The Aesthetics and Politics research platform is aimed at renewing a humanities inquiry through encounters with the visual and performing arts, and at critically investigating the intersection of the arts, politics, and publics in post-apartheid South Africa.

Among other engagements, exhibitions curated by the CHR under this platform have provoked a consideration of issues such as agency, empowerment, received categories of hierarchical distinction, exclusions and omissions from the South African art canon, and the desire of the politically subjugated to be human through creativity. As all archives open to the future, they have been designed to stimulates thinking about issues pertaining to notions affecting the human in the postapartheid present, among them the collapse of the community arts movement after 1994, the erosion of a broad-based cultural citizenship, the hyper-professionalism of the art world in which arts and culture function as mega-business (as distinct from the idea of art as a process of humanisation and empowerment), and the decline of creative education in an instrumentalised world weighted towards science and business education.

Archive Project


Archives Project

In 2019, UWC assembled a research team to assess and make recommendations on the revitalisation of the considerable archival holdings of the liberation movements of Southern Africa housed at the University of the Western Cape, especially but not only, at the UWC-Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archives.

Research Projects


Aesthetic Education

Aesthetic Education brings together an experiment in public arts practice and humanities scholarship on the question of the practice of post-apartheid freedom. At the core of the Laboratory of Kinetic Objects (LoKO), which intersects with CHR research enquiries into Becoming Technical of the Human, is the question of how to think of aesthetics and the domains of artistic creation as sites to read and comprehend the dynamics of change in post-apartheid South Africa. Research projects which explore how and to what ends artistic practices such as object theatre and puppetry arts might address themes such as truth and reconciliation, gender and identity formation, subject-object relations, and legacies of the past to bring another perspective on contemporary predicaments in South Africa and Africa more generally, are especially encouraged.

IMAGE/SOUND/MOVEMENT (ISM)

Image, sound, and movement are key to the definition of Aesthetic Education. This sector contributes to debates that are pertinent to the intertwining of aesthetics, knowledge, and politics across a geopolitical South-North imaginary. We approach the phenomena of stillness, movement, and sound as expressed in a variety of image-making media ranging from photography, slide-tapes, digital media, animation, experimental film, installation art, painting, archival documents, and sound art. Through each medium, the ways in which stillness, movement, and sound inform philosophical and aesthetic debates on perception and duration are explored, as well as their affective and political charge. Towards this end, the sector examines a range of global media that organize stillness and movement relationally, including pre-cinematic projection, seriality, and bricolage. In addition, sound’s key role in the phenomenological emotive advance of the moving image warrants examination in conjunction with these questions. We take it as given that moving image art comprises the workings of thought itself.

The IMAGE/SOUND/MOVEMENT (ISM) Research Quadrant is hosted in partnership with the Jackman Humanities Institute (JHI) at the University of Toronto. 

JHI https://www.humanities.utoronto.ca/