Sunday, August 31, 2008

On the Ben Enwonwu Foundation magazine

A couple of days ago, I received an e-copy of the maiden edition of The Awakening, a cultural and lifestyle magazine published by The Enwonwu Foundation and edited by Oliver Enwonwu the founder and Board Member of the Foundation.

Without doubt, Mr. Enwonwu has done a tremendous amount of work in consolidating, through the Foundation, the legacy of Ben Enwonwu--a foremost modern Nigerian artist whose work as Federal Art Adviser and flamboyant spokesman of modern Nigerian and African art during the colonial period is legendary (one cannot forget his essay, "Problems of the African Artist" from the 1950s and "Into the Abstract Jungle" from the early 60s). Unlike any other foundation in Nigeria named for or established by our important artists, the BEF seems properly constituted and, yes, active in the pursuit of its mandate. I understand that the Foundation was at the Johannesburg Art Fair this past February and bought all available Enwonwu works. Now this might seem normal, which it is, but it is unprecedented in the annals of Nigerian art, and I wish the Foundation the very best of luck in its programs, which includes a high profile annual lecture series. My hope is that with time, it would embark on a proper cataloging of Enwonwu’s oeuvre scattered on the face of the planet. Although the artist’s work was often unremarkable, he did produce several ambitious, really inspired paintings in the later part of his career, and some occasional powerful sculptures earlier. But in combination with the significant place he occupies in the history of Nigerian art, a well curated retrospective with a matching respectable catalogue remains elusive and terribly overdue, as is a scholarly monograph. This must be the BEF's biggest challenge.

Back to the maiden edition of The Awakening. I wished it had a bit more meat in it. Apart from the biography of Enwonwu, which goes through already covered terrain, the magazine is short on substance. You expect the inaugural edition of a magazine to come with a punch, to make you want to cc the edition to everyone you know, everyone yearning for new material on the artist or on contemporary art and culture. But I am willing to give the editor and the Foundation the benefit of doubt. I await subsequent editions, with qualitative writing and images. These are hard to come by in publications from the homeland.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Announcement: Enwezor's 7th Gwangju Biennale


Abdoulaye Konate / Fotou Kande Senghor

The 7th Gwangju Biennale takes place from September 5 to November 9 in the city of Gwangju, South Korea. It is curated by the artistic director Okwui Enwezor and the co-curators Hyunjin Kim and Ranjit Hoskote.

Under the title Annual Report: A Year in Exhibitions, the 7th Gwangju Biennale is a report on the distribution system of artistic and cultural forms and a reflection on the intermediary gap between artists, producers, practitioners, and audiences. Consisting of 127 artists from 36 countries, Annual Report is developed around three principal components: first, On the Road is a report on 36 recent exhibitions that have occurred or have been exhibited elsewhere between 2007 and 2008; Position Papers is a platform dedicated to curatorial proposals and experiments in exhibition practices by curators working in Southeast Asia, North Africa, South Korea, and the United States (Patrick D. Flores, Jang Un Kim, Abdellah Karroum, Sung-Hyen Park, and Claire Tancons); finally, Insertions presents a series of new and independent projects, either commissioned specifically for the biennale or invited as proposals into the exhibition framework.

All three elements of the Biennale bring together a range of activities produced across the span of nearly eighteen months. The exhibition will serve as hosting site, incorporating into its sequence of galleries and sites a series of activities ranging from performances, readings, film screenings, music, dance, theater, to quite a few very unique examples of contemporary exhibition-making. Using the notion of the space of encounter, the biennale hopes to explore models of cultural exchange, setting up a soft, porous line between context and practice, form and medium, artist and system, institution and locality.

Some of the highlights of the program include Fassbinder's restored movie Berlin Alexanderplatz which will be shown for the first time in Asia in its entirety, running for more than 13 hours, in Gwangju Cinema; Gordon Matta-Clark's full-scale retrospective You are the Measure, which also travels to Asia for the first time; the street procession project Spring curated by Claire Tancons including samba drummers in the streets of Gwangju; the premier of the Johannesburg-based composer Joachim Schonfeldt's new sculpture and composition; Hasaan Khan's presenting an evening of continuous mixture of older and newer music works; and the launch of RADIO APARTMENT 22 by Abdellah Karroum ( ).

Okwui Enwezor, the artistic director of the 7th Gwangju Biennale has pointed out that: "2008 marks the year in which no less than ten biennials and triennials are set to open in September in the Asia-Pacific region alone. Anchored by the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the convergence of these events and the various national and regional agendas – cultural, economic, political – that define them, exemplify both the magnitude of the changes taking place in Asia, but also the scale and ambition within which they are occurring. Such scale and ambition, and the confidence with which they are pursued have led to the idea of this moment possibly being the Asian century."

The exhibition and the accompanying programs also reflect Gwangju Biennale's global commitment to various forms of cultural production. The Global Institute, held in collaboration with the Korean National University of Arts, Seoul; Chonnam National University, Gwangju; the San Francisco Art Institute; and the Royal College of Art, London, consists of the programs Open Studio and Arenas and Systems, organized into a series of workshops and clinics beginning in mid-August. Also, a series of plenary sessions based in Seoul and Beijing, China, collectively entitled Formations of Global Society and Domains of Public Culture will be held this fall, formulated around three broad themes: civil society as a form of coalition building; civil society as a platform of the global multitude; and civil society in relation to nihilism. Furthermore, a symposium and an associated two day seminar entitled The Politics of Spectacle and the Global Exhibition will run o ver a period of four days, from September 24 to September 27, in response to changes shaping the distribution of global culture.

The 7th Gwangju Biennale will take place in different venues of the city of Gwangju, including the Biennale Hall, the Gwangju Museum of Art, the Uijae Museum of Korean Art, the Cinema Gwangju, and the Daein Traditional Market.

For detailed information on the biennale and the programs please visit the website:

For press information please contact:

Jin-Kyung Jeong
PR & Business Department, The Gwangju Biennale Foundation
Biennale 2-gil Buk-gu Gwangju, South Korea
Tel +82 62 608 4264 / Fax +82 62 608 4269