Edited by Leora Farber, 2008
Published by The Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre (VIAD), Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, University of Johannesburg
ISBN No: 978-0-620-42744-9

This collection of essays evolved from and out of the papers, discussions, site-presentations, video evening programme and photographic exhibition that formed components of the Johannesburg and megacity phenomena colloquium, held at UJ from 9-11 April 2008. It was hosted by VIAD in collaboration with the editors of The New Encyclopaedia Project (NEP) – a project conducted in conjunction with the British-based ISSI-ranked journal Theory, Culture & Society.

Presentations at the colloquium focused on the host of new, intensified, global urban phenomena which megacities embody – phenomena which not only affect the future prosperity and stability of a city, but also unsettle many traditionally held concepts about cities – and on exploration of the complex ways in which Johannesburg interfaces with these global megacity phenomena. While issues of global megacity phenomena were well covered by international speakers at the colloquium, many of the South African presenters chose to explore urban conditions, particularly those of Johannesburg, from localised perspectives. These presentations offered fascinating accounts of current interdisciplinary research being done on and around South African urbanism. Many of the presentations were underpinned by, or suggestive of, present disjunctures and fissures within the fabric of the urban, which were framed in the shadows of South Africa’s historic specificity.

The range of textual- and photo-essays contained in this volume picks up on these strands of inter-disciplinary research being done on South African urban conditions. Collectively, the essays give voice to what might be identified as a new stream of currently emergent, interdisciplinary modes of localised urban practices and production. These modes present an exciting junction between disciplines and media. Since 1994, forms of engagement with South African cities, and particularly Johannesburg, have emerged as critically relevant in light of postapartheid urban transformation processes. This is reflected in research currently being done by academics and applied researchers in the Humanities and the Social Sciences, and through analysis of, or practical engagement with media/modes of representation such as photography, video art, graffiti, public art and community art projects, to name but a few. This collection of essays explores and highlights this critical juncture by bringing together a selection of research being done on spatial practices and representation of the urban in South Africa from a variety of interdisciplinary positions and modes of production.

The volume is structured around two, interrelated, yet loosely defined sections: the first being on spatial practices; the second on representations of urbanism, and particularly of urbanism in Johannesburg. The full-colour volume totals 286 pages and contains a range of work, from academic essays, photo-essays and visual spreads, to full documentation of the work on the Cities in Crisis: Photographs of the South African Urban Landscape exhibition curated by Michael Godby and Dave Southwood, that accompanied the colloquium. Selected essays and exhibition reviews written reflecting on the colloquium and discussions that took place, have also been included.