In a somewhat questionable marketing endeavour, the Eastern Cape Region has been sign posted, ‘Frontier Country’ and indeed this is what it is. Historically it is the site of the 9 Frontier Wars and much brutal conflict and living here presently can still seem the edge of nowhere by comparison to many major South African metropols. With Grahamstown at the heart of it, it is also a cosmopolitan space not without vestiges of past pain but - like many colonial outposts in a post-colonial time - it is no longer a satellite to an absent motherland, a mere microcosm of elsewhere, but also a world unto itself.

A potential space of intellectual, debate rather than military conflict – geographically isolated from metropolitan trends – a melting pot of many places, a crucible. In more recent history, this frontier space has been a site of culture, of experiment. Home to an annual arts festival, how is it that Grahamstown with a population of just under 140 000 can command so much creative imagination in novels, plays, poetry and art? Frontier, Border, at the end of the world but not about to fall off – merely at a vantage point to observe a view to come.
- Rat Western

DISCHARGE 2012             COLOUR COLLOQUIUM 2010             SYNTHETIC DIRT 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

James Sey: Infospherics and a new South African psychogeography.

The relationship between place, memory and representation has become an increasingly contested one in the digital age. The processes of globalisation and its consequent displacement of populations have meant that the intervention of technologies of representation into the everyday experience of a culture have become ubiquitous, thus problematising the representation of culture per se. Google Earth is a prime example, but a generalised knowledge, through various infospheric channels, of global geography gives rise to the impression that the infonaut is in possession of knowledge of the world, and is thus transcultural, or somehow outside anthropology.
This attenuated relationship between experience, technology and place gives rise to interesting new imaginative and aesthetic possibilities, in particular that of a more developed ‘psychogeography’ than that imagined by Baudelaire, Benjamin and Debord. While more recent psychogeographers like Sinclair and Moore have explored these possibilities in mostly literary art forms, it is in ironically more technologised aesthetic forms that some of the dirt of lived anthropological knowledge and experience might be reintroduced to the infosphere.
South African art provides an excellent example of this. For decades now the country’s imagination has been concerned with excavation – not only of new forms and new aesthetic possibilities, but either with literal digging up of dirt, or with the metaphorical excavation of an imaginary geography itself. This paper argues a case for such a new aesthetic in SA, adducing various examples.

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