The Centre for the Less Good Idea

more than a year ago
Performer and Theatre Director Nhlanhla Mahlangu in Season 5 at The Centre for the Less Good Idea
Performer and Theatre Director Nhlanhla Mahlangu in Season 5 at The Centre for the Less Good Idea
Photo by Stella Olivier
The Centre for The Less Good Idea is a unique cross-disciplinary, non-commercial arts space. An incubator for creative collaborations, and for the exploration of ideas about performance, it was founded in 2016 by world-renowned South African artist William Kentridge at Arts on Main in Maboneng, where the artist has his studio. 

Since then The Centre for the Less Good Idea has opened up incredible creative possibilities and opportunities for a broad range of artists from across the creative spectrum.

The result is a rich ongoing programme of creative performances and projects, that start as collaborations and lead to live performance in Johannesburg. Many of these productions then find their way across the globe into new performance spaces.  

Eschewing the endless search for perfection – and commercial pressures – the centre encourages artists to celebrate the pleasures of experimentation, finding inspiration in the multitude of ideas sparked in this process. Celebrating the playfulness of making, artists are actively encouraged to follow their impulses, connections and revelations as they work together to produce new ideas and performances. 

For local and international audiences, there's a wealth of content that can be watched either on livestream during scheduled programme times, or via the centre's website and YouTube channel, an incredible resource archiving the many projects and performances created by the Centre for The Less Good Idea from its start. 

All the works produced here are underpinned by a firm belief in the power of the collective and the collaborative process as a way to see the world differently. So you might find actors creating new works with jazz musicians, poets joining forces with sculptors, animation meeting performance, and dance coming together with poetry.

Performances are unique, and unusually, evolving. As time passes, works created return and are transformed by new influences, into ever-new shapes and forms. Much of this work goes on behind the scenes, and is aimed at developing a foundation of creativity and creative collaborations. From there so much blooms. 
Phuphuma Love Minus directed by Nhlanhla Mahlangu and contemporary dancers Thulani Alfred Chauke and Xolisile Bongwana in Season 1. Photo by Stella Olivier

Twice a year a group of collaborators is assembled to produce a brand new performance programme that stretches over several days. Each new season is tied together by a theme and features brand new works that include theatre, music, dance, film, installations, poetry and even interactive performances on the city’s streets.

In the wake of the 2020 lockdown The Centre innovated rapidly to produce a superb, ongoing collection of work that can be watched and interacted with exclusively online, much of it speaking powerfully to the emotions, transformations and upheavals wrought by the Covid era. As far as art created specifically for online audiences goes, and speaking to the time, the works produced are utterly engaging. 

The Centre’s live performance Seasons (the 8th Season is scheduled for summer 2021) have continued (albeit with smaller audiences) and all performances are now recorded live and can be watched online via their youtube channel.  
Performers Princess Tshabangu, Catrin Dowd, Faniswa Yisa, Lorin Sookool & Napo Masheane in Season 6. Photo by Zivanai Matangi
Here’s a look at some of the Centre’s ongoing projects and programmes and where you can view them.

For Once

The For Once programme allows for regular once-off performances (usually held every month) of new work recently incubated at the centre to be shown live for one-night-only. Performances take place at The Centre in Maboneng. Look out for announcements about upcoming live For Once performances at and watch previous performances online here.

In Conversation

The collaborators at The Centre are constantly in dialogue with each other and in the In Conversation series the Centre uses its space to present public discussions with collaborators and visiting artists on a variety of themes. 

The Poetry Minute

Text and visual art meet in this beautiful online series of collaborations launched in April 2021, curated by performance artist, musician and writer Bongile Lecoge-Zulu. The Poetry Minute presents physical text and poetry performed as miniature animated films. Bringing a new independent life to the words on the page removed from their spoken performance, it presents a wonderfully engaging way of enjoying new poetry.
A work from The Poetry Minute by Nicci Haynes. Watch all films from the series here on Instagram

The Long Minute and A Considered Three Minutes

Created during the heaviest months of South Africa’s strict 2020 lockdown The Long Minute, curated by Bronwyn Lace, is a series of online videos that sought to find a virtual expression for the centre’s creative processes that until then relied on physical interaction.

Two seasons were produced featuring work by a host of artists that combine fragments of text, performance, dance, image and sound, as they sought to unpack the nature of performance and the relationships between audience and performer. 

The Long Minute series has since been expanded into A Considered Three Minutes, with the artists invited to extend the seeds of the fragment-sized ideas from their One Minute works into longer three-minute films.

The Highway Notice Project

During the pandemic in 2020 the centre launched The Highway Notice Project as a way to take its collaborations onto the streets while physical gatherings were banned. The Centre took over two billboards on the section of the M2 highway that circles the City Centre and over a period of 6 months, 12 artists were invited to create a work to be displayed. The result is a fantastically poetic series of public interactions that command attention and thoughtfulness among the hoards of unthinking advertising usually plastered across the city.

Read more about The Centre for the Less Good Idea here


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