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Creatives in Conversation kickstarts the interdisciplinary discourse

Creatives in Conversation, a series of talks, will be presented by the ACT | UJ Conference at the FADA Gallery in advance of the #creativeintersections conference.

Presented in partnership with the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) and the University of Johannesburg (UJ) “these free public engagements are linked to the upcoming conference” says Anastasia Pather, Project Manager for the 2016 instalment. “The idea behind these conversations is for the series to create a bridge linking conversations that emerged from the previous conferences and to set in motion discourse around interdisciplinarity, unpacking and previewing creative intersections in an intimate and interactive setting,” she explains.

Creatives in Conversation offer platforms for creatives to be introduced to the content that the upcoming Conference Programme will explore (16 & 17 March). Interdisciplinarity is normally framed within an academic framework and the free series will start unpacking the fusion of academic disciplines that have evolved into this movement. #creativeintersections aims to extend the scope of this adoptive thinking approach outside of academic confines and to stimulate thought around how interdisciplinary practice finds its way into the local environment, identifiable through working spaces, individuals and organisation. Furthermore it also aims to explore the potential this kind of thinking holds for the creative industries.

Family Ties: In this introspection, artist-entrepreneur duo, Roger and Paul Ballen and artist-scientist duo Mariapaola and Trevor McGurk, look at how creativity can disrupt the everyday around the dinner table. During this conversation they will be exploring the value of shared knowledge, unlikely intersections and collaborations, and will reflect on some of their most exciting projects impacted by their family ties. This session kicks off the series and will start promptly at 18:00 on 24 February 2016 at the FADA Gallery on the Bunting Road Campus.

The Multi-hyphenator: In this segment entrepreneur, philanthropist, social commentator and community builder, Shaka Sisulu, and multidisciplinary artist, designer and dot-connector, Atang Tshikare, will dissect the intersection of multiple spheres of practice and explore how this can be applied as a physical framework for an alternate way of thinking and approaching creative collaborations, using their surrounding local communities as a resource and muse. The talk will be hosted from 18:00 at FADA Gallery on the Bunting Road Campus on 2 March 2016.

Creative Spaces: Abstract digital sculptor, designer and electrical engineer, Dr Michaella Janse van Vuuren, and anthropologist, curator, communications guru, and art entrepreneur,  Julie Taylor, talk to academic and performing arts expert, Mwenya Kabwe, about how to break down barriers between physical spaces and the virtual world as they take a journey exploring the intersection between diverse ideas, concepts and disciplines. This final pre-conference session is scheduled to take place on 9 March and will also be hosted on the University of Johannesburg’s Bunting Road Campus at the FADA Gallery promptly at 18:00.

Creatives and practitioners are invited to RSVP to attend by no later than three days prior to each session. Entrance is free but space is limited; first come first served. Please RSVP to indicating which session you would like to attend.

The 2016 ACT | UJ Arts & Culture Conference taking place on 16 and 17 March 2016, is entitled #creativeintersections – an interactive experience and is presented by the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) and UJ Arts & Culture in partnership with the Department of Arts & Culture’s Mzansi Golden Economy Programme, Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) and SAMRO Foundation with support from the National Arts Council, Nedbank Arts Affinity, Creative Feel Magazine and the British Council’s Connect ZA programme.



One of the most influential and important photographic artists of the 21st century, Roger Ballen’s photographs span over forty years.  His strange and extreme works confront the viewer and challenge them to come with him on a journey into their own minds as he explores the deeper recesses of his own. Roger Ballen was born in New York in 1950 but for over 30 years he has lived and worked in South Africa. His work as a geologist took him out into the countryside and led him to take up his camera and explore the hidden world of small South African towns. At first he explored the empty streets in the glare of the midday sun but, once he had made the step of knocking on people’s doors, he discovered a world inside these houses which was to have a profound effect on his work. These interiors with their distinctive collections of objects and the occupants within these closed worlds took his unique vision on a path from social critique to the creation of metaphors for the inner mind. After 1994 he no longer looked to the countryside for his subject matter finding it closer to home in Johannesburg. Over the past thirty years his distinctive style of photography has evolved using a simple square format in stark and beautiful black and white. In the earlier works in the exhibition his connection to the tradition of documentary photography is clear but through the 1990s he developed a style he describes as ‘documentary fiction’. After 2000 the people he first discovered and documented living on the margins of South African society increasingly became a cast of actors working with Ballen in the series’ Outland and Shadow Chamber collaborating to create powerful psychodramas. The line between fantasy and reality in his more recent series’ Boarding House and Asylum of the Birds  has become increasingly blurred and in these series he has employed drawings, painting, collage and sculptural techniques to create elaborate sets. Paul Ballen grew up in Johannesburg but spent most summers in New York City. “I remember in my early childhood eating ice cream with my American family. Ice cream is such a part of American day to day life,” he says. An ice cream machine for a birthday present began Paul’s journey into his own mastery of ice cream. Paul started making one litre a day. Soon he needed a second machine. He started giving tubs away to family and friends. Flavours were experimental and often exotic and indulgent. The tubs were decorated with handmade labels by his mother, artist Lynda Ballen, and tied with bows. From two Krups machines, Paul moved onto a Gelatissimo that had a built-in compressor. Paul has moved from his parents’ garage into a small kitchen in Orange Grove and churns ice cream using Italian machines with a team behind him. He hold degrees in Psychology and Business from the University of Witwatersrand.


The Coloured Cube stands in contrast to the traditional “white cube” approach of galleries and museums. This approach includes empty white rooms with works of art hanging on walls to be quietly viewed by certain members of the public. The Coloured Cube’s name is its vision: To bring COLOUR to this white cube. Our aim is to create spaces in which people, all people, engage with, react to, comment on, and feel moved by the ideas and content presented. This ‘colour’ also refers to the diverse nature of South Africa’s people. All races and economic groups should be involved in the creative process, and feel welcome in the spaces that present the results of those processes. We are all affected by ‘the vicissitudes of chance and change’ and this dynamism is not only unavoidable but essential to comprehending and celebrating our unique context. We say goodbye to ‘…the sterilized operating room of the white cube,’ as we embark on an adventure of innovation, learning and fun! Husband and wife Trevor and Mariapaola McGurk are members of the Coloured Cube, and are separately and collectively interested in science, environments and art. 


Shaka Sisulu describes himself as a rainmaker with a personal motto of ‘Aspire to inspire, before you expire…’ Sisulu is also an entrepreneur in media and technology sectors. A talk show host with 702/Cape Talk, a public speaker, a prolific twitterer. A writer of “Becoming” (Pan Macmillan) and columnist. He is a social activist and founding member of the NGO youth programme, Cheesekids. He is also a board member of Lovelife and a member of Africa 2.0 & Crans Montana New Leaders of Tomorrow. Sisulu is a former member of Foundation for a Safe SA and a former local branch leader in the ANC.


Atang Tshikare was born in Bloemfontein to an entrepreneurial mother and artistic father. He matriculated from Grey College in 1999 and studied graphic design at the Free State Technikon from 2000 – 2002. As a self-developed multidisciplinary artist he has worked on various elements including sneakers/shoes, wood, metal, plastic, canvas and paper. His work is a combination of line drawing and street art which he engages using various mediums from pencil, marker to acrylic and aerosol. Atang has exhibited in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Dubai and Germany. He has done illustrative and paint work for various companies including Adidas Originals, Chimurenga Magazine, Belvedere Vodka, Cornetto, Puma, Plascon and L’Oreal. He has been invited to exhibit at the Toffie Festival 2012, Design Indaba 2012, Southern Guild 2013 exhibition and Design Days Dubai. His work has been featured in Elle magazine, Elle Decoration, VISI magazine, Mail & Guardian, Financial Times, and on television on SABC 2, Hectic 99, CNBC Africa and CNN.


Mwenya has an MA in Theatre and Performance from the University of Cape Town, and is an award-winning director, theatre maker, actress and facilitator. She has many years of experience as an independent trainer and facilitator, with six years of staff training curriculum, design and delivery experience for a number of international programmes affiliated with the American-based NGO, The Association of Hole in the Wall Camps, in their American, European and African programmes. She is also a recipient of the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK) 2008 award for Best Upcoming Professional Artist and the 2008 Fleur du Cap award for Best Actress for her performance as Alma in Yellowman. Other achievements include being one of the seven Spier Contemporary 2007 winners for a collaborative performance work titled unyawo alunampumlo and was on the Spier Contemporary 2010 selection and curatorial team. Mwenya is a co-founder of manje-manje projects, an arts collective that was launched with an exhibition at the Association for Visual Arts (AVA) Gallery in Cape Town, titled SCRATCHING THE SURFACE VOL 1 and is also a member of The Bonfire Theatre Company, Phakama Projects and UNIMA South Africa.


A designer and artist boasting a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, Michaella Janse van Vuuren employs technology as a creative tool to fuel her artistic vision. Fusing art and science, she uses digital design, additive manufacturing, and a 3D printer to actualize her imagination, bringing to life works inspired by mythology, the sea, electron microscope images, botanical drawings, and the geometry found in nature. After feeding meticulous plans for scale and mechanical functionality through computer software, a finished product is achieved that transcends the abilities of conventional processes, capturing, for example, the textured look of coral through laser sintering. From a studio outside of Pretoria, South Africa, van Vuuren emails her computer-based designs to manufacturers who return them, fully completed, wrapped in packages she excitedly opens to unveil designs that function and appear exactly how she envisioned.


Founder Julie Taylor is an anthropologist, communications guru, and art entrepreneur, interested in the intersection of technology, the creative spirit and the under-representation of African fine art in the global economy. She was born and raised in Zimbabwe and holds degrees from Oxford and Cambridge. She is author of Naming the Land, a book based on her doctoral research about San identity in northern Namibia, and is based in Johannesburg.  Before Guns & Rain, Julie ran Google’s communications for Africa.  She is currently studying for a Masters in History of Art at Wits University in Johannesburg.


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