Fail and guard : an interactive public art inquiry into the underlying attitudes towards socio-economic discrepancies in Stellenbosch

Salzwedel, Heidi (2016-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2016.

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY: Economic inequality in South Africa can be witnessed on a daily basis in terms of unequal educational opportunities, vast differences in living conditions, and inconsistencies in job opportunities, but is it observed? This public art research inquiry was inspired by interest regarding the extent to which economic inequality is dealt with among people in the upper financial bracket of South African society, particularly in Stellenbosch; a city with a high percentage of economic inequality (Ewert, 2013). Fail and Guard constituted a public art intervention which formed part of a participatory action research (PAR) process. With a view towards transformation and social justice in South African society at large, the aim of the research project was to explore how a public art intervention, functioning as part of a PAR process, could stimulate negotiation and dialogue on economic inequality in economically privileged Stellenbosch civilians. An interpretive paradigm and inductive approach to research was employed. An arts-based intervention was produced. It constituted a life-sized sculpture, representing an upper class woman, who was placed at two sites in Stellenbosch which are frequented by economically advantaged people. The sculpture and her props invited critical consideration regarding economic inequality on behalf of the public. By means of the sculpture, I aimed to spur participants to consequent action by inviting them to participate in an online survey and potential focus group discussion on the topic. The public art intervention formed part of a PAR design. Qualitative methods were used in gathering the experiences and responses from the public, and inductive content analysis was used to extract key themes in the data. Data was read through the theoretical perspectives of Henri Lefebvre on the production of social space, Paulo Freire on dialogic action, and Maxine Greene on the imagination, hope and action. It was found that Fail and Guard did open dialogue on the topic of economic inequality in economically advantaged Stellenbosch civilians, but that public art alone is not enough; it needs facilitation. It can therefore be put forth that the stages between posing questions using public art, collectively answering questions, and subsequently re-posing new questions and potential solutions with regards to transformation within the focus group needed monitoring, or facilitation, by a catalyst communicator. The sculpture of the arts based intervention was sometimes sufficient as catalyst communicator, but in reality the quality of discussion brought forth was largely dependent on facilitation from the research facilitator. Exploring other possible avenues of facilitation to accompany public art as part of PAR processes could positively contribute to furthering knowledge regarding the use of public art as a potentially valuable research tool in the context of South Africa.

AFRIKAANS OPSOMMING: Ekonomiese ongelykhede kan daagliks in Suid-Afrika waargeneem word. Dit kan voorkom as ongelyke opvoedkundige geleenthede, groot verskille in lewensomstandighede, en teenstrydighede in werksgeleenthede, maar word dit waargeneem? Hierdie publieke kuns navorsingsondersoek is geïnspireer deur belangstelling in die vlak waartoe ekonomiese ongelykhede in die samelewing deur mense van hoër inkomstegroepe van Suid-Afrika besin word, veral in Stellenbosch; 'n stad met 'n hoë persentasie van ekonomiese ongelykheid (Ewert, 2013). Fail en Guard is ‘n publieke kuns intervensie wat deel vorm van 'n deelnemende aksienavorsingsproses (PAR). Met die oog op transformasie en sosiale geregtigheid in die wyer Suid-Afrikaanse samelewing, was die doel van die navorsingsprojek om te ondersoek hoe 'n openbare kuns intervensie, as deel van 'n PAR proses, belangstelling in en dialoog oor ekonomiese ongelykhede onder ekonomies bevoorregte Stellenbosch burgers kon stimuleer. 'n Interpretatiewe paradigma en induktiewe benadering tot navorsing is gebruik. ‘n Kuns-gebaseerde intervensie is ontwerp. Dit het bestaan uit ‘n lewens-grootte standbeeld wat ‘n welgestelde vrou verteenwoordig het. Die standbeeld is op twee plekke in Stellenbosch wat gereeld deur ekonomies bevoordeelde mense besoek word geplaas. Die standbeeld en haar bykomstighede was veronderstel om publieke belangstelling uit te lok en kritiese nadenke oor ekonomiese ongelykheid te stimuleer. Met die standbeeld het ek gepoog om deelnemers tot verdere aksie aan te moedig en hulle uit te nooi om deel te neem aan 'n aanlyn-opnameondersoek en potensiële fokusgroepbespreking oor die onderwerp van ekonomiese ongelykheid. Die publieke kuns intervensie was deel van 'n PAR navorsingsontwerp. Kwalitatiewe metodes is gebruik vir die insameling van die ervarings en reaksies van die publiek, en induktiewe inhoudsanalise is gebruik om die hooftemas in die data te identifiseer. Data is geanaliseer deur middel van die teoretiese perspektiewe van Henri Lefebvre rakende die skepping van sosiale ruimte, Paulo Freire rakende dialogiese aksie, en Maxine Greene rakende verbeelding, hoop en aksie. Daar is bevind dat Fail en Guard wel ekonomies bevoordeelde burgers van Stellenbosch tot dialoog oor die onderwerp van ekonomiese ongelykheid gestimuleer het, maar dat publieke kuns alleen nie genoegsaam was nie; fasilitering was nodig. Die fases tussen die daarstel van vrae in reaksie op die publieke kuns, die gesamentlike antwoord daarvan, en die daaropeenvolgende her-stel van nuwe vrae en potensiële oplossings met betrekking tot transformasie in die fokusgroep het monitering en fasilitasie deur ‘n katalisator kommunikeerde benodig. In sekere gevalle was die standbeeld as kern van die publieke kuns intervensie voldoende as katalisator kommunikeerder, maar meestal was die waarde en kwaliteit van die besprekings grootliks afhanklik van die fasilitering van die navorsingsfasiliteerder. Die ondersoek van ander moontlike fasiliteringsmetodes wat publieke kuns sal kan vergesel as deel van PAR prosesse kan moontlik positiewe bydraes lewer tot die bevordering van kennis met inbegrip van die gebruik van publieke kuns as waardevolle navorsingshulpmiddel in die konteks van Suid-Afrika.

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