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Art industry looks to live-streaming as event cancellations escalate

Read time 4min 10sec
The Constitution Hill Precinct
The Constitution Hill Precinct

Organisations within the local art and culture industry are looking to technology to continue offering their services, following the cancellation of events, programmes and workshops lined up for this month.

The Constitution Hill Precinct, home of the Constitutional Court, will now offer guided tours of all its museums with the assistance of a virtual tour guide via its mobile app.

After recently announcing the postponement of all programmes and events, in line with president Cyril Ramaphosa declaring SA a national state of disaster, amid the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Johannesburg-based heritage site will now allow visitors to take a tour of the precinct outside of normal tour hours and also provide augmented information about spaces surrounding the museum,” it says.

In his announcement, the president prohibited gatherings of more than 100 people and instituted a travel ban to and from high-risk countries, leaving many artists with concerns over their income streams.

SA’s coronavirus infections have escalated to over 150, and Italy has overtaken China, with the highest deaths registered, tallying 3 405.

Last week, Constitution Hill, a former prison and military fort that bears testament to SA’s turbulent past, cancelled its annual Human Rights Festival, as a result of growing concerns about the pandemic.

The festival, scheduled to take place at the end of March, would have explored human rights issues by showcasing the work of various artists through performing arts, music, dialogues, film and poetry.

“This was a very difficult decision to make but the safety and well-being of our staff, and visitors is always our highest priority,” says Dawn Robertson, chief experience officer at Constitution Hill.

“All museums and venues will, however, remain open during regular business hours and visitors can tour the historic Constitution Hill precinct with the help of a virtual guide accessed via the Constitution Hill app.”

Available from the iOS App Store and Google Play, the mobile app also provides augmented information about spaces surrounding the museum, which is next to the Constitutional Court.

According to the heritage site, the app has specially imported Bluetooth-enabled beacons, which together with the user's device GPS, can tell a visitor's smartphone exactly where he or she is in the complex.

Creating art online

The Market Theatre Foundation has suspended all contact teaching at its educational arms, the Market Theatre Laboratory and the Market Photo Workshop.

Classes for students will now continue online, according to the foundation.

Through the Market Theatre Laboratory’s online teaching programme, the Market Theatre Laboratory’s teachers will be engaged to work from home, to develop learning materials for the students, who will participate in classes online.

“The challenges of exposing our students to health risks under the current circumstances in crowded public spaces, including taxi ranks and taxis, is worrisome,” says Ismail Mahomed, CEO of the Market Theatre Foundation.

“Under the circumstances, non-contact classes are in the best interests of our students. Our students will be assisted with being able to download data for their lessons.”

Shows and exhibitions at the Market Theatre Foundation have also been postponed. Along with strategic partners, the foundation says it will shortly announce plans of how it will use live-streaming to continue to keep its audiences engaged.

In a sector where the sudden cancellation of employment for freelance art teachers, facilitators and artists has become a major concern because of social-distancing, the Market Theatre Foundation says it has ensured its teachers are not affected by loss of income and students are not adversely impacted.

Meanwhile, the Time of the Writer Festival, a literature festival, organised by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts, in partnership with eThekwini Municipality, has announced a virtual edition of the event.

The Time of the Writer Festival kicked off the virtual edition of the event yesterday, running until 25 March. This comes after the physical edition of the festival had to be cancelled on the morning of the opening night, in view of the current coronavirus pandemic.

The festival promotes South African and African writers in the current cultural climate by showcasing their work on an international platform.

The online programme, running on its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram platforms, consists of live interviews, watch parties, virtual book launches, tips and tricks videos and live readings for children.

Organisers of the National Arts Festival have also announced the country’s biggest art festival, which runs from 25 June to 5 July, will be streamed live.

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