ARTNOTES: Interview with Okwui Enwezor, curator of BIACS2
The II Bienal Internacional de Arte Contemporáneo de Sevilla (BIACS2) has been formally opened under the title Lo Desacogedor. Escenas fantasmas en la sociedad global. The locations selected for the biennial are two of the most emblematic architectural composition in the city, some artists exhibit their pieces in the Reales Atarazanas, an old 13th century shipyard in which the brick walls and the dirt roadway provide an optimistic context for the works of art as if it was an ad hoc scenography. In the Cartuja island where the old convent used to be located, you can only see the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, a very beautiful composition of spectral white rooms where the artists show their pieces.
The biennial’s curator, Okwui Enwezor, enjoys a great prestige within the international art field and he has directed, among other important events, the Documenta 11 (2002), and for that reason his presence in Spain generates great excitement. The point of view Okwui Enwezor suggests both in his texts and in his curatorships is characterized by the formal sobriety and rigorous precision, some aspects which he does not overlook in this event in Seville. His reflection around the conflicts in the globalized world which swing between the pluralities and the fundamentalisms, resulted in an analysis of the current problems by means of the works by these 91 artists who find inspiration in the concepts of intimacy (the maternal house), proximity (the Euro American or the Hindu Moslem relation with Africa) and neighbourhood (the urban relation or the Israelites and Palestinians relation).
I just wanted to know your general opinion on how everything has turned out as you had expected after the opening?
Indeed, the project turned out quite well, despite a few anomalies that need to be worked out. But this is to be expected since, as you know it is a very big project, and a huge challenge which I have developed with a very small and young organization. The organization has done an amazing work, not only to bring the exhibition about, but also in the support it has given the artists. Few people can imagine and appreciate what it takes to put together this huge complexity of people, with works coming from all different parts of the world and making the exhibition function as a coherent statement of the disparate intentions of the artists. It has been an incredible experience and a great opportunity to work in Spain. And to accomplish this in a context with limited spaces and resources for contemporary art is great credit to what BIACS represents for both Seville and Spain. So to do this job here with the immensely commitment to the artists and with the result we have is simply tremendous.
What elements from previous exhibits did you bring with you to Seville and what new things did come to your mind when seeing of the locations and the city?
Well, number one is that you always carry your intellectual world along with you. I am never a curator who works with the presumption that I´m going to bring anything new always. I am interested in making exhibitions that sit within a particular context. As you know there are many, many serious questions – political, cultural, social, economic: one issue being the difficult problem of immigration and the rights of immigrants - going on in Spain today, as well as all over the rest of the world, these questions should make one circumspect about the prospect of continuously generating new artistic models in response to these varied disturbances and the various teleologies that drive them. So this is not the time to make exhibitions that is entertaining, that is easy to understand and consume through the irritating fixation on newness. I have therefore chosen to focus on things that I know and to invite those artists whose work I have only recently become aware of, but whose works respond in imaginative and challenging ways to the questions the exhibition wanted to address. So the challenge we have is always to push forward in the work we do with a certain degree of clarity and an amount of real critical interrogation of both the limits of art and the limits of the audiences that come to view art, and the prejudices people bring with them and at the same time the preconceptions that they bring with them, so these are all the things that people might want a response to. So in my view I think I´ve made an exhibition that is really about a response to today but not from a dogmatic approach but from a way of reconsidering the itinerary of what contemporary art can be in the matter of the world.
Which are the main criteria you have followed for the selection of these artists present in the Biennial?
This is always the most difficult question. There is not only a criterion but several factors. I tend to work in advance of any exhibition through active collaboration with artists.
|Okwui Enwezor, photo by Jeff Weiner|
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