documenta X - home June 21 - September 28, 1997
Okwui Enwezor
Artistic director of the 2nd Biennale Johannesburg.
Speaker at »100 Days - 100 Guests«.
... This is a tough question. Let me just begin by saying that the present documenta is a tough show to love. But it is a very, very serious show, which I believe makes no concessions between the object and the audience or by playing into the mechanisms or the expectations of the marketplace.

Having said that, we in Johannesburg have other priorities, and our priorities do not in any way coincide with the ones of exhibitions like documenta. Even if C.D. has made great attemps to break apart this incestuos relationship between the market, dealers, institutions and so on, it still remains an astonishingly Western institution and by »Western« I dont mean that in any kind of derogatory way, it simply means that it is a different kind of spacial practice that exists in that area.

From my own perspective it would be utterly naive for me to travel to China for two weeks and then to come out and say, that from what the people are doing there, only poetry is being written properly.

That is why for the Johannesburg Biennale we have invited those thinkers and curators who have the ability to raise to a very high level, questions of culture that may not always be so readily apparent to many of us from different economic cultural and political contexts.

What I wanted was to see how these curators and collaborators, who I respect immensely, could challenge my position. That is the way we have tried to handle it. We´ve just said: look, collaboration is a good thing. It is the way that we learn or we build bridges to different forms of knowledge that are not part of our own traditions.

Again I find that Catherine David's priorities are hard priorities and she has made a very, very wonderful show. If you have seen previous documenta or if you have seen the catalogs, this one seems a little bit different. It does remain to be seen what comes out of it.

I give immense credit for convening the »100 Days /100 Guests« because it says that art exhibitions can happen alongside very critical thinking patterns, without this critical thinking becoming subsidiary to the art exhibitions.

She is also proposing that if you don´t like the exhibition, you can listen to the talks; if you don´t like the talks you can read the book, you know, »The Bible«, if you dont like the bible, you can surf the Internet...

She has provided different ways for different people to enter into the discourse. But for us in Johannesburg, we want people not only to enter the discourse but to extend it...

From an interview by Universes in Universe on 5 July, 1997.
Okwui Enwezor
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