Friday, November 29, 2013

Cape Town Under: a review

Just over a week after flashfloods hit the Cape, guerilla gallery staged a sound art intervention in the historical stormwater tunnels that run under the city's skin. The weather turned just in time: a strong but manageable water flow formed a sonorous backing track to the lyrical tones of Pauline Theart's voice, which she projected in a live performance from the depths to echo into public space above. Good weather meanwhile let passersby get drawn in for a closer glance at these usually invisible spaces through manhole interfaces above. The tunnels  were built hundreds of years ago first as canals and then enclosed and are now paved over by streets.

This collaborative work, 'Cape Town Under: The Third Voice', was conceived and curated by Kim Gurney as part of a broader project called LAND, organised by the Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts at UCT. It effectively aimed to briefly turn the tunnels into a musical instrument of sorts as a lone voice animated them with an hour-long endurance lullaby sung at access interfaces. The song was stripped of words to evoke a common referent and to help Theart improvise with the tunnel the 'third voice' through echoes and refrains in a kind of co-authorship with the site. She repeated the performance at three different sites over two days.

With special thanks to our tunnel operators who handled underground logistics - Matt Weisse and Gresham Chibwaz - as well as City Roads & Stormwater, The Castle's management and Gipca's support that together helped make this project possible.

Images below by Marguerite Townley-Johnson, except where indicated. For more information, visit the dedicated project website:

Site 1: The Castle, Strand Street trapdoor interface (22 November)

Photo: M. Townley-Johnson

M. Townley-Johnson

Photo: M. Townley-Johnson

Photo: M. Townley-Johnson

Photo: M. Townley-Johnson

Echo manhole: The Castle Lawns
Photo: M. Townley-Johnson

Photo: M. Townley-Johnson

Site 2: Grand Parade parking lot (22 November) 

The performance site, right with safety cone, prior to intervention. Image: K. Gurney

Photo: M. Townley-Johnson
Image: K. Gurney
Image: K. Gurney

Photo: M. Townley-Johnson

Photo: M. Townley-Johnson

Photo: M. Townley-Johnson

Photo: M. Townley-Johnson

Photo: M. Townley-Johnson
Add caption

Echo manhole, Grand Parade. Photo: M. Townley-Johnson
Echo manhole, Grand Parade. Photo: M. Townley-Johnson

Echo manhole, Grand Parade. Photo: M. Townley-Johnson
 Site 3: The Castle Lawns (23 November) 

Photo: K. Gurney

Photo: K. Gurney

Photo: K. Gurney

The echo manhole. Photo: K. Gurney
The echo: closeup. Photo: K. Gurney
The walk to the echo. Photo: K. Gurney

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cape Town Under: Dates Confirmed

--Cape Town--guerilla gallery adds its voice to a rich spectrum of artistic responses in Cape Town later this month exploring LAND in an event by the Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts (GIPCA). Visual art installations, public lectures and panels run November 21-24 at various sites across Cape Town to explore land, territory, ownership and art, in particular at spaces of historical significance and contemporary contestation in the city.

Cape Town Under: The Third Voice, a performance intervention by Pauline Theart, is guerilla gallery's project, curated by Kim Gurney. Theart sings an extended lullaby at three access interfaces with Cape Town's historical tunnels that run buried underneath the city: two at the Castle grounds (Nov 22 @ 11h00 & Nov 23 @ 13h00) and one on the Grand Parade (Nov 22 @ 15h00). Read more at the dedicated project website:

Artist Elgin Rust, who brought guerilla gallery its inaugural project APPEAL 2012 last year, also participates in LAND. She creates an intervention with Katherine Spindler about the Rondebosch Common at the entrance to the City Hall. 

Other interventions and artworks range from walking tours through the centre of Bontheuwel and the central city to a performance on the Prestwich Memorial grounds, a mixed media installation by composer Philip Miller to an interactive work by SIMilar that allows participants to reimagine land in a live application of the virtual reality game 'The SIMS'. A site-specific work by Haroon Gunn-Salie Witness is installed in District Six and Amy Soudien's Trajectories in sand traces lineage and heritage behind the Iziko Slave Lodge. Terminal, curated by Jean Brundrit, Svea Josephy and Adrienne van Eeden Wharton, features photographic works on street poles. 

GIPCA says in a statement: "South Africa is characterised by a series of disjunctive experiences in a land of extraordinary contrast: its natural splendour belies the brutal experiences of slavery, forced removals and continued poverty. In deference to the centennial of the infamous Native Land Act of 1913, there has been a national focus on land as a vessel of trade, trauma, and restitution. The material inscription of colonisation, with the Land Act as its formalisation, remains performative - still determining where people live and intersect, and how people move through space. It results in diverse and opposing ideas, values, dreams that constantly disrupt the country’s present. That such dissension still exists twenty years into our democracy, foregrounds the complexity of the subject. LAND focuses on contemporary practices, the traumas and the hauntedness that manifest as a result of this condition."

The event is free but booking is required for some of the panel discussions. Visit:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cape Town Under: Site Recce: Parade

-Cape Town, 5 October 2013-The latest curatorial site recce for guerilla gallery's project Cape Town Under revealed a beautiful surprise: a bifurcated tunnel running under the Grand Parade. It looks like this: 

The artist will sing into this tunnel from an open manhole entry point, playing with the acoustics to create echoes and refrains. Their view to the world above will look something like this: 

And this is the ground floor where passersby will be able to stumble across this singing intervention as it happens, performed live in the tunnels: 

Or, if you happen to be walking along the pavement near the City Hall on the day in question, you might hear a beautiful lullaby echo coming out of this manhole here: 

For more information on Cape Town Under: The Third Voice check out the dedicated project website where we will shortly post the November performance schedule:

Photos: Kim Gurney

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Cape Town Under: The Third Voice

-Cape Town, 3 October 2013-Cape Town's historical tunnels will briefly turn into a musical instrument in November (dates TBC) as an artist sings from an open manhole connecting to these underground spaces in guerilla gallery's second project. 

Pauline Theart, a Fine Artist from Johannesburg who uses her voice and song as medium, will perform an extended lullaby at selected tunnel interfaces. Cape Town Under: The Third Voice forms part of a larger exploration of land by Gordon Institute of Performing and Creative Arts (GIPCA).
Closed manhole on the Castle Lawn

Open manhole on Castle Lawn
Kim Gurney conceived Cape Town Under for guerilla gallery and curates the intervention with participant artists. She says: "We hope this feminine, lyrical song emanating from a stark built environment will intrigue and move people in the midst of their everyday interactions. It is a simple, affective gesture that cues past and present while speaking to restorative futures."

Cape Town's tunnels were first built as canals by the Dutch and more recently enclosed by the Victorians. Today, they act as stormwater pathways where fresh water flows invisibly under the city from the mountain out to sea. The performance sites include a manhole on the Castle lawn, a trapdoor facing Strand Street and a manhole on the Grand Parade.
The unique acoustics let the sound travel upwards to surprise people above ground through the emotional interiors of song. It also loops in the tunnels themselves to create echoes and refrains, in what Theart speaks of as a 'third voice' or 'the unforeseen voice'.

The manhole on the Grand parade where the performance will take place
The manhole adjacent the Grand parade where the lullaby will echo
The one-hour tunnel performances will take place daily at rotating sites - exact dates and schedule to be announced shortly. 

Ask the artist about this one..... 
LAND is an interdisciplinary project run by GIPCA at University of Cape Town to explore ideas around land and territory through a symposium, exhibitions, interventions and more. This guerilla gallery project is made possible with support from GIPCA.

For further details visit and updates will be posted on this blog as we go. 
The trapdoor
The view inside the trapdoor where the artist will sing

Sunday, September 15, 2013

going underground....

There is supposedly a (not so) new kind of cultural pop-up fad, in case you have been wondering where we've been. It's the slow pop-up -- like a restaurant that takes a very long time to emerge, has a limited life span, and then disappears again without trace. 

Being under the blog radar is nothing quite as sophisticated or measured. It's more like a combination of inaugural project aftermath combined with the realities that put pro bono cultural forays on hold until momentum gathers anew and a workable resurgence aligns.

This shapeshifting and entirely ad hoc nature is of course part of guerilla gallery's ethos. It by definition morphs as it goes into new and considered inflections: a flexible curatorial platform that has no physical structure of its own and fits instead literally into other spaces and conceptually with other projects. It does so when the necessary vectors line up. 

In this, it takes inspiration from Rosi Braidotti's 'Transpositions' (2006), a book title partly inspired by music and partly by genetics and hence material embodiment. She writes about this 'intertextual, cross-boundary or transversal transfer' as a leap from one code, field or axis to another in terms of complex multiplicities: 'As a term in music, transposition indicates variations and shifts of scale in a discontinuous but harmonious pattern. It is thus created as an in-between space of zigzagging and of crossing: non-linear, but not chaotic; nomadic, yet accountable and committed; creative but also cognitively valid; discursive and also materially embedded -- it is coherent without falling into instrumental rationality' (2006, 5).  

The good news is guerilla gallery's second zigzag is on the horizon -- this time hopefully in Cape Town, where its management has relocated. Stay tuned. We are going underground....