Wits University Press
Acts of Transgression is a collection of fifteen critical essays and visual records that though connected to the annual ICA Live Art Festival that takes place in Cape Town, does not function in any way as its catalogue. Through selected artists’ projects from this and other platforms, the authors probe the notion of ‘live arts’ in the rapidly shifting landscape of contemporary South African society. The works of twenty-five artists and collectives analysed in this publication reflect, in various ways, the evolving language of performative protest. Labelled as the country’s twelfth official language, protest is approached in its nuanced forms, focusing on live acts performed in public spaces in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Makhanda and other places. Public activations of the queer archive are one among many issues addressed. Also of interest is how historical sites have been used as a backdrop to pose questions about the present and about the future of their positioning.
In South Africa, live art is born of extremity. Its syncretic form has evolved in response to rapidly changing social climates, colonial imposition, cultural fragmentation and politics upheaval; its affective tenor of excess and irrationality embodies the unpredictability of crisis. It proffers a new languge that resists the narratives of certainty and linearity through which a neocolonial agenda has been perpatuated (even if sometimesinadvertently) in this country, reflecting – without seeking to resolve – the inscrutability and urgency of states of socio-political flux.