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Documenta11 – Platform 5
Saturday, June 8 – Sunday, September15, 2002

Yinka Shonibare, Diary of a Victorian Dandy, 1998, Stephen Friedman Gallery

This year, the 11th Documenta will once again come to life in Kassel, Germany. Documenta occurs only once every 5 years and many find it to be shoulder to shoulder with the Venice Biennale as the event in European contemporary art. The last Documenta in 1997 counted 631,000 visitors.

For each Documenta, a jury selects a new curator. Okwui Enwezor from New York responded to his appointment by first organizing a series of 4 symposia on contemporary society in various locations throughout the world. The 5th platform is the actual exhibition coming up this summer.

The confrontation of art and symposia on pressing contemporary social issues forming the structural core of Documenta is a concept also realized in 1997 by Documenta 10 (dX): "100 Days – 100 Guests” curator Catherine David.

dX was concerned with reflection on a century coming to a close, as was the first Documenta, founded by Arnold Bode, with regards to the art of the previous 50 years. Okwui Enwezor tackles social issues which mark our contemporary society, and will form our future, all from a pronounced non-western viewpoint. Themes such as democracy and citizenship, establishment and violence, identity and migration, urbanism and poverty were debated in Vienna, Berlin, New Delhi, Lagos and St. Lucia.

His approach, as well as Okwui Enwezor himself have been discussed at length and have stirred up some controversy. Enwezor was born in 1963, grew up in Nigeria and moved to the USA at the age of 19. After studying political science, he co-founded Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, published by Cornell University in New York state. In 1997/1998, he art-directed the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale in South Africa and now holds the position of co-curator of contemporary art at the Art Institute of Chicago. While being of Nigerian birth and upbringing, Enwezor studied at a British boarding school and has spent half of his life in the USA. In fact, his African heritage, statements on postcolonial issues, only seem to portray an ambassador for the underpriviliged and for African art. This misinterpretation, based on too much attention paid to race and origin, eventually reveals his curatorial approach as a thinly veiled implement of the anglo-american cultural establishment.

Lastly, Okwui Enwezor´s announcement that there will be fewer artists shown than in the past and his nondisclosure of their names further elevates this year´s Documenta to a first rate speculative occasion.

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