“Hyperreal Archives: Digital Presents / Analogue Pasts” is a conversational presentation given by six different scholars and practitioners operating between and among art, architecture, urban studies, and cultural sociology. This discussion is moderated by Yale GSAS alumni fellow, Dr. Denise Lim, and co-led by two academic staff from the University of Johannesburg’s Graduate School of Architecture (UJ GSA)—Sarah de Villiers and Naadira Patel. As the academic leaders for GSA’s Unit 18: Hyperreal Prototypes, Sarah and Naadira discuss overlapping interests in research methods and practice with Denise who has taught a related seminar entitled, Space, Time, and the African City at Yale College. Three early-career architects from UJ’s GSA Unit 18—Thelma Ndebele, Kamal Ranchod, and Jessica Cristovao—present on methodologies of drawing as a mode of reconstructing gaps in historical narratives and on the malleability of digital archives that are active, changing, and adaptive to their time. Each asks: what does it mean to archive something that is lost, hidden, or forgotten? What role do visual renderings and digital space play in our understanding of how cultural heritage is remembered, recorded, or catalogued? Through multiple perspectives and practices, each speaker opens space to collaboratively discuss creative modes of rendering multifaceted histories legible through their work as artists, writers, and architects.
Dr. Denise Lim is a part-time lecturer in Sociology and Yale GSAS alumni fellow at the Yale Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (IPCH). She is currently implementing a survey to evaluate the impact that COVID-19 has had on cultural heritage training programs throughout the African continent and will be transitioning to a postdoctoral fellow position at the Stanford Archaeology Center to research their African collections.
Naadira Patel is an artist, designer, and Arts and Architecture Lecturer. She currently leads studiostudioworkwork, a multidisciplinary art, research and design studio and co-teaches in the Unit18: Hyperreal Prototypes program at the University of Johannesburg’s Graduate School of Architecture. Her research areas cover issues arising from new forms of technology that shape, manipulate, or augment our experiences of and our existence within the world, emerging forms of surveillance capitalism, and questions on the new world of work, with a focus on ideas of precarious labor and productivity.
Sarah de Villiers currently leads SpaceKIOSK – a multidisciplinary architecture, research, and design studio fascinated by spatial apparitions of social, political, and economic transactions. She formerly contributed for six years as a founder, director, and architect at Counterspace, an all-women architecture, installation, and research firm in Johannesburg. She holds a Masters in Architecture from the University of the Witwatersrand. Preceding co-leading in GSA’s Unit 18, Sarah has also taught in GSA Unit 14’s Rogue Economies for three years. Sarah’s interests lie in spatio-economic practices, as well as elements which involve “otherness” – particularly practices which embed themselves as unexpected systems, defying logics of surrounding scale, time, accessibilities, identity, or broader policy environments.
Kamal Ranchod is an architectural designer and researcher with interests in interrogating the historical archive and ephemeral forces that shape perceptions of space, architecture, and time. Using different modes of representation, his explorations aim to establish dialogues between potential pasts, invisible presences, and speculative futures. His work questions what we know about history and how we build knowledge about space.
Thelma Ndebele is a Johannesburg-based, non-binary (they/she) architect, who uses the alias DORMANTYOUTH to express DJing as a research method for their now complete masters dissertation (GSA, UJ) on mixing music as an act of temporal place-making within the night club space. This was born from their interest in the intersection of music and architecture within music subculture gatherings in nocturnal Johannesburg, such as Vogue Nights Jozi. This interest in performance as a research method continues to shape the trajectory of Thelma’s career as a spatial practitioner and researcher.
Jessica Cristovao is an architectural designer currently living and working in Namibia. She graduated from Unit 18 in 2020, where her final research project, Nubian Holding Patterns: Prototypes of Spatial Resilience, aimed to reveal hidden and forgotten patterns of the endangered Nubian culture by constructing prototypes of spatial resilience through ways of seeing and remembering, with a focus on ceremonialism and ritual.