ZEMOS98.org on Tue, 17 Oct 2006 21:25:57 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Under Fire

Under Fire at BIACS 2

PRPC think about BIACS 2:

Four months before the opening of the BIACS 2, the only official
information available to the public regarding the event is the text
that Okwi Enwezor read in Madrid at the commercial contemporary art
fair ARCO. He will again present his precis in the next days at the
Basel Art Fair, under the title?The Unhomely: Phantom Scenes in
Global Society. In the exhibition, it is his thematic premise to: ?to
unmask those machineries that decimate and waste social, economic and
political interconnections, looking for a return to the logics of

Enwezor?s text is insightful and culturally resonant. Given the
opportunity to expand the thematic precedent he first expressed
at Documenta XI , we suggest that BIACS 2 is a new excuse for the
curator to transform into tourism all the dramatic outlets that our
political geo-history provides him- specifically issues surrounding
the immigrant population from Africa who work in Spain, the Middle
East Wars, Latin American insurgence, etc. As Giorgio Agamben affirms,
there is no greater temple for capitalism as the museum art space
contemplated and consumed by hordes of tourists.

It seems paradoxical that Okwui Enwezor asks: ?how can art play an
integral, and not only peripherial role in relation to the global
challenge that affects both artistic production and reception,
especially in light of the damaging effects of reactionary,
conservative and fundamentalist politics in all social structures of
the world today?? However, why doesn?t he question the oversaturated
model of the Biennial that functions, almost exclusively, to
serve geotourism. Nor does he question one of the formats that
has contributed the most to the banalization of contemporary art
exhibitions, specifically the failure of the blockbuster to evoke
effective and nuanced reactions and understanding on the part of the
public. The climate of the Spectacle breeds ignorant public approval
as opposed to a deep and multi-layered individual critical response.
In other words, souvenir shopping supercedes nuanced personal

In his statement, Enwezor intends the Bienal to??Explore the
alterations in the world?s social structures. ?BIACS 2 is conceived
as an oportunity to examine the contradictory logic of distance and
proximity represented by the dialectical structure of many of the
artistic procceedings in the last decade?. Yet, we submit that the
curator has not bothered to publicly acknowledge that the BIACS
2 is being financed with public funds managed by a consortium of
businessmen. Nor has he addressed the fact that this grand scale
event should reflect the city of Sevilla and its own uniquely rich
cultural, historic and artistic fabric. Okwei?s lack of efforts to
connect BIACS with its local context impedes not only the exhibition?s
possibility for meaningful resonante, but also offends the very people
who have agreed to serve as its host. Many local artistic and cultural
projects have suffered from budget reductions in order to safeguard
the benefits of ?stellar projects? like the BIACS. The imposition
of the BIACS on public funds carries meaningful and heartfelt local
?collateral effects? on the existing cultural fabric.

The title of Enwezor?s text is revealing: ?The Unhomely: Phantom
Scenes in Global Society?, for we think that in all this about the
BIACS perfectly operates the phantasmagoria in which consist the
transformation and metamorphic proccesses of any object into artistic
commodity, into exchange value. So to say, that the illusion in this
case is produced when a business operation financed with public
funds, directed to enpower and activate local economy, to atract
tourism and investment, at the same contributing to generate pride
and consent between the patrons --be them public or private, and the
citizenship, is presented as a reflective event, that ?will look
beyond the metaphor of the city and begin to reflect upon the complex
nature of adjacency and the asymptotic importance of residing next-to,
outside-of, or with-in a given site?, in the words of its curator.

But if Enwezor, quoting Walter Benjamin at the beginning of his text,
thinks that: ?The tradition of the opressed teaches us that the state
of emergency in which we live in is the rule, not the exception?,
we do not understand how he doesn?t realize that we are certainly
confronting an emergency, the one suffered by the cultural politics
that must apply to a region like Andalucia and to a city like Seville,
that certainly must commit with its modernization for a dialogue
between the local and the global, but not receiving as first show the
scenification of an opression: that suffered by a local art community
paradoxically weakened by ?international aid?. The idea that the
globalization of Art Biennials is a pale reflection of this permanent
?state of exception? Benjamin talks about is something that the
international cultural critique ?Agamben, Jameson, Löwy, etc.?agree
on. What does Enwezor intend then, placing in the frontispice of his
project the benjaminian thesis of the state of exception? As we know,
Benjamin produced his text in direct confrontation with the jurist
Carl Schmitt, legal support of nacionalsocialism in Germany in the
thirties. Schmitt?s thesis is more coherent with Enwezor?s resolution,
if the ?state of exception? is the rule, let?s found our conduct
on it, let?s make our laws according to exceptions: suspension of
liberties, martial law, concentration camp, etc. Cultural criticism
has warned it, spectacle is the permanent state of exception: ?let?s
make museums continuing art festivals ?let music conservatories
celebrate perpetual anniversaries ?let the book fair rule the time in
which citizens must read?

Even though Okwi Enwezor hasn?t yet released the list of artists
that will participate in the BIACS 2, we know he has invited artists
as interesting as Yto Barrada or Ursula Biemann. We understand that
they are not supposed to know about the upsetting effects that the
event implies for the cultural fabric of the city, but we believe
that the curator that organizes it must be commited to know the
context in which it is presented and how his proposal is funded and
managed, and accordingly inform the artists about these circumstances.
Peter Friedl, for example, another of the invited artists to the
event, without this basic information will not be able to get the
target right of his uneasiness dialectics, aimed as it is his usual
procceeding, to the institution that invites him. But as Okwi Enwezor
has not carried out this informative effort, although he knows and
we have sent to him all the texts that the PRPC has generated, our
Platform initiates a communication campaign to the participating
artists delivering our texts and reflections to them, at the same time
as we carry on the continuing adhesions campaign.


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