Research General Information


Preliminary (unaudited) figures indicate that the Faculty produced 50.75 DHET subsidy units, an excellent 49.18% increase on the 34.02 units awarded subsidy in 2014 (and exceeding the record return of 45.74 units in 2013). Analysis shows that over the past five years the Faculty has maintained a modest but steady average growth of 10.9% per annum in research output. The 2015 submissions constitute an across-the-board increase, comprising 24.83 units from journal articles (up from 16.50 in 2014), 10.33 conference proceeding units (up from 9.42 units in 2014), 13.52 book units (up from 6.4 in 2014), and 2.07 book chapter subsidy units (up from 1.27 in 2013). 

For the first time since the establishment of the VIAD Research Centre, academic staff in the faculty produced an equivalent amount of research subsidy units to those produced by fellows associated with the Research Centre. The number of research-active, full-time academic staff – excluding Assistant Lecturers, but including the Dean and staff who contributed creative-work-as-research – also increased to 28 (or 56%) in 2015, up from 22 (or 46%) in 2014, 19 (43%) in 2013 and 16 (40%) in 2012. This increase in the number of research-active staff is partly the consequence of the continued liberal approach to supporting requests for funding from the Faculty Research Committee, and partly of the strategy, begun in 2014, that seeks to create supportive environments and platforms across the Faculty’s four focus areas: Conventional research (supported by the Research Centre); scholarship of teaching and learning (supported by the STAND (the Scholarly Teaching and Art, Architecture and Design) Community of Practice); design and technology-led research supported by the Design Society Development DESIS (Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability) network; and creative-work-as-research, supported by the University Research Office. 

Prof Leora Farber, Director of the FADA Research Institute Visual Identities in Art and Design, received a C2 rating from the NRF, bringing to six the number of NRF-rated researchers in the Faculty in 2015, from five in 2014 (Profs Berman, Freschi, Osman, Schmahmann and von Veh). 

As befits a Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, creative work continued to enjoy high priority amongst the artists, designers and architects on the academic staff. Six projects for the recognition of creative-work-as-research underwent a peer review process and were successfully submitted to the FRC and subsequently to an ad hoc committee of the URC. Since 2013 the University has formally agreed to fund the subsidies payable to successful applicants from URC rather than Faculty funds. This is a significant step forward, and puts the University on a par with its peer institutions, while also increasing the subsidy amount payable to individual researchers. It is envisioned that this will serve as an incentive for the academic staff to submit their creative work to a peer review process. 

Members of staff participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions (including exhibitions curated by staff members) nationally and internationally, and completed a number of design projects. The departmental reports also show how staff in all departments presented papers at national and international conferences, with some highlights including Prof Kim Berman (Visual Art) presenting three public lectures at Loyola Marymount University in the United States; Prof Karen von Veh (Visual Art) curating an exhibition of South African art at the Beijing Biennale (co-curated by colleagues Gordon Froud and Shonisani Netshia), and being invited to give a paper at Peking University in Beijing. Prof Lesley Lokko gave keynote addresses at the Nkomo Conversations Conference in Accra, Ghana, and at the Goethe Institute Johannesburg’s ‘What is the Good City’ conference, which was televised live to participants in Rotterdam and Munich. 

Prof Brenda Schmahmann was officially awarded an NRF SARChI Chair in South African Art and Visual Culture at a ceremony held in Cape Town in September. Research falling under the ambit of this chair is in art history as well as disciplines and fields which are cognate to it, such as design history and fashion theory. Such work has become increasingly important in South Africa. In a context where there is an imperative to re-write histories and develop a richer understanding of South African identities, and where art museums are redefining their collecting policies as well as seeking curatorial methods for visualising the past and present, there is a high demand for the research and capacities of qualified visual theorists. The chair will become fully operational in 2016, with dedicated premises located close to the Faculty.
In November Prof Schmahmann presented her professorial inaugural lecture, entitled ‘Toppled Monuments and Fallen Icons: Negotiating Monuments to British Imperialism and Afrikaner Nationalism on Post-Apartheid Campuses’. Prof Freschi was invited to chair a round-table discussion on ‘Art, Politics and Agency’ at the College Art Association on Annual Conference in New York in February, and to present a public lecture entitled ‘The Politics of Ornament: Articulations of Identity in South African Architecture, 1910-2010’ at the University of Umeå, Sweden, in October. 

The VIAD research centre continued exploring themes that emerged from the 2014 exhibition of British photographer Vanley Burke’s photographic archive By the Rivers of Birminham. The Centre hosted two discursive platforms in the FADA Gallery: Archival Addresses: Photographies, Practices, Positionalities, held in March, offered a platform for a series of papers, panel discussions, artists’ presentations, film screenings and an exhibition engaging with the complexities of contemporary archival practices, and how these play out using lens-based and new media technologies. In October, the Centre hosted a series of encounters entitled (Re)-Fashioning Masculinities: Identity, Difference, Resistance, also at the FADA Gallery. Participants explored various forms of self-imaging/self-representation and hypersampling strategies used by sartorial groups such as the Swenkas, Pantsulas, Isikothane, and Sartists, as well as young Johannesburg-based design collectives such as Khumbula, the Smarteez, and the Riban siblings. Both platforms attracted a number of high-profile international and national speakers and participants.

Both platforms were also accompanied by curated exhibitions: Past Imperfect//Future Present, which coincided with the first platform in March, featured the work of highly regarded national and international practitioners engaging with complexities of, and rethinking new possibilities for, contemporary archival practices using lens-based and new media technologies. The exhibition Hypersampling Identities, Jozi Style accompanied the second platform, and featured the work of young, male fashion designers and design collectives producing men’s wear, as well as that of the stylists, photographers, sartorial groups, and trendsetters within their milieu. Extensive public engagement programmes, including walkabouts, lectures and workshops, accompanied these discursive platforms and exhibitions.

In addition to these scholarly initiatives, the VIAD Research Centre was active in supporting research development initiatives in the Faculty, both by including FADA academic staff in the discursive platforms and exhibitions, and by hosting a number of Research Working Group seminars, facilitated by Prof Brenda Schmahmann. Prof Keyan Tomaselli presented three well-attended research capacity building seminars entitled ‘Making Sense of Research’, and Prof Shona Hunter, a visiting research fellow from the United Kingdom, presented a seminar entitled ‘Writing for UK-based journals’. In addition, the Research Centre offers ongoing guidance on staff research projects, with team members frequently being consulted on conceptual frameworks for exhibitions, conferences, exchange projects and research papers.