Saturday, 1 September 2007

Which way is East?

The International Curators Forum (ICF), the radical new tactical intervention that has been casting a new critical light on the major art events of summer 2007’s Grand Tour, is now set to complete its 2007 itinerary at the Istanbul Biennale.

The ICF is both a professional development programme for emerging curatorial talent from the UK of Black or Asian origin, and an arena for exploring and contesting the roles that race and cultural heritage play within contemporary visual culture and the international arts scene. Earlier this summer, it successfully mentored and guided the experience of over 30 young, culturally diverse curators through the Venice Biennale, Documenta 12, and the Munster Sculpture Project, as well as programming the acclaimed and explosive symposium Pan-European Encounters at the Venice Biennale. Now, the ICF will engage with a more distinctive and significantly younger event in the art calendar, one which sits, both geographically and culturally, on the borderlands between East and West – the Tenth International Istanbul Biennial.

Under the directorship of Hou Hanru, this year’s Biennial will explore some of the most progressive and provocative ideas about the role of the Biennials in pushing the frontiers of curatorial practice in the twenty-first century. The principal thematic concern of the Istanbul Biennial is space – how artists and curators connect with the situation and location of a work of art. The ICF is concerned with how space can be charged politically, as well as creatively. Its contribution in Istanbul will consequently be a forum in which leading curators and artists will engage with the main themes of the Biennial, in the context of the ICF’s own focus on the relationships between global and racial politics, and art.

Which Way is East? is an open dialogue, organised in collaboration with the Istanbul Modern, which will led by the Turkish curator and artist Esra Sarigedik (who was Assistant Curator of the Ninth International Istanbul Biennale). The discussion will feature a diverse range of important practitioners and theorists, who will be discussing the politics and practice of curatorship in the twenty-first century art world, and how the relationships between global and local spaces, and art, can be mediated by the figure of the curator.

Esra Sarigedik Öktem is a curator and writer based in Istanbul and Eindhoven. She is currently working as curator at Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven where she recently organised solo exhibitions by Avi Mograbi, Pavel Buchler and Erinc Seymen. From 2004-5 she worked as assistant curator for 9th International Istanbul Biennial curated by Charles Esche and Vasif Kortun and organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts. In 2003 Esra was assistant curator at the Rooseum Center for Contemporary Art in Malmö, Sweden and assistant curator for the 3rd Berlin Biennial curated by Ute Meta Bauer.

David A Bailey is the founder of the International Curators Forum and is currently Senior Curator at Autograph APB and is curator of the Black Moving Image Cube season; Remember Saro-Wiwa the Living Memorial and the London segment of Channel 4’s Big Art Project. He was actively involved in setting up autograph: the Association of Black Photographers in 1986 and the International Institute of Visual Arts (inIVA) in 1994.

Vasif Kortun is the director of Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center in Istanbul. He was the founding director of Proje4L Istanbul Museum of Contemporary Art (2000-2003). He was co-curator with Charles Esche of the 3rd Istanbul Biennial in 1993. Between 1994 and 1997 he was director of the Museum Center for Cultural Studies, Bard College. His writing and interviews have appeared in many books, magazines and exhibition catalogues.

Hamra Abbas is an artist practice Hamra Abbas takes a satirical and playful approach toward widely accepted traditions. By appropriating significant imagery and iconography, she transforms them into new works that may be experienced spatially and temporally. Hamra was invited to participate in the Istanbul Biennial (2007), participated in the Sydney Biennale (2006) and was awarded a collaborative residency by the V&A London, Gasworks and Green Cardamom (2006).

Sherman Mern Tat Sam is an artist, writer and curator. His paintings have recently been exhibited at The Suburban in Chicago; in addition he has shown internationally, particularly in Porto and Dublin. He has written for various art magazines and catalogues, and regularly contributes to The Brooklyn Rail and Born in Singapore, he studied fine art at Otis-Parsons in Los Angeles and read for a Master of Letters in the History of Art at the University of Oxford. He currently holds the Inspire Fellowship at the Hayward, London, where Ralph Rugoff is the new director, and is at present touring A Secret Service: Art, Compulsion and Concealment (contemporary group show), Mind Forg'd Manacles: William Blake and Slavery and Rembrandt as Printmaker.

Which Way is East is set to build on the success of the ICF’s intervention in Venice, where the symposium Pan-European Encounters offered a critical and discursive counterpoint to one of the outstanding elements of the exhibition – the African Pavilion, Check List Luanda Pop. The debate between Robert Storr, curator of 52nd Venice Biennale, and the co-curator of the African Pavilion Simon Njami, in particular laid bare the sensitivities, politics and passions that surrounded this controversial gesture in art history. By providing the space for open debate and discussion, the ICF made a historic contribution to this year’s Venice Biennale, and will continue to make vital and valuable interventions in the international art scene, from the Istanbul Biennial through to next year’s Liverpool Biennial and beyond.

ICF Director David. A. Bailey commented, “The International Curators Forum is both about developing the professional practice of young, culturally diverse British curators, and staging tactical interventions and platforms for discussion in this summer’s international arts events. However, these two processes are really intertwined and cannot be readily disentangled.”

He went on, “The curators who have been guided on the Grand Tour this summer have offered a walking, breathing collective critique of so many of the assumptions and practices of the international arts scene, a critique which has fed into, and fed on, the series of incredible talks that the ICF has programmed. We hope that we have started a journey which still has many miles to go, and that we have made an important contribution towards putting cultural diversity back into the thinking and working of the international visual arts world.”

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Skulptur Projekte Munster - Documenta 12 Kassel - The Gift


Is its reception also a burden of care and responsibility.

This is the burden of the gift received in the recordings of the ICF. All names have been erased and meanings confused and scrambled. This is the the whispering game of meaning and its distribution. Do not be alarmed if you have been reframed that is the obligation of the curator.

“The colour scheme is in itself a subtle history of previous Documenta exhibitions. mauves, greens and other delicate hues of beige all tell a story. In the era of post wallpaper culture there is both genius and lunacy in this degree of narcissism. The grammar and architecture of the space of exhibition speaks for itself.”

The impossibility of the return, of performing history, to a moment like
Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y in which the world of art is changed forever.., that is where we are coming from when we say, “Reality talks to the present but somewhere there is crisis of translation.”

Is there any underground left in art, an avant garde in the emerging markets of the East?

Hyper commodification of the markets. Everything becomes a subsidiary of the entertainment industry and should be measured by its standards. Harvey Kietel is better in Bad Lieutenant than forty feet tall in pastel blue reciting Shakespearesque soliloquies. How relevant or needed are the questions of these revenants that traipse through these exhibitions? It feels very sunday afternoon. There was a sense of fabulous vacuity. All works pulled out of any traction with the world and pushed into vague universalisms. The works are not given the opportunity to claim the space around them.

Neither pop nor hermetic but oblique. But any complex architectonic is collapsed by the poor choices of works.
The real difficulty is to shut down the mind from the industry necessity to see something in the work. And accept it might be rubbish.

The themes receding.
“We search for the essential but all we find is things.”
Leitmotiv: A theme that transforms itself as it repents.

Is it the gallery walls that make the difference?

What is the communist party going to do with the revolution "What is to be done"

If we must have nostalgic pseudo Marxism then at least let it be positive!

"People who destroy commodities show their human superiority over commodities. They stop submitting to the arbitrary forms that distortedly reflect their real needs. The flames of Watts consummated the system of consumption. The theft of large refrigerators by people with no electricity, or with their electricity cut off, is the best image of the lie of affluence transformed into a truth in play. "

1965 Situations International, "The Decline and Fall of the Spectacle-Commodity Economy,"

Hearing the conversations of twenty curators moving through the exhibitions of Venice, Documenta and Muenster we feel the tension between the hype and delivery of exhibitions that are self consciously staged on the world stage. One conclusion that can be drawn is that although philosophy and political theory have moved from the universal to the particular and the intimate there is a confusion about how these shifts in perspective are positioned in terms of curatorial practice.

On a global scale economics, militarism and ecological catastrophe are poorly articulated within the world media. Should we expect more from art?

The geography of art : Does the art world need lessons in geography. The local and the specific experiences of people become the universal content of artworks, the meaning of the real transformed by the logic of translation and distribution. Into the narrative of experience for the globalized viewer. How can we reflect on Africa in the Arsenale of Venice?
How do economics and politics always exceed the the frame or illusion of art and intervene in the world and make its structures of power ever more legible and brutal?

To answer this we must perhaps abandon Venice for Documenta letting the conversations recorded reply through the replayed amnesia of that City and its mesmeric currents. Our conversations were again brought back to the finite geography of a City. The finite geography of an Exhibition within a City and the properties of specific works in relationship not only to each other but also to what was not there, the ghosts of works that usually inhabit the Museum spaces, and the texts to contextualise the grand theoretical trilogy that we were asked to consider as a post to each location.

We were like the 1001 chinese visitors whom I took to be chairs spread about the colour sequenced interiors of the exhibition spaces. We were waiting to be used as support for an exhausted body.

In the conversations there was a tendency to drift back to Venice and power of seduction of specific works and Pavilions, The Russian, the French and The Canadian. To question again the thematic of Robert Storr and logic of the Africa Pavilion. Was it by chance that Storr had hung Sophie Calle in the Italian Pavilion as if to alert us to the banal strategy that was to be deployed in Kassel?

The Documenta exhibition was so slow that we drift back across the lagoon in search of random thoughts. The layering of curatorial decisions across the venues was intensely problematic. Although the supplied i-Pods gave some access to the approaches they were also deliberately obtuse. Our conversations accrue our likes and dislikes in small piles. The lattice of meaning spelt out; dull and anti sensational, artificial and polite. A profound distribution of ideas was not created by the distribution of key artists such as Kerry James Marshall, Hito Steverl and Charlotte Posenenske across each of the venues, merely a rather prosaic and iconoclastic modernist poetic discourse. This some felt was an ambitious and non hermetic game with the audience. Some thought it was fun that some of the artists popped up across different venues, we saw Kerry James Marshall misplaced once too often.

The history of performance documented and then forgotten was perhaps the most articulate themed show. The reanimation of the Trisha Brown work, the intervention of a contextual work by Tino Seghal. Lin Yilin work casually installed in a corner portraying the building of a temporary of a wall across a road. Jiri Koranda Actions 1976-77. But elsewhere we struggled.
What stops us in our tracks and remixes the expectation of the work of art.

“Come to the heart of Germany only to read the word, "Art "in your own shadow.”

The weight of expectation disputes both art or entertainment. What is the function of these liberal aesthetics, To be merely thought provoking would be enough!

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Pan European Encounters - The Venice Biennale 2007

The ICF is both a professional development programme for emerging curatorial talent from the UK of and an organisational platform for exploring and contesting the roles that race and cultural heritage play within contemporary visual culture and the international art scene. . An inaugural symposium ‘Pan-European Encounters’ was also organised during the Venice Biennale to discuss and explore the changing idea of identity and the diaspora in the 21st century. Twenty-three curators from the UK were selected to participate in the visits and 10 group leaders were recruited to accompany them. More than 20 speakers were also engaged for related symposia, seminars and debates.

Participants also included: Nike Jonah, Terry Adams, Tanya Wilmer, Ellie Stout, Mark Waugh, David A Bailey, Axel Lapp, Philip Abraham, Julia Waugh, Huttson Lo, Tim Eastop, Adelaide Bannerman, Melanie Keen, Yvette Mutumba, Yasmin Canvin, Sally Lai, Sook-Kyung Lee, Sarah Raza, Atsuko Ramirez, Sutapa Biswas, Cheryl Gallagher, Juan Sebastian Ramirez, Michael Forbes, Sherman Sam, Emma Boyd, Catherine Lucktaylor, Qian Jing, Alicia Campbell, Cedar Leishon and Esen Kaya.

Pan European Encounters
Sala corte Room
Hotel Monaco & Grand Canal
San Marco 1332

7th June - 8th June 2007

DAY ONE: Thursday 7th June
Welcome: Samenua Sesher, Robert D’Agostino (President of the Arsenale) and Robert Storr (Curator of 52 Venice Biennale)
Prologue: Mario De Michelis (Dean of the University of Venice for Arts)

Keynote: David A Bailey (Curator) - A Black Aesthetic

Panel discussion: A Black Aesthetic. Chair: Mike Philips (Independent curator and Cross-cultural Consultant to Tate Britain), Deborah Smith (Curator), Yu Yeon Kim (Curator), and David Adjaye (Architect).

Questions from the audience.


Keynote: Simon Njami (Curator) - A South African Pavilion

Panel discussion: Chair: Mariam Sharp (Arts Council England), Ekow Eshun (Director, Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) London), Courtney J Martin (Curator), Thelma Golden (Director, Studio Museum Harlem).

Questions from the audience.


DAY TWO: Friday 8th June
The Black Moving Cube
Introduction: The Black Moving Cube by David A Bailey

Panel Discussion: Chair: Gilane Tawadros (Curator), Jacques Ranciere (Theorist/Critic), Otolith Group: Anjalika Saga and Kodwo Eshun (Artists), John Akomfrah (Artist), Zineb Sidera (Artist).

Questions from the audience.

In Conversation: David Lammy (Minister for Culture UK) and Dr Augustus Caseley-Hayford (Executive Director Arts: Arts Council England) Close

The Symposium is delivered with support from the University of Venice and Decibel

The aim of the ICF was to present, a textured geometry - memory and representations; two days of symposia exploring the present tense of aesthetics, politics and the diasporic cultures in the global landscapes of the 'Art World'.

Against the push and pull of a mechanic reproduction of simple stereotypes the ICF has been at the margins of the sometimes disturbing terrain - the space of production and distribution of artworks. We have created a fragile but autonomous borderless state in which as Gillian Tawadros might say the 'Fault Lines' of history shift before us.

This gentle tremor is not merely the rupturing of grand narratives but also a moving through the various 'posts' and missives of a historic discourse into a micro cartography of bodies metabolised, passionate and articulate - urgently exploring the limits of specific locutions; particularly in the context of the Africa Pavilion and the exhibition Check List - Luanda Pop curated by Fernando Alvim and Simon Njami. There is no exit from this space instead we are now always Exiles, displaced signs pointing to histories that have been erased only to be reanimated as artworks.

My moment of elucidation within the symposia was the dialogue between Robert Storr and Simon Njami which exposed the frayed edges of a collaboration and the limits and ethics of curatorial responsibility.

It revealed not only the philosophy of the neighbourhood as Deleuze might say but the symptoms of the sickness Neitzsche would have diagnosed as endemic within power structures such as the Venice Biennale and organisations that are global in their profile and their political power. Their conversation by default located the fissures and economies of determination which are the 'worldliness' of the 'art world'. Could it it be anything but without resorting to bad faith?

Beyond the symposia dialogues we were delighted that our curatorial groups talked around themes raised in the symposia, and by our group leaders but also the intimate resonances each of them had with particular works in the pavilions.

The ambition of the ICF was to develop a professional network within the paradigms of hospitality and friendship. We hope we have facilitated an important set of dialogues and raised questions which can be expanded as we travel through Documenta and Munster. We are keen to stay connected and want to hear what moved, frustrated, excited, shocked and inspired your journey through the labyrinth of the 52 Venice Biennale...

- © Mark Waugh.


Venice Biennale 2007 - Notes from the panel.

1. The Symposium Moment between Robert Storr, Simon Njami and Fernando Alvim
. A dialogue at the limits of responsibility.

2. David Altmejd - The Canadian Pavilion. The exquisite bricolage of the Flaneur

3. Chairing a Panel with Gillian Tawadros, Otolith Group, John Akomfrah, Zineb Sedira and Jacques Ranciere... wow more time please.

4. The security guards in the Africa Pavilion behind the work of Yinka Shonibare, ironic displacement?

5. Crashing out in the Jason Rhodes and feeling my body say, enough is enough!


Monday, 14 May 2007
Letter to The International Curators Forum :

"I have just read the text on the Documenta website titled Migration of Form. It is a clear articulation of where Documenta 12 is heading and I thought made some interesting points regarding the aesthetic moment as liminal space into which we move or depart according to our our volition. You cannot force people to experience art. That is the beauty and sublime nature of art. It calls you into its abyss and broken surfaces to challenge your stable reflection of yourself. In this journey we all become others, multiplicities of territories, routed without clear origin and destined to a future we cannot present.

Has anyone else read it?"

Labels: Documenta, ICF, International Curators Forum, Migration of Form.

photos © Julia Waugh.