The second biennial of sudafrika

Digital Diaspora on the Cape of Good Hope

On 12.October 97 became the second Biennale of Sudafrika in Johannesburg. These biennial deserves special attention because it deals with the varied implications of globalization from an African perspective. She gives the discussions about "local" and "global" a new turn by reversing the cultural north sud relationships. More than 50 percent of the participating artists come from the South Hemisphare. However, Johannesburg was not only a welcome meeting place of a very cosmopolitan blend of artists, curators, critics and journalists. The city itself also showed the boundaries of the art event with her floping and brought those problem zones to beweed, which were not clearly articulated by the Biennale or not properly articulated.

The second biennial of Sudafrika

Bongi Dhlomo-Mautloa, Head of the Africus Institute for Occupant Art (Organizer) and Okwui Enwezor, Curator

The 2.Biennale by Johannesburg, with more than 300 participating artists and conference participants, an ambitious project, which tries to put Sudafrika on the map of gross world art exhibitions. The exhibition is distributed over four halls alone in Johannesburg, as well as two more in Cape Town. The artistic director Okwui Enwezor and his assistant Octavio Zaya formulated with the topic "Trade Routes – History and Geography" in their catalog texts and the exhibition of them "Alternating Currents" The content foundation of this biennial. The works of 85 artists are in the context of this main exhibition in the so-called "Electric workshop" shown, a former power plant, which was renovated for the purposes of the Biennale. 5 more curators continued this topic of trading routes, post-colonialism and globalization in their own exhibitions: Yu Yeon Kim (Transversions), Hou Hanru (Hongkon etc.), Gerardo Mosquera (Important and Exportant), Kellie Jones (Lifežs Little Necessities) and Colin Richards (Graft). Special projects use advertisements in the city, as well as the media. There was a conference and a selection of films. All this takes along the dimensions of a mega project, which was concluded under unique and difficult circumstances in a country that is located in a social transformation process.

Anyone who conquers the city on the international airport of Johannesburg will first find that here on numerous huge billboards for the same products is advertised in the world – luxury articles, credit cards, telecommunications, computers, software. The highway, the petrol stations that almost food chains liked a faith, you are in Stuttgart or Milano. But if you manage the north prior to rosebank or Sandton, you start to slowly perceive the differences. In these straws, the burger scenes are at least as clean as in Munchen-Bogenhausen and the villas do not need to be a comparison with Beverly Hills in size and style. Rather, they show better architectural taste and even the Diet of Multinational corporations compete with each other around a stylish appearance. If you now manage to the center of Johannesburg, you will perceive another change without saying exactly when it has occurred. The buildings do not argue so much, apart from a certain urban compaction. The sidewalks in front of the buildings but are animated by a typical African strain life. But between the exotic surfaces of the business drive, poverty and despair of life in the city of Sudafrika shims. If one concludes in the Newtown district proclaimed to the Culture district, where the Biennale has its center, so you have already learned a lesson. There is a rough difference in being abstractly informed about the horrors of the apartheid regime, and can actually see his long-term sequences first-hand.

The second biennial of Sudafrika


For decades, Sudafrika was a country in which a powerful and all high-tech safety machinery was all in their powerful act in order to prove its basic human rights to a coarse part of the population. After the ANC came to power in 1994 by democratic elections, the injustice of apartheid regimes did not disappear overnight – especially the economic injustice. In addition to the old wounds, new conflicts break up, fed from the old people of corruption and lug. But most of Sudafirikans still show rough confidence that the process of transformation in the coarse and large continues to be peaceful. It was impossible for me to consider the Biennale of this climate of hopes and inert. The power of the Biennale is also in the size of the conflict potential in Sudafrika. This makes Johannesburg ideally succeed in jerking the problems of globalization in the viewpoint. It encounters us as a model for the transformation and hybridization of the world, where "Root" to be replaced by routes, which people drove to a uneasy journey into the future.

In the following, I like to try to relate the statements of the city with the repayments of the artists and curators, and finally my own preparation. As you will soon find, I try my own voice as far as possible to take back. During the Biennale I have recorded many talking. Based on the ideas behind this biennial, I decided to make a mounting of various exercises than writing a linear own text. The variety of votes was one of the achievements of this biennale, sometimes Babylonian confusion at the same time a (necessary) load.

(The following quotations are based on transcripts of my recordings that were easily edited)

Okwui Enwezor, the artistic director of the Biennale, born in Nigeria and resident in New York:

For me, the main question was how to deal with this topic of globalization. I do not speak of globalization as a typical phenomenon only for the 20. Century, but as something that has a much more long historical history. Within this problem of globalization, which was stolen from the multinational corporations, we have thought about some questions, be it emigration, identity, nationality, postcolonialism, colonialization, etc. It was an opportunity for me to meditate about what exactly this historical moment means and which economic factors that succeeded in the youngest cultural consequences.

Some of Okwui Enwezors fundamental decisions on the organization of the Biennale were positively absorbed by many artists and visitors.

I am very much on the fact that the pavilions of the nations were abolished and that we do not animate our home stands, but we show our work as individual artists, and that we were all confused.

Alfredo Jaar Chile / New York (Tranversions)

I like these biennial, because they did not search for artists who come from this or that country, but to artists who fit well with their concept. You have abolished this idea of the nationality and I feel very well.

Juan Carlos Robles, Spain / Berlin (Alternating Currents)

Okwui Enwezor, however, continued to abolish only the national pavilions, he delegates to curatorial power and said:

For me it was impossible to support this rough gesture of the art world, and to present me as the sole curator. I fell the need to work with other curators. That makes my position more complicated, but it makes you better understandable.

You can see that as a privilege of this biennial that there are different curators with different value systems. This will result in this keyword from decentralization to the component of the technical structure of the Biennale.

Helmut Weber, Vienna (Transversions)

Okwui Enwezor’s idea that the Biennale one "Four-splitting star should form between whose poles can interact with the various asthetic and cultural positions with each other," So seems to have worked. Not only the younger artists, also Dennis Oppenheim, one of the stars of the exhibition, fell to the communicative spirit of the Biennale. He paid me that he found it extremely interesting that the events of young Sudafiricians "infiltrated" were all eager to see and learn. He also knew that the curators of the most important American museums were prussently, as well as representatives of the most important art magazines. Alfredo Jaar, another "Surname" In this biennial, this feelmented:

Almost a third of the artists come from Sudafrika, we are all together, they have a strong Prasenz, we are guided together through the city and we will be friends.

However, Jaar also expressed skepticism about the ability of the art system to be responsible. In his view, the realization that other perspectives than those of the Western art world must be accepted and shown, given for a long time, yet little has changed so far.

This is one of the coarse ironia in today’s art world. But I think we are now in the first phase, in which it is necessary to access artists from the Third World to show presence in the so-called centers, making away to her to be able to. However, we will reach a second phase in which it will no longer be necessary, to leave the so-called Third World. You can live anywhere and develop his vocabulary and his work and still be visible on the Weltbuhne the art of his own country. Maybe that’s wishful thinking, but I think we are slowly moving towards it. The periphery will disappear, we will all become centers and the Euro-centric view of the world will also disappear.

Alfredo Jaar

That was one of the key ies in many discussions of this Biennale. The majority of artists who have been shown at the Biennale came from the so-called third world or the hemisphare or other marginalized areas. However, most of these artists live in New York. It would be too easy to blame the curators, they dab a New York-centered image spread. For young artists from Africa, it is to pull a matter of necessity rather the free choice to New York or London, to at all something of an artistic career have to be able to. the "Diaspora" The artist is often a story of personal despair and lack of other perspectives. Therefore, a curator like Okwui Enwezor will not be lightly adopted that trend that the "Nomadism" celebrates a concept that is popular in western Elitren art circles for many years.

The question is what happened in Africa in the last 20 years? Why did people rely on their own land and where they went? I think that the metropolis receiving for this conglomerate is of humans and identities. Not necessarily in the centers of the metropolis but at their periphery. The metropolis itself can not be considered more blob than a center, but is itself a highly fragmented place. These artists live in New York, but they will not be exhibited there. To see you in an exhibition of this order of magnitude, you have to come to Johannesburg.

Okwui Enwezor

He appeals that "New York, of course, remains a power center in the terms of capitalism and that is a question that I would like to submit." Fly to and from New York, a central question seems to be for many artists. However, the problem of diaspora is not only the problem of African artist. The diaspora, which emigrated from economic or political reasons, was the underlying main topic in many works in this biennial.

I think that we are all part of the diaspora. This is one of the continuing questions at the endpoint of the twentieth century. Diaspora for me is how someone defines their or his identity, in a larger reference frame of cultural identification in contrast to being defined by narrow racial or ethnic positions.

Okwui Enwezor

Exactly at this point, however, ended the consensus. The questions of the identity and formation provoked endless discussions that have not led to no solution. As Catherine David, Curator of Documenta X, with a podium symbol, that they see identity as a lifelong process, rather than as a fixed category, she was attacked eusbest emotionally. The argument of her opponents was that the possibility to elect an identity itself, depending on its own range of maneuver, which is not given for many people in Africa, so that she "identified" will, without having to have the possibility to answer it.

Father said Catherine David in a personal conversation:

This idea of identity as a grocery store I am superior. Behind it is a very angelaceous thought: be what you want, but stay where you are. I come from a very republican country. The idea of Stateburgerschaft is much closer than the idea of these isolated "Communities".

The exhibitions I: Alternating Currents

The main exhibition "Alternating Currents" in the "Electric workshop" Hullieb mixed chicken. So the room itself was impressive, as well as the variety of artists and formats. Painting hardly existed, for that very many installations, video, photography, projections and also one or other computerized work. As well as the other exhibitions of the Biennale, the technology used was pleasant that the technology used, or. Never focus on the medium. Global communication media were not fetishized, but used. The exhibition space became labyrinths in which one could stay for hours.

The second biennial of Sudafrika


A recurring theme was that "home". Many artists showed interiors. Dominated "Shacks", those primitive and mostly self-built dwellings in African or Latin American slums. During a number of artists such shacks in the hall as real installations built, others wrote on photographic illustrations. I found the photographs much more interesting, as they did not coocet with the slum asthetics, but more subtle nuances, so z.B. The works of Zwelethu Methetwa from Durban, Sudafrika and Esko Mannikko, Pudasjarvij, Finland.

The second biennial of Sudafrika
The second biennial of Sudafrika

Both show usual people in their homes, with emphasis on "usually" and not "poor" lies. This does not guide the view on pseudo-blocking poverty images, but on the man’s depicted. The geographical distance and at the same time the similarity between the pictured realitate constructed a message of universal humanity. The Koln-living Swiss Photograph Beat Streuli may have intended a similar message, but its huge photo wallpaper, which dominated the entrance hall of the Electric Workshop, reminded more "United Colors of Benetton" as otherwise something else.

The lease of work on the home worked on a drawing level, above all as a reference to the identity of the artists, on their origin or on their association firing. But a thought-based synthesis found rarely. The fragments of individual identities added to anyone.

This exhibition is rough, its surface is unregulated in many ways. I could emphasize that, because many people will raise the question of whether some of the work shown should be called art. But I think that topics such as the policy of survival, social mobility, political and economic analysis are no longer separated from the art. In this regard, the biennial is more of a multidisciplinary exhibition as a simple blob art.

Okwui Enwezor

As a curatorial point of view, this is certainly comprehensible, but does not explain why so many artists are unable to go beyond the subjective expression of their experiences as individuals and to put them into a coarse frame. But after all, there was also some exceptions.

Vivat Sundaram, India, Z.B. Printed texts of fleeting Indian ocons on dunne metal foils bound to beers. These "Books" hung on the walls, while the soil was surprised by small photos, which showed all Indian market situations and which were all framed in the same cheap red plastic frames. This achieved an interesting counterupise of serious economic analysis on the consequences of globalization with the realitat of local third-world market.

Eugenio Dittborn from Chile showed a new series of his "AirMail Paintings". His painted on cloth and images sent with the airmail were grouped into a coarse mural. This revealed a kind of psychogography of colonialism in time and space, from the experiences of the indigenous Volker with the "white man", About the bondage of Christianity, to the picture world of Coco colonialization. Sending the pictures by airmail is an integral part of the work of the Chile-living Dittborn, you can like "News from the Third World" be read and identified.

An almost hidden highlight of the exhibition formed the work of Marko Peljahn, Slovenia. Using high-tech equipment, but it was invisibly hidden in a control room, he received a spelling and radio signals of airspace monitoring. In the exhibition itself was only a headhortry and a map of Africa, which shows which rooms are monitored by which floor station. About the headhortry, the talk between Tower and Pilots can be led to. After transcontinental flights playing such a rough role for the diaspora, this contribution was one of the few who opened at the same time local and global context, made a form of data visible, which is usually hidden to the openness, and not from the "Subjectivity" of the artist was influenced.

Furthermore, interesting works of artists such as Z.B. Wenda Gu, Stan Douglas, Sophie Ristelhueber or the movie from Isaac Julien Uber Franz Fanon shown as video installation could find at this point. But despite their professional and impressive realization they did little for the further development of the topic.

The problems of art and artist

Olu Oguibe, organizer of the accompanying conference, gave a hard statement over the intellectual skills of artists. To be fair, it should be mentioned in this way that he not only referred to the artists of the Biennale, but on the art world in general:

We live in the so-called "Age of conceptual art" And one was amed that the artists therefore have to do with concepts and ideas. When you look like this, then that’s not clear not the case. What they are doing is to feed with all possible mass-produced finished ideas that they are not thinking properly. Hardly any of them comes to the conference because they can not start with intellectual topics. Everything is beyond a two-line, is to be understood beyond their ability to understand or articulate. Like anyone who is not intellectually talented, deal with discourses and overlay ideas or concepts in visual form, is a miracle for me.::

Catherine David, which resulted in her own words, the "Methodologies of other curators studied", Played the ball to the curators back:

This biennial is not worse than others, but it is not better than others. What was thought of in my view is a specific articulation via the context of Johannesburg. It would have been interesting to experiment with other exhibition strategies…I believe that it is very important to put certain priorities and to chuck certain things in the focus, and try to do that on an obvious and sometimes even contributed type. For me, an exhibition is 50% of what you show and 50% out of what you do with it.

Catherine David

Surely it is easy to talk about damaged possibilities, out of a position, just one of the most important exhibitions in the Western art world, where the artist management has an efficient organizational machinery behind it consisting of well-paid professionals. In contrast, the organization of Biennale of Sudafrika was a course of problems. Organizers such as Bongi Dhlomo-Mautloa, Head of the Africus Institute for Existing Art (Organizer), Project Coordinator Clive Kellner, Media Promoter Susan Glanville and Administrator Angela Gama, to name a few, have managed to water a huge mountain of work on the The basis of a virtually hardly existing infrastructure and with the notorious monetary problems of a underfinanced project, where the promised funds (to) spat have arrived. The participation of many artists depended on that they could organize their own funds of their local artforders. Some artists paid their participation even from their own pocket. Such organizational affairs are usually not part of the review. However, I think that these things are discussed because they are an integral part of the working conditions of artists in an increasingly social arwinistic art landscape.

Despite the lack of resources, more had to be done to bring audience into the Biennale. In the first days after the openation, artists and injected insiders had almost for themselves alone.

Dese Maise, 19, Architectural Student and working in the artist kantine:

Through the policy of the past, a rough part of the population was kept away from art. And what I can see, for this biennial, that only along the highways is made into the northern pre-esteant advertising and that it was not placardized in the townships. You also have to know that all galleries are also in the northern priorities.

Jacob Lebeko, 23, who has just made his diploma in art science and works for the Biennale Laufungsdienst:

Cults me what is made in the townships for the Biennale, so far nothing has been done. There are many community art centers in the townships, but these are easily resolved. Everything takes place in the important parts of Johannesburg. I will be released that people are skipped, not intentionally, but by the way everything is arranged. Maybe my expectations are too high as of this biennale, it’s only the second, but we should have learned from the first. It’s just a problem of access, an economic problem.

Alexia Webster, 18, prospective art student and also managed in the canteen:

My first impression of the art is that it usually has nothing to do with the environment. For some reason, I expected the artists to come here and convey their perspectives to things here and their experiences with Sudafrika. But it’s more a personal art, which is shown here.

When I confronted Okwui Enwezor with such criticisms, he complained about the "Fetishization of the townships". The Biennale, he said, do projects in the townships and it will also give workshops, etc. However, this tarpaulin, as well as the accompanying conference and the film program, were not well known.

So the impression could arise that the ELITREN catching the curators had the risk of a more pregnant cultural dominance in themselves. Western cultural imperialism is replaced by African international transculturalism. Although this regime is more subtle and brings more diversitat into the brand-name-building operating system of art, but is nonetheless in the same Ivory Tower. The curators speak the language of hyper post-modernity. However, this may be appropriate for New York, the reality of Johannesburg is hardly fair. So the missing interface between the Biennale and Johannesburg became all over "natural" Manner made by a phanomena that is thus predominant in this city – the stain criminalitat. After a Japanese artist on the first day and robbed and robbed a German Biennale tourist in the arm, the artists were plagued by fear. Only a few dared to explore the city on his own, next to the organized taxi trips between the hotel and exhibition hall or to Soweto.

The exhibitions II: Transversions etc.

The incremental exhibitions of the Biennale did little to improve this image of artistic elitent transculturalism.

"Transversions", curated by yu yeon kim, maybe the "most modern" Exhibition, affecting the use of a variety of technical means (video, CD ROM, computer, internet).

Alfredo Jaar, who dedicated his last three working years to research on the Volkermord in Rwanda, showed "The eyes of Goode Emerita", a deeply appealing work. After the pictures of the Volkermord have gone around the world, but the international community but still did nothing to stop him in good time, Jaar doubts the effectiveness of images in the media. the image is therefore reduced to a minimum in his work. Texts appear in exactly timed, texts appear on two electronic scoreboards, and only after two minutes for a second particle appears "Eyes of Goode Emerita", Witness and the only survivor of the murder on their entire family.

Elisabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio from New York show "Pagan", A computer-animated sequence of black and white company logos projected on the ground, with a logo flowing into the next. The work achieves a hypnotizing quality, it creates the feeling to be a witness of a new religious ritual of transnational capitalism without being able to escape. All in all, however, did it "Transversions" not over the rhetoric of "Artists Abrow Territories, Zones, Stories, Cultures" (Catalog text) beyond, and that’s something that can almost be said about each exhibition.

"Hongkon etc.", curated by Hou Hanru still seemed to be volatile in his selection and compilation. Working on photos, video, internet and CD Rome fell together to a kind of artistic travel album together, in which artificial world travelers show the pictures they have collected. In this context, even the strictly composed photo works by Andreas Gursky were part of a communicative picture bombardment.

"Important and exportant", curated by Gerardo Mosquera was the "most urban" of all exhibitions (I could not see the exhibitions in Cape Town), whereby in this context is in this context, on a conventional practices of conceptual art of the last 20 years. But also in this, as well as in all other exhibitions, there were work of outstanding quality.

Sophie Calle shows with "Detachment" resisted monuments in and around Ostberlin. In addition to photos of places where Stalinist monuments were once eliminated after the turn, she placed texts with memories of people to these monuments. Willem Boshoffs, Sudafrika, "The Writing That Fell FROM THE WALL" Filled the room with empty exhibition platforms, surrounded by fallen words, words like "truth", "sense", "Salvation" etc.. Hiroshi Sugimoto, Japan, showed gray photos of the oceans that appear monochrome at first glance and only revealed from the near their structure, a predominant asthetically closed thematization of "global" without a didactic index finger.

Instead of all "be called" To treat topics in connection with globalization at the same time, the curators had done well to focus on a few aspects and go more in the depth, and thus more controversial to treat. Fewer goods have been more.

But thus no final judgment should be talked about the Biennale. The exhibition is still 10 weeks and it is only to be hoped that the effect on the public in Sudafrika will still increase, and that the biennial can dust positive long-term effects on the difficult transition process in Sudafrika. For those who are willing, and whom it is possible to visit the Biennale, an intensive and powerful experience is guaranteed. Despite the structural problems of the art system, of which Johannesburg was not free, the Biennale offered more than Jungst Ge-Hypt Shows in the West, such as the exhibition "Sensational" The Young British Artists in London, with its hopeless built-in cynicism. And as a exhibition hinted with surprisingly a lot of technology, the Biennale also offered more than the repetitive exercises in technical determinism in specialized events such as Ars Electronica or ISEA. The Biennale of Sudafrika at least has the potential to set a sign in the new cultural world order. The Suden has something to say. Go down and hate them too…

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