the LANA symposium, performances and networking sessions. See the LANA programme.
European Dancehouse Network (EDN)
The ICA shares a close partnership with the EDN – a network for trust and cooperation between 42 European dancehouses sharing a common vision regarding the development of dance art across borders. In March 2020, the EDN Cape Town Encounter considered the promises and pitfalls of African choreographers and artists touring European contexts. Many institutions abroad have not kept up with contemporary developments in the political, ethical and aesthetic expectations of African artists. And African artists, in turn, look to European tours to increase their audience base, interact with artists and producers globally, as well as experience the financial benefits these tours offer when compared with trying to stage works at home. The EDN Encounter opened up these discussions, and created an opportunity for artists, producers and students to meet and network, as well as shift and influence the dynamics of the exchange.
Independent Curators International (ICI)
From 14 – 20 November 2019, the ICI in collaboration with the ICA held the Curatorial Intensive in Cape Town. The Curatorial Intensive, a weeklong professional development programme, offers curators the opportunity to discuss, among colleagues, the concepts, logistics, and challenges of organising exhibitions, public programmes, and other curatorial models. This programme was the sixth Curatorial Intensive in Africa since 2013, following past iterations in Johannesburg, Addis Ababa, Marrakech, Dakar, and Accra. The Curatorial Intensive is designed to immerse participants in a rigorous schedule of seminars, presentations, site visits, and one-on-one meetings that support the process of developing an idea for a project into a full proposal. The Curatorial Intensive culminated in a Public Symposium presented by the programme’s participants, featuring exhibitions and curatorial proposals developed over the course of the Curatorial Intensive.
The following is a cross-section of the many events that the ICA has hosted.
The 3rd Space Symposium explored ideas around the imperative to decolonise the university, the role of the creative arts in provoking change, and the dialectic between the settled nature of academic curricula and the spontaneity of transformation. Read more about the first 3rd Space Symposium, held from 13–14 May 2016. Read more about 3rd Space 2017, held from 24–26 August 2017.
A two-day symposium comprising talks, performances, a film screening, and discussion panels, intersect brought academia and the creative arts together to interrogate the intersecting themes of race, gender, class and sexual identity. Read more about intersect, held from 12-13 February 2016.
Remaking Place, a symposium on public art, ran in conjunction with the 2015 Infecting the City public arts festival. Read more about Remaking place, held from 8 to 14 March 2015.
LAND, which considered the centennial of the 2013 Land Act, featured performances and artistic conversations concerning issues around space, land and ownership. Read more about LAND, held from 21-24 November 2013.
Relocations: Reading Culture in South Africa
Edited by Cóilín Parsons, Imraan Coovadia and Alexandra Dodd, Relocations brings together a selection of the ICA’s seminal Great Texts/Big Questions lectures, presented by world-renowned artists, writers and thinkers, in the form of essays, for the benefit of a wider readership.
Acts of Transgression: Contemporary Live Art in South Africa
In this groundbreaking collection of critical essays edited by Jay Pather and Catherine Boulle, and published by Wits University Press, 15 writers explore the experimental, interdisciplinary and radically transgressive field of contemporary live art in South Africa. Set against a contemporary South African society that is chronologically ‘post’ apartheid, but one that continues to grapple with material redress, land redistribution and systemic racism, Acts of Transgression finds a representation of the complexity of this moment within the rich potential of a performative art form that transcends disciplinary boundaries and aesthetic conventions.
Restless Infections: Public Art in South Africa
The ICA’s forthcoming publication will explore the Infecting the City (ITC) public arts festival produced by the Africa Centre and the ICA – the largest and longest running public arts festival in the country. However, the book will also be broader in scope, analysing works that have ‘infected’, challenged or transformed city spaces in South Africa within and beyond the numerous iterations of ITC.
The ICA Podcast
Launched in July 2020, The ICA Podcast asks: how do Live Artists see, think, listen, respond and create? We dive into this question every few weeks via long-form interviews with South African artists and curators who perform or curate Live Art. Join us on site and in studio as we explore ground-breaking performances, public interventions and participatory installations – and the fascinating minds that bring them into being.