Sunday, 10 June 2007

Venice Biennale Begins

Dominique and Emma at the entrance to international Exhibition at the Arsenale.

No major international art event is complete without the presence of these two interesting individuals.
Our first day we went straight to the Arsenale. Dominique, Emma and myself raced through the main exhibition Think with the Senses - Feel with the mind by Robert Storr on our way to the African pavillion. On the way we stopped to admire El Anatsui's amazing installation. It was truly momentus and awe inspiring and the location was absolutely perfect for the work. Sorry but my pics are so bad that i will have to go back and take them again.
El Anatsui's monumental work at the Artiglieri
At the African pavillion we also did a quick tour of Checklist, Luanda Pop curated by Simon Njami and Fernando Alvim from the Sindika Dokolo collection. We were rushing to a symposia that was entitled 'Curating Africa' in which Simon Njami would be in conversation with Robert Storr and would be followed by a panel discussion including Ekow Eshun, Thelma Golden. The exhibition consisted of over 30 artists mainly with older pieces of work and some newly bought or commissioned work. The fact that so many artists were put into only 80 sqm was very problematic and their were some uncomfortable juxtapositions.

Congratulating Fernando Alvim outside the African Pavillion
Billi Bidjocka
At the Curating Africa session organised by International Curator's Forum, I was curious about the panel discussion about Curating Africa which featured no African curator. Things got off to a rough start as Njami took a very confrontational line of questioning towards Robert Storr. It seems there were many issues that they felt needed to be resolved in public, such as why it took so long to make a decision on the African pavillion leaving them with only 2 months to raise over 800,000 euros and prepare an exhibition for Venice something that no European or American curator had to contend with. Also why the US$ 100,000 that was promised to the chosen proposal was withdrawn by MOMA.
Alot of frustation came out during this session and efforts to move the discussion on was resisted by Njami who insisted on public clarifications from Storr. Most of the audience were left perplexed about the political wrangling going on, one or two people left in disgust and others shouted that we should move on to more substantial discussion. At that point all hell broke loose and Fernando Alvim grabbed the microphone to put his point of view across. It seems he was very,very angry about the way in which the African team had been treated by the official organisers in Venice which almost amounted to sabotage and the Herculean efforts they had to make so that the exhibition was well installed and presented in less than 30 days little or no support from anybody or anyone. Anyone who has visited or organised anything in Venice will know that is no mean feat and once again African is invited at the last minute and expected to perform miracles. And that is what they managed to achieve.

At the Curating Africa session.
After a hectic day we unfortunately got to the official opening late but were told that it was quite short and consisted of a few speeches by Storr, Njami, Alvim and the young collector Dokolo. So headed straight the island Lido for the evening performance by the Angolan band.
Emma and Dominique and Emma and Olu Oguibe dancing to the salsa beat of the Angolan band.
On our way out of the concert I greeted Sindika Dokola and I was presently surprised by this very warm, very polite and very friendly young man. In spite of the shaky beginning the day ended very well for Africa at the Venice Biennale

4 Comments:

Blogger sannie prinkle said...

Thanks for all the info Bisi for us sad people who are not there. Drat!

15 June 2007 at 07:23  
Blogger kupeski said...

Hello Bisi,

I hope you are doing really fine...its been ages..although am conversant of your involvements in this our crazy art domain.thanks for your info on the venice thing. I just stumbled on it while i was sniffing through. It will help me a lot for my interview with Simon njami tomorrow here in paris.

Emeka Okereke

26 October 2007 at 21:17  
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