In June this year's honours in curatorship class had the privilege of visiting Berlin for the 10th biennale. Accompanied by course director, Professor Pippa Skotnes, and lecturer, Nina Liebenberg, the class, not only, visited the biennale but many other curated spaces. Highlights included the Jewish Museum, Hamburger Banhof, Martin Gropius Bau and all that Museum Island has to offer. Whilst wandering through Berlin the class found themselves activating a city that puts a lot of it's past out in the open. By, often unintentionally, walking past stolpersteine, parts of the wall, graffiti art and the many memorials throughout they were constantly confronted with these histories. On Museum Island many of the group were taken by the Bode Museum's temporary exhibition Incomparable: Art from Africa in the Bode Museum which juxtaposed African art from the Ethnological Museum with works from the Bode's permanent European collection.
The biennale, titled "We don't need another hero", and the main focus of the visit, is curated by South African Gabi Ngcobo. Many of the works on show are by artists from the global south, despite the location being in Europe. Given this, and the exhibition's title, one can only but think that the biennale is rejecting the need for a Eurocentric hero. To quote the wall text at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art "instead, it explores the political potential of the act of self-preservation, refusing to be seduced by unyielding knowledge systems and historical narratives that contribute to the creation of toxic subjectivities." An interesting starting point for a discussion with a group of South African curatorship students in Berlin.
“The 10th Berlin Biennale doesn't offer any easy answers to the current anomie that decoloniality demands, instead it looks to us to do that work, in rejecting (exclusionary) heroism while plinths of statues lay bare, Ngcobo nudges us to be deeply imaginative while we consider who should occupy the vacant pedestals or perhaps, if they should be pedestals to begin with.” - Amogelang Maledu, Honours in Curatorship class of 2018
Check back next week for some creative non-fiction written by the class about the trip.
Pictured above: the honours in curatorship class having a discussion in the garden of the Jewish Museum. Below: the class with Prof Skotnes, outside the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, one of the venues for the biennale. Photo credit: (c)Lyndall Cain/ Centre for Curating the Archive
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