LoKO is a new initiative, funded in large measure by the Andrew W Mellon Foundation, that engages with the development of the Arts of movement.

Kinetic is a descriptive formulation associated in particular ways with the modernity of the human subject and her objects, even though the concept has classical origins. While Aristotle famously wrote a short essay ‘On Motion’ in his Physics, where he defines motion as a potentiality within, the term first arises in English in the nineteenth century, and the formulation kinetic art dates from the 1960s.  The embrace of mobility, speed, change are all indices of modernity in distinct ways. In recent years, it is noteworthy that puppetry arts have become a dominant aesthetic idiom within both theatre and gallery spaces; and it has had a broad impact on film, aesthetic theory, and design. The Centre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape has embraced the conceptual idea of motion as a cornerstone of its theoretical explorations of the Subject and its Objects. We have established a pioneering relationship with Handspring Puppet Company , makers of the celebrated theatrical phenomenon, War Horse. That production explores the crisis of modernity through an exploration of the contact between the ‘live’ and ‘made’, as horses are, for the first time, brought into deadly contact with war machines such as tanks in WWI. This exploration in many ways opens a discursive and aesthetic space for the consideration of the human, the animal and the object as sites along a continuum. In such terms, we are addressing the inherited ‘taken-as-given’ conceptions of the human such as haunt the academic humanities, where theories of race, and the histories of material culture are integral to key conceptions of the ‘fully human’ as a philosophical legacy. LoKO is interested, too, in considering the futures as well as the pasts of the human. We are engaged in ongoing analysis of AI, the Avatar, the cyborg, as well as the prosthetic object. The disquiet of the moving object is associated too with the moving image. The uncanny is centrally associated with these concepts, and psychoanalysis, material culture, exchange theory and economics as well as theology, metaphysics and aesthetics all inform the theoretical matrix informing our considerations.

Professor Jane Taylor, who is the newly appointed Andrew W Mellon Chair of Aesthetic Theory and Material Performance, has a history of scholarly as well as creative work within these domains. She has written several plays for puppets, working with artist William Kentridge and Handspring Puppet Company, as well as a recent puppet play for Renaissance scholar Stephen Greenblatt – a work dealing with the early history of neurology. She has written a novel on transplants, and most recently has completed a monograph on William Kentridge’s production of The Nose, for the New York Met. (This study explores the subject/object relation, as well as the aesthetic experiments associated with Soviet Constructionism).

LoKO has over the past seven years been engaged in a project in rural South Africa, where local farm workers’ children are trained in the making and manipulation of puppets. An annual parade and performance on December 16th (the Day of Reconciliation)  draws together communities with international scholars and theatre makers. We also supply support for a new puppetry company uKwanda, who have been developing puppetry arts in the townships, as well as in the international arena. There work is keenly influenced by considerations around environmental concerns as well as indigeneity questions. We have had strong links with UC Berkeley, U of Minnesota and U of Toronto, to name a few.) this is also a research and education program. We have engaged in conferences on puppetry arts, and are associated with several key publications in  the field (see Jane Taylor, ed. Handspring Puppet Company, Jane Taylor, William Kentridge: Being Led by the Nose, as well as The Puppet Show (ed. Ingrid Schaffner). We are developing partnerships in curatorial practices associated with the enhanced understanding of material culture, as well as participating in a film studies program.

At present LoKO is developing a new Arts incubator building in Woodstock, on the edge of the City of Cape Town, in an historical district of the city. We are establishing a curriculum for postgrad and post-doctoral research on the puppet, the machine, the human, the posthuman. We are also associated with the programs in Visual History and film Studies at the CHR. In the latter half of 2017 we will be running a reading group at the CHR, on the Puppet. There are fellowships available through the CHR for scholars and scholar-makers interested in developing enquiries into the moving thing, broadly conceived.

LoKO has an international puppetry research exchange with the University of Toronto, and over the past few years has been involved with puppetry arts at Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland. We have links to arts initiatives in Colombia, and are developing further research and exchange networks.

Related News

The Herd: The CHR’s Ukwanda joins a global project on climate change

Centre for Humanities Research (CHR) house artists, Ukwanda Puppets and Design Arts Collective have been commissioned to design and develop the prototypes for The Herd, a world-first arts intervention on climate change.

The Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI) Annual Conference: 12-14 May

The Centre for Humanities Research and its Maxeke-Robinson Research Chair are delighted to partner with and host portions of the Global Brain Health Institute’s (GBHI) Annual Conference in Cape Town.

The Net vir Pret Barrydale Puppet Parade and Performance: 18 December 2022

Rehearsals are full steam ahead in Barrydale for the 2022 Puppet Performance and Parade created and produced by members of the CHR and aesthetic education partner, Net vir Pret.

Charlotte Maxeke at the CHR: Boschendal puppetry workshops and exhibition

In September 2022, the CHR’s artists in residence Siphokazi Mpofu and Sipho Ngxola and LoKO convenor Aja Marneweck, ran a puppetry workshop based on stories of Charlotte Maxeke, with young scholars from the Pniel area, culminating in an exhibition held in Boschendal on 17th September.

From the Office of the Vice-Chancellor: Statement on the Barrydale Reconciliation Day Festival

Statement from the University of the Western Cape Vice-Chancellor and Rector, Professor Tyrone Pretorius, on the Tenth Anniversary of the Barrydale Reconciliation Day Festival.

Reboot Eden: Celebrating Ten Years of Puppetry in Barrydale

The Centre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape (CHR), in partnership with Net vir Pret are celebrating 10 years of puppetry in Barrydale. Reboot Eden will be an online program of four new puppet performances that will be available online from the 16th -19th December 2020.

Reboot Eden: The Art of Recovery

For the past ten years the Centre for Humanities Research’s Laboratory of Kinetic Objects has been engaged in a mutual education and arts initiative (along with partners Net Vir Pret, Handspring Puppet Company, uKwanda Puppetry and Design Collective, and Magpie Collective) in the village of Barrydale some three hours outside of Cape Town. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, this years Barrydale parade is set to convene remotely.

Global Narratives of Artificial Intelligence: Sub-Saharan Africa – African Histories and Philosophies of Artificial Intelligence

The CHR’s Professor Jane Taylor will be participating in this weeks Global Narratives of Artificial Intelligence: Sub-Saharan Africa – African Histories and Philosophies of Artificial Intelligence conference hosted by the HSRC and the University of Cambridge.

The Long Minute

The CHR’s Professor Jane Taylor, from the Laboratory for Kinetic Objects (LoKO) at the Centre for Humanities Research (CHR), has filmed and directed a series of one minute films that will be posted one a day for this week at the Centre for the Less Good Idea.

ARA Podcast – Researching the Arts of Movement – a conversation with Prof Jane Taylor

As part of the Arts Research Africa dialogue, the CHR’s Professor Jane Taylor was interviewed

LoKO: Seminar One

These online seminars will pursue many of the questions which we would pursue in the normal course of things; although things are anything but normal.

Die Virus

The song was inspired by a request made to Selanvor (who is fast becoming one of Barrydale’s celebrated young artists) from residents of the village, to create an artistic response to the virus and the time we are in now.

The Barrydale Giant Puppet Parade: mobilising creative ecologies in the Klein Karoo, South Africa

A new publication by Aja Marneweck explores the multifaceted process of creating the large-scale annual public puppetry event, The Barrydale Giant Puppet Parade, in the rural town of Barrydale, South Africa.

The Final Spring (Barrydale 2019)

The Centre for Humanities Research and partners Net vir Pret present the ninth annual Barrydale Giant Puppet Parade and Performance.

Launch of Mellon South Lab in Performance Cultures and Embodied Creative Practices

The Andrew W Mellon Chair of Aesthetic Theory and Material Per-formance and the Laboratory of Kinetic Objects is involved in an excit-ing partnership between the CHR at UWC and the Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures at the University of Virginia.

KINESIS: Of Moving and Being Moved

Between July 6th and July 10th 2019, the Laboratory of Kinetic Objects (LoKO) at the CHR hosted a colloquium on Subject/Object relations, in an ongoing exploration of Animation, Animism, Thing Theory, the Subject and the Object, Puppetry Arts and performance.

Tony Miyambo On Tour

CHR Artist in Residence Tony Miyambo is on tour performing Kafka’s Ape and The Cenotaph of Dan Wa Moriri.

Pan Troglodyte to travel to the Université Paris

Professor Jane Taylor to present performance/lecture in November

Report of the Activities of the Chair of LoKO in the second quarter

LoKO (the Laboratory of Kinetic Objects) is immersed in a busy cycle of making and thinking.


New Performance by Ukwanda Puppetry Collective

New Work by Ukwanda Puppetry Collective and LoKO

The CHR's artists in residence, the uKwanda puppetry group, is in rehearsal, working with director Thando Doni (who is currently in performance in the acclaimed play […]

Report of the Activities of the Chair of LoKO in the first quarter

The most recent very significant threshold to note is that the Greatmore building in Woodstock, which will house the Laboratory of Kinetic Objects, has finally…

Sexual Violence: Remembering, Representing, Resisting

Dialogue on Troubling Seasons of Hate