Hotel Yeoville is a participatory public art project. From February through August 2010, the project was housed inside the brand new public library in Yeoville, an old, neglected suburb on the Eastern edge of the inner city of Johannesburg. The majority of Yeoville’s estimated 40 000 inhabitants are migrants; micro communities from many parts of the African continent. Often isolated and excluded from the formal economy and mainstream South African society, their dominant engagement is with each other and with home in far away places. The project in the library aimed to key into the diversity of immigrant and South African experiences that make the legendary suburb such a hot melting pot, and comprised a website and an interactive exhibition installation which took the form of a series of private booths in which members of the public were invited to document themselves through a range of digital interfaces, interactive media and online applications.
“Intrigued by the diversity of African cultures centred in the old Johannesburg suburb of Yeoville, artist Terry Kurgan identified public art as a means to represent and intervene in the area. Upon further examining the highly networked and charged community hosting thirty internet cafes in three blocks, and a massive wall of notices, a public space intervention seemed less relevant than something more ephemeral, representative, virtual.
The project was named Hotel Yeoville, due to the area’s eclectic transience, and because of the high density of people housed in significantly minimal accommodation. It started as a website, which operated as a social networking platform, designed to assist community members in keeping in touch with each other, their community and distant homes. An enabler for community interaction, business promotion and information gathering. While also functioning as a record of the changing area’s flows, movements and cultures.
The project found a space in the new Yeoville Library, where virtual spaces were created physically, and visitors were given the chance to actively engage with social media through a physical, spatial means. The website became a record of the project, while facilitating interaction through more established social media platforms. Here public space is created on the internet, a democratic, accessible and visibly unifying space for assisting and better connecting a displaced, African community.”