Kim is currently based at the Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape. Her research focuses upon offspaces and understories in one form or another - independent art spaces, artisanal workshops, backstage archives, or other off-sites where counterfactual imagination is at work.

Her latest book, Flipside: The Inadvertent Archive, pays close attention to the backstage, invisible labour of institution-building and curatorial practice. It investigates a 50-year document archive of the Cape’s oldest non-profit arts association (AVA) and brings to life these previously unexplored and uncatalogued stacks, using archival records as source material to assemble an episodic narrative. It is structured thematically taking inspiration from prior architectural records of the historical building that houses AVA, a former house. The reader makes their way, room by room, through interlinked storylines that show how the past, present and future converge.

Kim’s other three books variously link contemporary art, city futures, and the public sphere - her key academic interests. She has developed in her work a long-standing interest in public space as common space, with a special focus on public art, independent art spaces, and institution-building. Her PhD explored art as a vector of value, or how art comes to matter, positing an ecological model that puts public interest first.

Kim was formerly a journalist and news editor, which inflects her writing and experiments with form - See Writing. She has recently produced digital storymaps, an artist book, a photobook, a creative non-fiction book, a visual narrative, and media articles.

Key research outputs: Orcid ID

Selected recent public engagements

'Together we can do so much'

Urban graffiti on the steps of Museum Afrika, Newtown
Photo: Kim Gurney

*Jan 2024: Moderator for public panel on Community Arts Project (CAP), which forms part of ‘Past Disquiet’ exhibition at Zeitz MOCAA.
*Aug 2023. ‘Panya Routes: From Platform to Plotform’ - Michaelis Lunchtime Lecture, University of Cape Town. Public talk on Panya Routes book.
*May 2023. ‘Publishing as Artistic Practice’ – Stellenbosch Visual Arts Department, Lunchtime Lecture. Public talk on book projects.
*Podcast: ‘Kim Gurney - On Panya Routes’ – People’s Stories and Books, produced by Nancy Richards. Avail on Spotify, 2022.
*2022: Two launch events for ‘Panya Routes: Independent art spaces in Africa’: The first in Cape Town @A4 Arts Foundation in conversation with Neo Muyanga, and the second in Johannesburg (@Stokvel Gallery) with opening speaker Mokena Makeka, both hosted in conjunction with African Centre for Cities.
*Sep 2022. Presenter: A paper for the second artistic research conference in Africa hosted by Wits School of Arts, Johannesburg, titled ‘Epistemic Disobedience: Institution-building as artistic practice’ (forthcoming in peer-reviewed proceedings)
*Oct 2021. ‘New Shapes’, Nafasi Academy - thematic residency and lab – exploring alternative ecological frameworks. Research Module: Academic Strategies. Nafasi Art Space, Dar es Salaam, Lecture title: ‘Follow the thing’ (research method).
*Nov 2022. Panellist in the 5th Urban Dialogue hosted by GoDown Arts Centre in Nairobi, which featured Panya Routes as a springboard for a larger discussion around cultural infrastructures.
*22 June 2021. Public seminar: ‘Flipside: The Inadvertent Archive’, Centre for Humanities & Department of History Seminar, UWC. Via zoom. Respondent: Dr Valmont Layne.
*Sep 2020. MayDay: Decolonisation, power and the public space, a podcast produced by Bozar, a centre for fine arts in Brussels, Belgium. “How should our streets, statues and monuments reflect the world we live in? Stella Nyanchama Okemwa, from the Belgian NGO Hand in Hand against Racism, is clear: we need to radically rethink how we celebrate power. In this episode, we take inspiration from South Africa, where #RhodesMustFall has created a space for unofficial rolling artwork, where anyone can take the stage. Writer and artist Kim Gurney, who has examined the case up close, shares her experiences with us.” Available on Spotify.
*2-19 January 2019, panelist and workshop participant, ‘Africa as concept and method – Decolonisation, Emancipation and Freedom’, Addis Ababa University Alle School of Fine Art & Design, Ethiopia, Hosted by Centre for Humanities Consortium International (CHCI).
*9 February 2019, panelist on #Freespace: ‘Places of Remembrance’, Zeitz MOCAA, V&A Waterfront, Exploring how the notion of memory and heritage can be celebrated in contemporary place making. Curated by Instinct with Zeitz MOCAA, V&A and UCT’s African Centre for Cities.
*28 May 2019, Public talk: ‘From platform to plotform: Artistic thinking in spaces of flux’. African Centre for Cities & Centre for Humanities Research (CHR). Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape.
*10 Dec 2019. Independent art spaces as urban indicators, a public talk at University of Leuven, Belgium. Cities in Development: Art in public spaces. Debate series on critical issues regarding cities of the global South, focusing in particular on how urban dwellers’ agency invents urban futures. Kim Gurney and Sandrine Colard, curator of the Lubumbashi Biennale, and Art Historian at Rutgers University. The talk was the final in a series, which included: Cities of exception, Cities of extraction, The right to the city, Colonial pasts and urban futures.
*30 November 2018, panel participant. Re-imagining as destruction and creation, Norval Art Foundation, UCT’s Centre for Curating the Archive. Re-imagining Museums and Archives - a symposium.
*11 Oct 2018, Seeing pink elephants: Performing the city, opening address at ‘Researching Public Art’ conference, The Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm. Hosted by Public Art Agency Sweden. Available on Youtube
*2-5 July 2018, Invited participant, Transversal writing workshop, co-ordinated by Catharina Gabrielsson and Helene Frichot at KTH Architecture School, Swedish House, Kavalla, Greece.
*5 April 2017, Performing the Present, keynote address at ‘Being (in) Public: Encounters - Outside Place / Inner Space’, international symposium, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Bbeyond in collaboration with Belfast School of Art at Ulster University. Keynote: Performing the Present (2017) - copy of text. This talk makes three moves through time and space to contemplate how art can help make sense of the contemporary moment and re-imagine city futures.
*April 2017, ‘In Focus’ programme, a TV interview by Northern Visions filmed on the occasion of delivering the address, above, at Being in Public, Belfast School of Art, Ulster University.
*July 2015, panel participant, ‘Dead Monuments’ convened by Professor Gavin Younge. Sorbonne, Paris. ECAS 2015. Title of Paper presented: ‘The Disappeared: Missing Artworks Task Force’.

Sole-authored books

Gurney, Kim. 2024. Flipside: The Inadvertent Archive. Johannesburg, Lagos, Frankfurt: iwalewabooks. Copy editors Karen Press & iwalewabooks. Graphic design by mind the gap! (Frankfurt).
Available: iwalewabooks, physical and e-book
Also from AVA Gallery

Gurney, Kim. 2022. Panya Routes. Independent art spaces in Africa. Berlin & Lausanne: Motto Books. Edited by Mika Hayashi Ebbesen. Graphic design by Márcia Novais (Porto).
Available: Motto Books & independent book stores (South Africa - Protea Distributors/ Karavan Press) and via Amazon (global)
Book announcement African Centre for Cities

Gurney, Kim. 2017. August House is Dead, Long Live August House! The Story of a Johannesburg Atelier. Johannesburg: Fourthwall Books. Available: Independent book stores (South Africa) including Book Lounge, Clarkes, Proto at A4 Arts, and Love Books.

  • Mbongeni Buthelezi in his August House studio
    Mbongeni Buthelezi in his August House studio

    Photo: Anthea Pokroy

  • Gordon Froud in his August House studio
    Gordon Froud in his August House studio

    Photo: Anthea Pokroy

  • Gibson Khumalo at his August House office
    Gibson Khumalo at his August House office

    Photo: Anthea Pokroy

  • Power Mazibuko at August House
    Power Mazibuko at August House

    Photo: Anthea Pokroy

  • Jacki McInnes in her August House studio
    Jacki McInnes in her August House studio

    Photo: Anthea Pokroy

  • Bie Venter in her August House loft
    Bie Venter in her August House loft

    Photo: Anthea Pokroy

Gurney, K. 2015. The Art of Public Space: Curating and Re-imagining the Ephemeral City. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Available: Palgrave including e-book and individual chapters. Also via Amazon (Kindle).

View a short documentary about ‘New Imaginaries’, the trilogy of art events exploring public space upon which The Art of Public Space is based, on youtube. A symposium was convened as part of the book research: ‘New Imaginaries, New Publics’ was organised by Kim Gurney/ ACC & hosted at Goethe-Institut Johannesburg on 21 February 2013. Download programme of speakers; Download event rationale. Video recordings of presentations are available upon request.

Artist's city walk, exploring Hillbrow through kwaito with Rangoato Hlasane.

New Imaginaries’ (2012)
Photo: K. Gurney


My PhD thesis on art as a vector of value transposes a foundational ecosystems model to posit art’s public interest as central and all other valuations flowing from there. ‘The mattering of African contemporary art: Value and valuation from the studio to the collection’ takes a Johannesburg studio building as one case study; the other is a Cape Town art collection, which started off as the first art fund of its kind on the African continent.

Edited books

*Van Graan, M. (ed). 2015. Stimie, M. and Gurney, K. (contributing eds.). South African Handbook on Arts and Culture. Cape Town: African Arts Institute.


Gurney, K. 2020. Green Screen - A digital storymap of creative nonfiction that follows the life of a film set assembled for a commercial to tell a larger story about counterfactual imagination and city futures from the artisanal perspective of the workshop floor. Salt River, Cape Town. Published by Centre for Humanities Research.
Gurney, K. 2019. From End to End. A Storymap of Viral Sculptures. This digital storymap (geolocation, visuals and text) follows the surprising trajectories of a series of viral sculptures from a Johannesburg studio into private and public settings as part of a broader study on art as a vector of value.

Recent chapters

Gurney, K. 2023. ‘Concrete Philosophy: Artistic migrations in the public sphere’. In: Bruce Arnott: Into the Megatext. Edited by Mari Lecanides-Arnott and Sven Christian. Cape Town: Print Matters, pp. 92-101.
Gurney, K. 2017. ‘Public Art Prospects in ‘Mzansi’s Golden Economy’. In: Public Art in Africa: Art and Urban Transformations in Douala - ebook. Edited by Iolanda Pensa with Marta Pucciarelli, Fiona Siegenthaler, Marilyn Douala Bell, Kamiel Verschuren, Xandra Nibbeling, Lucas Grandin, Asta Adukaite and Maud De La Chapelle. MetisPresses: Geneve. Download
Gurney, K. 2016. ‘Remembering the Map: Prestwich Memorial’. In: Dobraszczyk, P. Garrett, B.L. & Galviz, C.L.(eds). Undergrounds: Exploring Cities Within. London: Reaktion Books, pp. 97-99 / ‘Remaking the Map: Golden Acre, Cape Town’, pp. 186-189 / ‘Off the Map: Cape Town Tunnels’, pp. 227-230.
Pieterse, E. & Gurney, K. 2012. ‘Johannesburg: Investing in Cultural Economies or Publics?’. In Anheier, H.K. & Y.R. Isar (eds) & guest editor M. Hoelscher, M. Cultural Policy and Governance in a New Metropolitan Age: The Cultures and Globalization Series, Vol. 5. London: Sage Publications Ltd, Chapter 17, pp. 195-203.
Gurney, K. 2013. ‘Abracadabra’. In: E. Pieterse & A. Simone (eds). Rogue Urbanism: Emergent African Cities. Auckland Park: Jacana, pp. 421-425.

Selected journal articles

Gurney, K. September 2022. Epistemic Disobedience: Institution-building as artistic practice.. In: ‘How does artistic research transform pedagogy and art practice in Africa?’. Arts Research Africa 2022 & University of the Witwatersrand. (Conference Proceedings). Open access article, Conference proceedings
Gurney, K. Spring 2023. ‘Breathing Room: Working Principles of Independent Art Spaces in African Cities’. African Arts, Vol. 56, No. 1, pp. 26-41.
Kim Gurney, Neo Muyanga & Edgar Pieterse. 31 October 2022. The Creative Politics of Legibility. Public Culture, Part III Speculations, Vol. 34 (3), pp. 515-535.
Gurney, K. 2021. ‘The mogul, his meerkat and the meerkat’s second life’. In: e-flux Architecture, Workplace - A collaboration between e-flux Architecture and the Canadian Center for Architecture. Editors: Nick Axel, Albert Ferré, Nikolaus Hirsch and Megan Marin.
Gurney, K. 2020. ‘Offscreen: Making it and faking it’. In: Writingplace,
Readings(s) and Writing(s): Unfolding Processes of Transversal Writing, Vol. 3, pp.110-130.
Gurney, K. July 2018. ‘Zombie monument: Public art and performing the present’, Cities, Special issue - Urban Geography of the Arts. Guinard, P. & Molina, G. (Eds). Vol. 7, pp. 33-38. DOI.
For more about the afterlife of the Rhodes plinth, an ongoing research exploration of mine, see the Writing tab
Gurney, K. 07 Sep 2016. ‘Warp and Woof: Stalking Art from End to End’. In: Critical Arts: South-North Cultural and Media Studies. Vol. 30, Issue 3: Art, ethnography and practice-led research, pp. 411-427.
Gurney, K. 2013. ‘Sounding the City: Urban Performance in Johannesburg’. In: Kunstforum International, Issue 223 (Oct-Dec): pp. 94-107.
Gurney, K. 2013. ‘Ethnography of a Flame’. In: Critical Arts. South-North Cultural and Media Studies, 27(4), pp.439-443.
Gurney, K. 2012. ‘The Fractured Public Interest’. In: Rhodes Journalism Review, Issue 32, p.8. Available:
Gurney, K. 2012. ‘Mzansi’s Golden Economy’ and performance art. In: The Johannesburg Salon, Vol. pp. 98-101.
Gurney, K. 2011. ‘Doing Journalism’ - The shifting private-public axis and the rejuvenation of journalism ethics’. In: Rhodes Journalism Review, Issue 31, pp. 33-34.