World-famous artist and one of Johannesburg’s foremost citizens, William Kentridge, sees his bespoke arts incubator celebrate its 10th season this week. Co-founded by director Bronwyn Lace, the Centre for the Less Good Idea celebrates seven years of collaborative, experimental and interdisciplinary work with the staging of Season 10.
Still based at Kentridge’s studio complex in Maboneng where it was founded, the Centre has expanded in both scope and programming, becoming a globally unique multimedia arts incubator.
The centre has, over the years, been driven by performance-based art forms, often theatrical, but has been notable for a willingness to experiment with form and concept. It has produced a steady stream of multimedia productions that have asked questions about different art forms mixing together and shaping each other, such as classical theatre, musical performance and fine art. But it has also asked questions about the forces that shape us as a society — colonialism, ancestor worship, apartheid, love and war among them.
Between 2016 and 2023, over 400 individual performances, films and installations have been created and shown at the Centre and more than 700 artists of all disciplines have worked on projects at The Centre. It has expanded over the years in interesting ways: In early 2020, SO | The Academy for the Less Good Idea was launched to enable a programme that extends the learning opportunities afforded by the collaborative and multidisciplinary approach of the Centre. Since 2018, the Centre has been travelling elements of its incubated programming abroad under the banner The Centre Outside the Centre. Most recently, it has shared work at The Royal Academy and Barbican in London as well as the RedCat Theater in Los Angeles.
Season 10 of The Centre for the Less Good Idea will be both a reflection on, and a celebration of, that journey, putting together an extensive programme of new performances incubated at The Centre, and a revisiting of some of the approaches that have come to define its key processes, methodologies, and ways of working over the years.
About 60 artists will form part of the season, mostly chosen because they have influenced the Centre, but have also been influenced by the Centre in co-developing the methodologies and strategies that have become seminal to the incubator’s way of working. It’s this approach that makes this unlikely artistic oasis in downtown Jozi such a globally unique proposition.
Reflecting on the upcoming 10th season, Lace says, “We’ve reached a point where we can clearly recognise some of our accomplishments, while also acknowledging how the Centre continues to grow and establish deep collaborations with individual artists and with other organisations in SA, in Africa, and across the world. We often get feedback from artists and collaborators around the world about how unique the Centre is as an incubator, and we’re keenly aware that we need to maintain the approaches and commitment to ideas and artistic collaboration that have got us this far.”
Some highlights of the illustrious occasion include:
- A new version of William Kentridge’s A Defence of the Less Good Idea, a performance lecture that is deliberately drowned-out and collapsed through the performance of other artists.
- Two new programmes of Pepper’s ghost performances focusing on Activating the Archive, curated by Bongile Lecoge-Zulu and Bronwyn Lace.
- Other original works include new short-form theatre by Khayelihle Dom Gumede and Gregory Maqoma, and Magnet Theatre’s Mark Fleishman and Jennie Reznek will work alongside Neo Muyanga and Marcus Neustetter in a new take on Antigone’s Ode to Man.
The undoubted highlight of the season is a showing of the first iteration of William Kentridge’s latest multimedia theatre work, The Great Yes, the Great No, a production by Kentridge and THE OFFICE performing arts + film, and developed at the Centre for the Less Good Idea.
Season 10 will take place at The Centre for the Less Good Idea, Maboneng, downtown Johannesburg, from 18 to 22 October.
Tickets available here: lessgoodidea.com/bookings