The Curator as Culture Broker: A Critique of the Curatorial Regime of Okwui Enwezor in the Discourse of Contemporary African Art

Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie, 23 June 2010

Prologue

I presented this essay recently at the University of California Santa Cruz, at a conference titled The Task of the Curator. The general audience reception to my presentation showed me that the issue discussed here is being very much debated in the field of African art history. However, few people have written about it. I think formal critical analysis of our work and positions are very important for a field to grow. I am posting it here in the hope that it allows us to start discussing the important issues it touches on.

Read More

“Made in Africa” Biennale: Afrika Heritage and the Politics of Representation

Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi, 13 June 2007

The baggage of post-coloniality continues to weigh-in strongly in the discourse of contemporary African art, moreso when this discourse is coloured by the politics and economics of representation. In the 1990s, the contest that ensued in the global art space with regards to African art was one of representation and authorial spokesmanship that was engendered as a result of the seminal but hugely controversial Les Magiciens de la Terre exhibition of 1989 curated by Frenchman Jean-Hubert Martin. The blockbuster show undoubtedly reconfigured the reception of modern African art in the West. But beyond that, it helped to facilitate the emergence and acceptance of contemporary African art on a large scale in major cultural institutions of the West. This to borrow from Olu Oguibe, set the tone for reclamation of author-ity and reversal of imposed anonymity on the native, perpetrated by ethnography that effectively bars claims to subjectivity and normativity.

Read More

Dirty Laundry: Can we think beyond Venice?

Mario Pissarra, 7 June 2007

I have previously argued that Africa’s representation in Venice is irrelevant when compared to the need to develop alternatives at ‘home’. In essence my argument is that we should not judge the success of South African art (or African or ‘non-western’ art for that matter) by its presence or absence in the prime venues of the ‘international’ arena, of which the Venice Biennale is both a leading example and symbol. The health of a country’s art should not be judged by the number of international ‘stars’ it generates, since this may provide a false picture of the state of art in that country or region. Rather it should be evaluated on the quality and extent of its art practice, galleries and museums, art education, publishing, patronage, and all the critical components of art infrastructure that are essential for the development of art.

Read More

Open the Gate

Olu Oguibe, 9 October 2006

[This letter was initially written in response to a letter from Salah Hassan and Okwui Enwezor to Robert Storr, Artistic Director of the Venice Biennale. It was copied by the writer to interested parties and is reproduced here with his permission.]

To Dr. Salah Hassan
Forum for African Arts

September 19, 2006

Read More

Veneziano: Ventriloquizing Venice- a response to Malcolm Payne

Gavin Anderson, 04 July 2006

[Written in response to  “Viva Venice… Viva… Long live!” where “Malcolm Payne takes issue with Mario Pissarra’s objections to an emphasis on the importance of the Venice Biennale”, ArtThrob June 2006]
‘Veneziano’ is the local Venetian dialect, which ‘does not descend from the Italian language but has its own morphology, syntax and lexicon.’ (Wikipedia)
Malcolm Payne’s recent extraordinary and irascible contribution to ArtThrob regarding Mario Pissarra’s view of biennales deserves a brief informal response.

Read More

Venetian Blind: A response to Malcolm Payne

Mario Pissarra, 18 June 2006

[This is a response to Malcolm Payne’s “Viva Venice… Viva… Long live!” (ArtThrob, June 2006). Payne’s piece was a response to my “Death to Venice” (ASAI, May 2006), which was a response to Marilyn Martin’s companion pieces “Death in Venice” and “Faultlines and Fumblings” (ArtThrob, September 2003), as well as to Sue Williamsons remarks on the Venice Biennale (ArtThrob, July, 2003).] [i]

Read More

Death to Venice! A South African perspective on the irrelevance of representation at the Venice Biennale

Mario Pissarra, 07 May 2006

[This previously unpublished piece was originally submitted to the arts editors of leading South African newspapers in October 2003]

In a recent paper (soon to be published in art journals here and in the UK) I raised the questions as to whether South Africans are capable of making a paradigm shift away from a world view centred on the West, and whether we are able to develop an inclusive vision of Africa.[1] Reviews by Marilyn Martin and Sue Williamson on the Venice Biennale amplify the need for these issues to be debated.[2]

Read More

“Not Just Another Biennale”?

Susan Glanville-Zini (CEO of Cape Africa Platform) and Julian Jonker (Coordinator of Sessions Ekapa) in conversation with Mario Pissarra, 28 November 2005, Cape Town

The Cape Africa Platform promises to deliver a mega-event that will be “not just another biennale”. The first major element in their plan is a conference, Sessions Ekapa, which takes place in Cape Town from 6-8 December 2005. The conference theme is “(re)locating contemporary African art” and will be followed with a multi-disciplinary “Manifestation” in 2006.

Read More