Artist and writer Rikki Wemega-Kwawu wrote the sixth Project ‘1975’ ‘The Politics of Exclusion’. In this essay Wemega-Kwawu criticizes the fixation on Contemporary African Diaspora artists and the powerful position of curator Okwui Enwezor.
The Nigeria-born American curator Okwui Enwezor is often acknowledged as the representative of African art and artists. The first Johannesburg Biennale in 1997 and the Documenta XI in Kassel in 2002, are just two examples of the many exhibitions he organized. With these presentations and publications on the topic of African art, Enwezor played a crucial role in the production of a definition of contemporary African art. Wemega-Kwawu criticizes this definition in his Project ‘1975’ essay, as he signalizes an ‘Enwezor School’: a group of African artists, now living in the West, that are preferred and circulated well above their counterparts living in Africa. Wemega-Kwawu argues that Enwezor hereby defines contemporary African art by the artists’ experience of Diaspora: “as if nothing worthwhile is happening on the continent”. By the maintenance of this definition African artists living on the continent, are hindered to enter the international art scene. Click here to download Newsletter 125 ‘Tala Madani – The Jinn’ and to read Rikki Wemega-Kwawu’s essay ‘The Politics of Exclusion’.
Rikki Wemega-Kwawu (Ghana, 1959) lives and works as an artist and writer in Takordi, Ghana. He is alumnus of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine, U.S.A. In 2008, he was an Adjunct Professor in Art at the New York University – Accra, Ghana Campus, where he taught ‘postcolonial studio practices’.
Clémentine Deliss is the author of the fifth Project 1975 essay ‘Stored Code. Remediating Collections in a Post-ethnographic Museum.’ In this essay Deliss investigates what kind of framework might be best suited to present a world-cultures museum’s collection in the twenty-first century.
How can we translate the ‘ethnographic’ collections of world-cultures museums into the Post-ethnographic discourse? Deliss argues for a remediation of the world-cultures collections. To remediate means to bring about a change of medium, to experiment with alternative ways of describing, interpreting and displaying the objects in the collection. While analysing the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt, Deliss states that to re-think the ethnographic collection means to engage with that necessary mix of discomfort, doubt, and melancholia in order to translate these objects to a contemporary context and gently build additional interpretations onto their existing set of references. For this process to work, fieldwork has to take place within the museum itself and no longer on journeys to distant lands. Hereby the museum becomes a space of visual inquiry and production. Download Newsletter 124 here to read Clémentine Deliss’ essay.
Clémentine Deliss is curator and director of the Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt. She studied contemporary art and social anthropology in Vienna, London and Paris and holds a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London on 1920s French anthropology and dissident surrealism. Between 1992 and 1995 she functioned as artistic director of Africa95, a contemporary arts festival coordinated with the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and 60 UK institutions. From 1999 until 2000, Deliss was guest Professor at the Stadelschule, Frankfurt. She is producer and publisher of Metronome and worked as director of the research institute “Future Academy” at the Edinburgh College of Art.
Art critic and curator T.J. Demos wrote the third Project ’1975′ essay ‘Poverty Pornography, Humanitarianism, and Neo-liberal Globalization: Notes on Some Paradoxes in Contemporary Art’. In reaction to Gerardo Mosquera’s former essay T.J. Demos demonstrates a less optimistic vision on globalization. He criticizes humanitarian aid that only seems to reaffirm unacceptable power structures. He starts by referring to back to Renzo Martens’ Episode III: Enjoy Poverty, a film that generated much critique and initiated SMBA’s current programming.
T.J. Demos states: “…Renzo Martens’ film, Episode III: Enjoy Poverty, set in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), provides a devastating alternative optic on the brutal nature of North-South relations of inequality and the exploitative image economy that stubbornly mediates it. Despite all its risks – perpetuating stereotypes of Africans as helpless victims, reducing Congolese people to neo-colonized servants and neophytes, reproducing a pornography of poverty – Episode III bears important lessons. Among them, a reality check for optimistic globalists and a lethal blow to the ambitions of concerned documentarians, especially those that seek to ameliorate suffering by representing abjection in developing countries.”
The author furthermore rejects contemporary art practices that focus on political malaise elsewhere and do not consider their own space as a political one, not acknowledging subsequently to be actively participating in a problematic system. Alfredo Jaar’s The Sound of Silence, 2006, is also analyzed by Demos as a critical investigation of the relation between globalization’s image economy and humanitarian photojournalism. In the end Demos explains how Abderrahmane Sissako’s film Bamako (2006) “goes beyond the negative fatalism of media and artistic stereotypes that Okwui Enwezor condemns as ‘Afropessimism’.” Thus the critic sheds light on the many political implications that determine Project 1975. Download SMBA newsletter 121 to read ‘Poverty Pornography, Humanitarianism, and Neo-liberal Globalization: Notes on Some Paradoxes in Contemporary Art’.
T.J Demos is a critic and a Reader in the Department of Art History, University College London, and the co-curator of ‘Uneven Geographies: Art and Globalization’ (Nottingham Contemporary, 2010). Writing widely on modern and contemporary art, he is the author of Migrations: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Globalization (forthcoming, Duke University Press), The Exiles of Marcel Duchamp (MIT Press, 2007), and Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman (Afterall/MIT Press, 2010).
In every newsletter of the exhibitions of Project ’1975′ a guest curator or art critic writes an essay on the topic of post-colonialism in contemporary art. The second one is by Gerardo Mosquera: curator, critic and art historian based in Havana. He is Adjunct Curator at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, and advisor at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam. He is also a member of the advisory board of several art journals. Mosquera co-founded the Havana Biennial in 1984, and has curated many international exhibitions.
Art and Cultural Interactions in a Globalised World
The relationships between contemporary art, culture and internationalisation have been silently yet dramatically transformed in the last fifteen years. We have left behind the times of art trends and manifestos. The key issue for contemporary art today is the tremendous expansion of its international circulation. There are approximately 200 biennials and other periodic artistic events in the world, only to mention one aspect in the growth of art circuits. This explosion involves a vast multiplicity of new cultural and artistic actors circulating internationally and whoe ither did not exist before or were confined to local environments. See Universes-in-Universe just to have an idea of how diverse the international art circuits are today.
In every newsletter of the exhibitions of Project ’1975′ a guest curator or art critic will write an essay on the topic of post-colonialism in contemporary art. The first one to write is Lucrezia Cippitelli, professor of Aesthetics at the Art Academy of L’Aquila, a visiting scholar at Cornell University.
Eurocentrism and its Critique: from Third World Perspectives to Global Internationalism
“Eurocentrism is anti-universalist, since it is not interested in seeking possible general laws of human evolution. But it does present itself as universalist, for it claims that imitation of the Western model by all peoples is the only solution to the challenges of our time.”1 Samir Amin’s incisive analysis of the concept of Eurocentrism traces its origins back to the end of the 1970s. Even if it seems to perfectly depict the world of the early 21st century, this notion first circulated at a time when the global process of decolonization was nearing its conclusion and the postcolonial critique was finding a place in the Anglo-Saxon academic world.2 In his seminal essay published in 1978, the Egyptian Marxist economist uncovers the roots of a phenomenon which he describes as specifically Modern – strongly rooted in the European Renaissance – and built up in only five centuries, in order to justify the powerful and impregnable one-dimensional cultural system of the modern world. The product of this ideological process is, according to Amin, a Western history that shows a progression form ancient Greece to Rome, to feudal Christian Europe, to capitalist Europe.3 It is a cultural construction of a one-dimensional continent (white, Christian, scientifically progressive, in constant philosophical development, enlightened, capitalist, free, democratic), which furthermore over the centuries invented and defended the abstract idea of a dominant West and its counterpart, the Other, the Rest, the Different, and often the Enemy.4