Continental shift.The current generation of curators has been profoundly Influenced by two sometimes contradictory trends: the emergence of multicultural politics and the growing conservatism In the art world. In trying to reinforce the cultural implications of the former and provide a critique of the latter, Okwul Enwezor made the transition from poet to editor to one of the most articulate and exciting curators working today. In 1994, after thirteen years in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. , the Nigerian-born, New York-based Enwezor founded Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art African art, art created by the peoples south of the Sahara.
The predominant art forms are masks and figures, which were generally used in religious ceremonies. , which he co-edits with Olu Oguibe Olu Oguibe is a Nigerian-American artist and public intellectual. He is Associate Professor of Art and African-American studies and Associate Director of the Institute for African American Studies at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, as well as a senior fellow of and Salah Hassan. As signaled by the multivalent multivalent /mul·ti·va·lent/ (-val´ent)
1. having the power of combining with three or more univalent atoms.
2. active against several strains of an organism. signifier sig·ni·fi·er
1. One that signifies.
2. Linguistics A linguistic unit or pattern, such as a succession of speech sounds, written symbols, or gestures, that conveys meaning; a linguistic sign. nka - the word means "art" in the Nigerian language of Igbo, "discourse" in the Cameroonian language of Bassa Bas´sa
n. 1. See Bashaw. - the Journal provides extensive coverage of art and theory, based on but by no means limited to Issues concerning contemporary African art. In 1996, Enwezor cocurated (with Octavio Zaya Octavio Zaya is an art critic and independent curator, who was born in Las Palmas (Canary Islands), and has lived in New York since 1978. Currently an Advisor for MUSAC (Leon), he is also an advisor of Performa (New York). , Danielle Tilkin, and Clare Bell) the well-received In/Sight: African Photographers, 1940 to the Present at the Guggenheim Museum Guggenheim Museum, officially Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, major museum of modern art in New York City. Founded in 1939 as the Museum of Non-objective Art, the Guggenheim is known for its remarkable circular building (1959) designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. in New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of , and the same year he was appointed artistic director of the 2nd Johannesburg Blennale. Titled "Trade Routes: History and Geography," the fall 1997 biennial showcased the work of more than 160 artists from 63 countries and included a number of projects in South African newspapers and magazines, as well as on local television. In May, Enwezor was appointed adjunct curator of contemporary art at the Art Institute of Chicago Art Institute of Chicago, museum and art school, in Grant Park, facing Michigan Ave. It was incorporated in 1879; George Armour was the first president. Since 1893 the Institute has been housed in its present building, designed in the Italian Renaissance style by . - CB
CARLOS BASUALDO: When you came to the United States in 1982 you were a poet. Was Nka a transition point between your devotion to your writing and your work as a curator? How did you start the Journal?
OKWUI ENWEZOR Okwui Enwezor is an American educator, writer, and curator specializing in Art history. He lives in New York and San Francisco. Educator
Okwui Enwezor is currently Dean of Academic Affairs and Senior Vice President at San Francisco Art Institute. : Throughout the '80s I felt that while multicultural issues were being discussed, that conversation never went beyond the black/white, majority/minority dichotomy of the West and the US. I thought the way to respond was to find a critical space to animate discussion around neglected areas, to begin to build a network through which values, agreements - even disagreements - about certain issues beyond those dichotomies could be reconstituted within a fluid space of practice. I thought contemporary African art could serve this role for us, to give further insight into the incredible transformations occurring within post-colonial cultural and intellectual structures.
CB: The title seems to Imply a certain construction of Africanness, while in your work you're always trying to confront such totalizing entities.
OE: Well, I think contradiction is part of the work I do. Contradiction is a process that allows me to reflect on my vantage point of living between worlds from a much more acutely felt structure of reference. When I talk about Africa, it's not a question of totalizing - it's rather the opposite. Nka could just as easily be "The Journal of European Studies European studies is a field of study offered by many academic colleges and universities that focuses on the current development of European integration. It basically consists of a combination of several subjects, including European history, European law, economics and sociology. ." In this sense, Africa is more an idea than a place. The idea allows us to explore the ramifications ramifications npl → Auswirkungen pl of a particular construction, so I'd rather see the contradiction as an opportunity to look forward and backward - as a way to accept that, in the order of things, one does not always know, but one can always reinvent the structure of one's passage through a particular space and time.
CB: For South Americans, It's almost a necessity to react against the label "Latin America" because there are so many cliches about Latin American sensibility that don't account for local histories. But when we are in South America, because the countries are so isolated, we wind up supporting the notion. Is there any parallel between Latin America and Africa in this respect?
OE: Oh, absolutely. But one thing I'd like to point out is that this reaction is also one occasioned by anxiety - an anxiety about self-doubt and self-definition. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. But we must understand that, in reacting against this notion of Latin Americanism, or Africanism, one is not necessarily reacting against stereotypes - one is reacting against expectations. We're dealing with the structures of institutions that for many years have had the upper hand in defining what African - or Latin American, and so on - means. We shouldn't forget either how artists themselves are implicated im·pli·cate
tr.v. im·pli·cat·ed, im·pli·cat·ing, im·pli·cates
1. To involve or connect intimately or incriminatingly: evidence that implicates others in the plot.
2. in producing these cliches of identity. They're very marketable.
CB: I've been reading the reviews of the Johannesburg Biennale The name Biennale is Italian and means "every other year", describing an event that happens every 2 years. One of the most important Biennales is an art exhibition that takes place for three months in Venice — the Venice Biennale — but there are numerous others:
OE: What became clear is that there is a very nationalistic sense of South Africa's place vis-avis Africa. I wanted to deal with issues of modernity as an exchange, as a system of values and ideas - different ways of being in the world. South Africa had been isolated for so long, it was much more difficult for them to accept the fact that the world had moved a bit farther than where they were at that particular time. At the same time, South Africa was paradoxically one of the best places to stage such an exhibition, because the country is in the midst Adv. 1. in the midst - the middle or central part or point; "in the midst of the forest"; "could he walk out in the midst of his piece?"
midmost of experimenting with building a multiracial mul·ti·ra·cial
1. Made up of, involving, or acting on behalf of various races: a multiracial society.
2. Having ancestors of several or various races. , multicultural society in every sense of the word.
CB: Do you think that the biennial made a difference In the sense of animating the discussion of these issues In South Africa?
OE: Well, it's too early to tell. It's easy to respond to the positive energy the biennial has gotten, but I'm very cautious about reading into the responses a confirmation of one's own sensibility.
CB: I know you're currently Involved In a project in Sweden, provisionally titled "Mirror's Edge." That seems to be a far more poetic meditation on artistic practice.
OE: I think it's possible, in the moment of globalization globalization
Process by which the experience of everyday life, marked by the diffusion of commodities and ideas, is becoming standardized around the world. Factors that have contributed to globalization include increasingly sophisticated communications and transportation , to be totally contradictory about one's own practice - to be able to say that one does not necessarily deny the idea of poetics as a condition for making an exhibition. I want to deal with the notion of doubt and fiction as part of contemporary artistic practice. If you look at the work of many artists today, you'll see that there are no longer any grand ideas about artistic projects. I'm particularly interested in how the image functions under these conditions of doubt and fiction. I think the prime influence for "Mirror's Edge," believe it or not, is Velazquez's Las Meninas.
CB: On the other hand, the exhibition you're doing in Munich touches on a very political subject, the history of liberation movements in Africa.
OE: Yes. The show should give us an opportunity to explore certain notions, like Pan-Africanism and Negritude Negritude
Literary movement of the 1930s, '40s, and '50s. It began among French-speaking African and Caribbean writers living in Paris as a protest against French colonial rule and the policy of assimilation. , that have been completely denied in some of the historical studies of modernity and, at the same time, open up a terrain to begin to deal with the image of contemporary Africa and the notion of memory. It's a historical show, but one in which art, philosophy, documentary photography, film, and other elements will interact. It's a very extensive exhibition.
CB: How do you see the role of a curator taking shape In these last, let's say, twenty years TWENTY YEARS. The lapse of twenty years raises a presumption of certain facts, and after such a time, the party against whom the presumption has been raised, will be required to prove a negative to establish his rights.
OE: The opportunity to go beyond the mere presentation of art objects in a relational context is exciting, and the possibility of involving one's own work along an interdisciplinary axis that allows you to engage with the production of meaning in so many realities is very liberating. I'm not curating exhibitions to be right or correct - I want to make exhibitions that contribute to ongoing discussions and perhaps pose new questions. And I think this is what interdisciplinary dimensions in curatorial practice could add.
CB: In your work, you emphasize the Issue of collaboration, which is very Important to our generation of curators. Why is it so important for you?
OE: For me, collaboration is a way to make one's ideas transparent and to have an opportunity to renegotiate one's position - not in terms of having one's position confirmed, but to work from a position where your ideas or positions could just as easily be complicated. It's also a way to produce a certain kind of density in an exhibition that otherwise might become overly simplified.
CB: Do you think collaboration will become the dominant mode of operating among curators of our generation?
OE: Well, I don't want to collaborate for the sake of collaborating. I think if it's a mode through which curators can see their line of thinking as a way of breaking down institutional structures, well, the more the better.
CB: After the generation of hero-curators - like Harald Szeemann or Pontus Hulten - we seem to be working today In a completely different mode. Collaboration Is only one example.
OE: Well, I think a lot has changed - the demographics of many cities; the notion of the metropolis; the production of new identities and histories; the role of popular culture. Our generation of curators, I'd like to believe, sees all these possibilities as ways of producing new definitions of culture, given these various transformations. But I think that when you go back to the work of the generation you're talking about, their exhibitions - as documents and references - continue to reverberate re·ver·ber·ate
v. re·ver·ber·at·ed, re·ver·ber·at·ing, re·ver·ber·ates
1. To resound in a succession of echoes; reecho.
2. in our thinking about exhibition-making. The kind of utopianism u·to·pi·an·ism also U·to·pi·an·ism
The ideals or principles of a utopian; idealistic and impractical social theory.
1. that existed in their day, the moment of the counterculture coun·ter·cul·ture
A culture, especially of young people, with values or lifestyles in opposition to those of the established culture.
coun movement, has passed by. Looking back, those days seem so energetic, so pure, so full of promise. However, I do not believe that curatorial and artistic projects from that period were politicized enough. The '90s are another matter entirely. Everyone seems so self-absorbed and satisfied. America is lazy and fat at this moment. The economy is going very well; people are comfortable and complacent. So it's largely up to us as curators to find ways of complicating our own practice of being in a position to confront the limits of our own practices; to open ourselves up to other processes of thinking, and making, and moving in the world.