Chris Burden
Hell Gate 1998-99

Louise Bourgeois
Why Have You Run So
Far Away?
Pink patchwork fabric
25,4 x 33 x 25,4cm

Lee Bul
Majestic Splendor 1999
Installation, fish, sequins,
potassium, permangenate
360 x 410cm

Bruce Nauman
Poke in the Eye/Nose/Ear
3/8/ 94 Edit
Video installation

Cai Guo-Ciang
Rent Collection Courtyard 1998

Shirin Neshat
Turbolent 1998

Ghada Amer
Untitled # 7853 1995
Embroidery and gel on canvas

Georges Adéagbo in his studio

Stephan Huber
Gran Paradiso 1997-98

Katarzyna Kozyra
Bath House for Men 1999
Video installation

Ulf Rollof
CitroMax (Lemon Passage) 1999
Lemons, steel
263 x 1440 x 435cm

Mauricio Dias and Walter Riedweg
Tutti Veneziani1999


The Venice Biennale: A personal perspective

ArtThrob accredited press representative Emma Bedford, curator at the South African National Gallery, writes this Special Report

Harald Szeemann, Director of the 1999 Venice Biennale, provides in a two-page preface to the catalogue, a list of everything that Venice is, climaxing with:
is Majestic Splendor
is inside and outside
is the gateway to the Orient
is raising the question of national pavilions
is wishful thinking now
is a gigantic narration
is love for spaces
is other breath
is freedom from the obligation of prefacing
is welcome to countries with or without a pavilion
is welcome to the A Latere shows
and wishes everybody a marvellous passeggiata through its Self

Both poetic and pointed, the text alludes to the many aspects of Venice, to La Biennale and to Szeemann's own 'dAPERTutto' show which this year has done so much to inject life into this 48th Exhibition of International Art, proving that age and appeal are not exclusive oppositions and that the mother of all biennales has definitely not passed her sell-by date. Using Szeemann's poetry as a framework, here's my personal response to Venice:

is Majestic Splendor
The spectacularly beautiful backdrop of Venice is every curator's dream and Szeemann utilised it to the full, opening up new venues and vistas. His central, curated show, 'dAPERTutto', playing on the word "aperto" (open), refers to the exhibition which he and Achille Bonito Oliva created as a showcase for emerging talents at the Venice Biennale in 1980. Its focus on youth as the ability to use creative language rather than any conception of age allows the exhibition to honour artists such as the ninety-something Louise Bourgeois. Her stitched and mutilated torsos and gasping mouths express her own traumas while also placing the concerns of women and women artists throughout the century at centre stage. In recognition of her contribution to art she was awarded one of two Golden Lions presented to "masters of contemporary art".

Majestic Splendor is also the title of a work by Honourable-Mention winner, Lee Bul, who early in her career shocked audiences with her performances unveiling the female body. In addressing the accusation "You smell of fish!" with an installation of chemically deodorised, vacupacked, perfumed and bejewelled fish, she tackled head-on Western aversions and sensitivities to the natural body.

is inside and outside
Beginning inside the Italian Pavilion, 'dAPERTutto' extends to the Arsenale or naval and ship-building area. Taking the visitor on a voyage, the curator sited artworks and installations within impressive Renaissance structures or installed work outdoors on land or floating in the harbour, always in such a way as to draw attention to the context, encouraging us to consider not only the aesthetics but also the history of this place. While many works referenced external space, others explored the surfaces and cavities of the body, calling into question the body as mediator between inside and outside. Not least of these was Bruce Nauman's video subjecting the body to extreme threats of penetration. His lifelong investigations into pushing the envelope of the body won him the second Golden Lion presented to "masters of contemporary art".

is the gateway to the Orient
Venice's geographic location as a port in the lucrative East-West trade was recognised through the inclusion of a significantly high number of Asian artists, both within 'dAPERTutto' and within national pavilions in the Giardini and sites throughout the city. One of the most significant was undoubtedly that of Cai Guo-Qiang, winner of one of the three major International Awards. Entitled Venice's Rent Collection Courtyard, it is a replica of Rent Collection Courtyard, more than 100 statues commissioned by the Chinese government at the time of the Cultural Revolution, to demonstrate that, despite hard times, the populace had escaped the horrors of feudalism. Made by Cai, his assistants and 10 Chinese artisan sculptors (one of whom had worked on the original), the installation is an on-going work in progress, recalling both the clay army of Emperor Qin Shihuangdi (259-210 BC) and the propaganda tableaux which the Mao government exported to various countries 30 years ago. Visitors to the Johannesburg Biennale in 1995 will remember his explosive gunpowder drawing on the walls of Turbine Hall which, like all Cai's work, focused on the cosmic law of opposition between creation and destruction.

Lee Bul, in diametric opposition, was represented in the Korean pavilion with padded sound-proof karaoke capsules in which visitors could select and perform their favourite songs in relative privacy. Needless to say, these were hugely popular, providing much light relief from the high-minded seriousness of much of the surrounding pavilions.

Yet Venice is also strategically located between Europe, the Middle East, Arabia and North Africa and we know that Venetian beads were traded throughout Africa even into southern Africa. Yes, Iranian-born Shirin Neshat was present through her extraordinary video installation, Turbulence, for which she won one of the three major International Awards. It shows a male singer performing to a full congregation of men while a female singer wails and chokes in an empty auditorium. And yes, Egyptian-born Ghada Amer showed a series of her exquisitely embroidered pieces exploring female sexuality (for which she won the Unesco prize of $20 000). And even though Georges Adéagbo (Benin), who won an Honourable Mention, and William Kentridge (South Africa) made significant contributions to 'dAPERTutto', including only three artists from the entire continent of Africa is shameful. Perhaps Szeemann can be excused because he had so little time to prepare this exhibition but is ignorance still an excuse?

is raising the question of national pavilions
Calling into question the nationalistic bias of the pavilions began in 1997 when the Nordic Pavilion included "foreigners" Mark Dion and Mariko Mori. Admitting alterity as integral to any national identity, the commissioners of the French pavilion, Hou Hanru and Denys Zacharopoulos, consider the nature of pavilions and alert readers to the "urgent need to excavate the cavity that collects the language of the other", confirming their belief "that the art of living in the world sets the foundation for a new citizenship". Hence the pavilion includes both French-born Jean-Pierre Bertrand and Chinese-born, French-resident Huang Yong Ping who introduced a system of alternative symbolism through massive roof-piercing columns surmounted by fantastical animals drawn from Chinese legends.

In startling contrast the commissioner of the Israeli pavilion, discoursing on history, memory and trauma, chose to focus on the Holocaust and what he called "the essence of Israeliness". Quoting Walter Benjamin, who maintained that memory embraces the option for redemption, he managed with astonishing amnesia to avoid entirely the issue of Palestine. At this juncture in Middle Eastern history what an impact could have been made by a curator with vision seizing the opportunity of including a Palestinian artist in the Israeli pavilion.

is wishful thinking now
To each her own. My wishful thinking now is to see African participation on an equal footing in these major international shows. Do we really have to wait for the next millennium? Hopefully Documenta XI will set the record straight.

is a gigantic narration
From James Lee Byars' gargantuan amphora entitled The Spinning Oracle of Delfi?? through 103 artists to Oreste, who aim to create spaces of freedom and action through residency programmes, websites etc, and Ora Locale, who describe themselves as "four not very good girls", 'dAPERTutto' may be read as a gigantic narration or as a series of interlinked narratives.

is love for spaces
Over and over again the design of the exhibition provided exquisite views of Venice articulated through the design of the exhibition within remarkable architectural spaces. In addition, the articulation of space was a major theme, from the remaking of cities such as Berlin (in Frank Thiel's photographs) and the politicisation of public space in Luo Hao's Fishglobes (Tian' An Men) to the quiet emptiness of private space in Miriam Bäckström's Estate of a Deceased Person.

is other breath
Honourable Mentions went to two young women artists for their video installations. Eija-Liisa Ahtila, a Finnish artist in the Nordic Pavilion (commissioned by John Peter Nilsson), produced a two-screen video projection documenting in painful detail and imaginative flight the divorce and release ritual of a young couple. Katarzyna Kozyra, in the Polish pavilion commissioned by Anda Rottenberg, installed screens at the sides of the pavilion documenting her sexual transformation through the meticulous addition of bodily hair and genitals, allowing her (and the viewers) to be voyeurs in a male public bath through the videos installed in the centre of the space. However, as a "feminine man" the artist raises questions around desire and the complexity of human sexuality.

The list of prize-winners might lead one to believe that this show had really opened up to new voices and "other breath". However, the list is more indicative of the concerns and perspectives of judges such as Okwui Enwezor and Rosa Martinez. The participation of Africa was minuscule, with three artists (if one considers Ghada Amer African), only one of whom was black. Though absent as artist, the black man as subject featured in Doug Aitken's riveting multi-video installation which won him one of the three major International Awards. Referencing both the information overload and the entropy of contemporary life, a dysphasic black youth hurtles through an urban environment in jumpy jittery breakdance fashion.

While Yoko Ono's claim that "woman is the nigger of the world: certainly doesn't apply in Venice anymore, it seems Africa is still confined to that role.

is freedom from the obligation of prefacing
Szeemann's pared-down text offers more insights than any conventional preface.

is welcome to countries with or without a pavilion
Several countries without pavilions in the Giardini, such as Taiwan and Ireland, have secured venues around the city where they show regularly. Artists from several Latin-American countries were accommodated at the Arsenale through the Italo-Latin American Institute. But apart from Egypt, Africa has no pavilion and an insignificant presence in 'dAPERTutto'. Considering Italy's history in Africa perhaps we can look forward to something like an Italo-African Institute? Or perhaps some enlightened commissioners will curate Africans into their pavilions in future. Or, even better, perhaps a patron or group of patrons can be found to help secure appropriate venues or establish African pavilions? Perhaps countries, which have reaped the benefits of colonial enterprise in Africa, can be persuaded into partnership projects.

South Africa featured through William Kentridge's video Stereoscope in 'dAPERTutto', and ironically in a rack of T-shirts by Austrian artist Rainer Ganahl reflecting all the language groups absent from the Venice Biennale. Beginning with "Please teach me Afrikaans" it ended with "Please teach me Zulu". Apart from that, South Africa was entirely absent from this Biennale. According to the Biennale's regulations, only countries with pavilions are invited to participate. Countries without a permanent pavilion may submit an application to participate. The allocation of space is dependent on available space. If South Africa wants to be part of major international shows such as the Venice Biennale, not only must the organising begin now but strategising to find the funding is imperative. As Cape Town artist Malcolm Payne proved with his installation for the Venice Biennale in 1995, a good "show" does not necessarily require a huge budget but it does take energy and commitment.

is welcome to the A Latere shows
Parallel shows ranged from Sune Nordgren's '7Cs' ushering us into the work of Ulf Rollof through a lemon passage to 'Basquiat in Venice' and 'Albania Today'. Of particular interest to South Africans is 'VOC: Handle with Care' examining the impact of the Dutch East India Company on Taiwan. 'Sogni/Dreams', conceived by Francesco Bonami and Hans Ulrich Obrist, presented the dreams and utopias of about 90 artists (including Kentridge) in a book that was distributed free to visitors. Another favourite of mine was 'The Words', texts by artists to be found all over Venice from posters on vaporetto stops to huge projections on buildings. Yoko Ono's In my sleep I listen to the beat of the universe stuck in my mind. How ironic, I thought, as I remembered the spectacular performance by Senegalese drummers and dancers on a floating stage in the bay on the occasion of the formal dinner. The "rhythm" of Africa continues to thrill audiences even though her artists are largely ignored.

and wishes everybody a marvellous passeggiata through its Self
"Venice ... is ultimately a stage. ... Throughout the centuries the constructed myth of the drowning city and its magnificence turned Venice into something like a theme park for an existential experience of 'grandeur and the ephemeral': water, sky and the unsafe ground. ... Whoever lives in or passes through Venice plays a part in this drama. Siamo tutti Veneziani - 'we are all Venetians'." Acknowledging the complaints of Venetians who feel that while their city is regularly invaded they are seldom involved in the artistic activities of the Biennale, Mauricio Dias and Walter Riedweg worked with many locals to video-document their lives so that they become co-subjects and not merely objects. Interestingly, among the many paler Italians there was also a Senegalese immigrant, attesting to the artists' recognition of the complexity of contemporary European society. Many of these videos were projected onto a walkway, forcing us, the visitors, to walk with the Venetians and not trample the very people whose city we invade with such determination every two years. The Biennale closes at the beginning of November.

All quotes from Harald Szeeman and Cecilia Liveriero Lavelli La Biennale di Venezia, Marsilio, 1999.



Prizewinners at the Venice Biennale

The official press release announcing the winners of the 48th Biennale, clearly written in English translated from Italian, reads as follows:

The international Jury of the 48th International Exhibition of contemporary art, composed of Zdenka Badovinac, Okwui Enwezor, Ida Gianelli, Yuko Hasegawa, Rosa Martinez, awarded the following prizes:

The Venice Biennale International Award to Doug Aitken, because he recuperates the narrative form and the experimental research of cinema negated by the economic values of the commercial film industry. His installation is perfect and articulated with intellectual clarity.

The Venice Biennale International Award to Cai Guo-Qiang whose work is strong and surprising and perfectly balanced in its space. The artist questions the history, function and the epic of art through temporal and physical contextual isolation.

The Venice Biennale International Award to Shirin Neshat because the critical and emotional power of the artist's work contrasts the socially established cultural model with the energy of another model which has been silent until now and shortens its distances.

Golden Lion for the best national participation to the Italian Pavilion (Monica Bovicini, Bruna Esposito, Luisa Lambri, Paola Pivi, Grazia Toderi) because it demonstrates a new attitude, reinventing the traditional territory of the pavilions. It expresses the spirit of generosity and openness which has been the real proposal of this Biennale.The energy visible in the works is critical and new.

Honorable mention to Georges Adéagbo because he occupies an intermediate space between global and local. The disorganised effect of his work contains the poetic vision of an individual voice and the capacity to work on the margins of two divided worlds: the public and the private.

Honorable mention to Eija Liisa Ahtila whose work is driven and punctuates the importance of video and film as a strategic and critical means of analyzing personal and social rituals.

Honorable mention to Katarzyna Kozyra because she explores and controls the authoritarian dominion of male territory and unites the elements of performance and mise en scene.

Honourable mention to Lee Bul because she creates critical metaphors of the female situation in Asia with a style that goes from kitsch to cybernetic and through her work shows psychological isolation and the joy of a possible change.

Golden Lions to two masters of contemporary art decided by La Biennale, which this year go to Louise Bourgeois and Bruce Nauman.

The Unesco Prize for the promotion of arts to Ghada Amer.



Reportage from the 48th
Venice Biennale

ArtThrob links to Venice Biennale

ArtThrob has been invited to become a 'partner of the Reportage" to the site UnDo.Net have set up to report on the artists, exhibitions and daily happenings and events at the Venice Biennale. Check websites for more about the site http://undonet/bienalevenezia



Postcards for New York: Update

Curator Gary van Wyk reports that the invitation to professional practising artists to submit postcard-sized work for an August show in New York's Axis Gallery in Soho is receiving a good response. Press coverage in this country has been considerable. Contact people are independent curator Lorna Ferguson at and Stephen Hobbs at who have full details and entry forms. Also see Exchange for more info. Closing date in New York: July 15.



The Community Arts Project
bulding in Cape Town

New director for the Community Art Project

After a seven-year stint as staff member/director at Cape Town's Community Art Project, Mario Pissarra stepped down at the end of June this year. CAP has held a unique position in the cultural life of Cape Town since its inception in the Seventies, providing classes and space to a vast number of young artists and performers who would otherwise have had nowhere to hone their talents, and Pissarra has made an important contribution to that history. "Having been part of a leadership structure which has managed to steer CAP through the Nineties when so many NGOs failed to make the transition from the eighties, is something I am very proud of," says Pissarra.

His successor is Cape Town-born Graham Falken, who has a BA (Hons) in English and Philosophy and a number of educational diplomas. He has been working at CAP since the beginning of this year, and Pissarra says he is confident Falken "will provide excellent leadership" and that CAP "will go from strength to strength".



Photography conference in Cape Town

This week marks the opening of a major conference entitled 'Encounters with Photography: Photographing people in southern Africa, 1860 to 1999'. The final programme is below:

Venue: TH Barry Lecture Theatre, South African Museum, 25 Queen Victoria Street, Cape Town.

Wednesday, July 14 1999

17:00 - 18:00 Registration
18:00 - 19:00 Keynote Address: Elizabeth Edwards, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford: Photography and the Performance of History
19:00 Reception, South African Museum

Thursday, July 15 1999

8:00 - 8:45 Registration
8:45 - 9:00 Welcome and notices

Panel 1
9:00 - 9:20 Michael Godby, University of Cape Town: Taking Pictures: Accounts of painting and photography in some mid-19th century South African travel writing
9:20 - 9:40 Chris Webster, University of Wales: Africa Obscura: Representation, Identity and Control
9:40 - 10:00 Chris Morton, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford: 'Interesting and Picturesque': Staging encounters for the British Association in South Africa, 1905
10:00 - 10:20 Discussion

10:20 - 10:40 Tea

Panel 2
10:40 - 11:00 Neal Sobania, Hope College, Michigan: Stereoscopic imagery and the colonial mind, South West Africa, 1905
11:00 - 11:20 Gerald Klinghardt, South African Museum: The Photography of Georg Gustav Klinghardt in German South West Africa, 1896-1915
11:20 - 11:40 Patricia Hayes, University of the Western Cape: Immortal remains. Photographs of the dead king Mundume from the Ovamboland Expedition, 1917
11:40 - 12:00 Discussion

12:00 - 13:00 LUNCH

13:00 - 14:00 Keynote: Christopher Pinney, University College, London: Notes from the Surface of the Image: Photography and postcolonialism

Panel 3
14:10 - 14:30 Jeff Guy, University of Natal: The struggle for the image at Ekukhanyeni - the Place of Light
14:30 - 14:50 Patrick Harries, University of Cape Town: Terrible Truths: The rise and fall of photography as scientific medium in the field of ethnography
14:50 - 15:10 Albert Wirz, Humboldt University at Berlin, and Alan Kirkaldy, University of Venda: Picturing the Soul: Missionary encounters in late 19th and early 20th century South Africa
15:10 - 15:30 Discussion

15:30 - 16:00 TEA

Panel 4
16:00 - 16:20 Peter James, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery: Rethinking representations, revisiting encounters: Photographs of South Africa by Sir Benjamin Stone and Vanley Burke
16:20 - 16:40 Gary Minkley and Ciraj Rassool, University of the Western Cape: Photography with a difference? Leon Levson’s camera studies and photographic exhibitions of native life in South Africa, 1947-1950
16:40 - 17:00 Sally Gaule, University of the Witwatersrand: Juxtaposing race: alterity and reflection in South African photography
17:00 - 17:20 Discussion

18:30 RECEPTION: South African National Gallery. Exhibition: ‘Lines of Sight: Perspectives on South African photography'

Friday July 16 1999

8:30 - 9:00 Registration

Panel 5
9:00 - 9:20 Ann Wanless, Randburg: Images of the Khoisan in the archive of Louis Fourie, 1919-1927
9:20 - 9:40 Barbara Buntman, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg: Shooting the hunter-gatherers: Portraying others and photographing a people
9:40 - 10:00 Giorgio Miescher, Basler Afrika Bibliographien and Lorena Rizzo, University of Basel: Body and Space: Continuities and Discontinuities in the pictorial construction of Kaoko (Namibia) and its inhabitants
10:00 - 10:20 Discussion

10:20 - 10:40 TEA

Panel 6
10:40 - 11:00 James Faris, University of Connecticut, New Mexico: Photographic Encounters: Leni Riefenstahl in Africa
11:00 - 11:20 Joy Dladla, McGregor Museum, Kimberley: Capturing the past
11:20 - 11:40 Robert Papini, Local History Museum, Durban: ‘Shining up the rusty idol’: Censoring for the Zulu image
11:40 - 12:00 Discussion

12:00 - 13:00 LUNCH

13:00 - 14:00 Keynote: Christraud Geary, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC: Life Histories of Photographs: The Images of Constance Stuart Larrabee, South Africa, 1936-1949

Panel 7
14:10 - 14:30 James McArdle, Latrobe University, Australia: The paradox of the photographic portrait
14:30 - 14:50 John A Stotesbury, University of Joensuu, Finland: Family albums as auto/biographical narrative
14:50 - 15:00 Discussion
15:00 - 15:20 Rick Rohde, University of Edinburgh and Hayley Rodkin, University of Western Cape: Family portraits, realism and the everyday
14:20 - 15:40 Jean Brundrit, University of Stellenbosch and Jo Ratcliffe, University of the Witwatersrand: Speaking without words: Photography as an agent in communication and self- representation
15:40 - 15:50 Discussion

15:50 - 16:10 TEA

Panel 8
16:10 - 16:30 Eric Allina-Pisano, Yale University: Filming authority in Central Mozambique, 1930
16:30 - 16:50 Kathy Grundlingh, South African National Gallery: Pictorialism in South African Photography
16:50 - 17:10 Discussion


Saturday July 17 1999

8:30 - 9:00 Registration

Panel 9
9:00 - 9:20 Hentie van der Merwe and Lisa Allan, College of Design, Johannesburg: The Picture of Health - The photographed male body in the archives of Hugh McFarlane
9:20 - 9:40 Lauri M Firstenberg, Harvard University: Representing the body archivally in South African photography
9:40 - 9:50 Discussion
9:50 - 10:10 Jennifer Law, University of London: Photomontage and the new surrealism in South Africa
10:10 -10:30 Rory Bester, Independent scholar: Raiding the Contemporary in Photographic Practice
10:30 - 10:50 Discussion

10:50 - 11.20 TEA

11:20 - 12:20 Keynote: Martha Rosler, Rutgers University

12:20 - 13:30 LUNCH

Panel 10
13:30 - 14:10 Peter McKenzie, Cedric Nunn and Margaret Waller: Current encounters: Theory and practice
14:10 - 14:20 Discussion
14:20 - 15:20 Five South African photographers present their work: Jenny Altschuler, Jenny Gordon, George Hallet, Fanie Jason, Guy Tillim
15:20 - 15:40 Discussion




Detail of the cover

The Art Paper

By Kathryn Smith

The second issue of the Art Educators Association's newsletter for 1999 is sexier and better than ever. Sponsored by those intrepid supporters of the arts, the MTN Art Institute, the even more intrepid Mocke Janse van Vuuren has lined up a great selection of articles, interviews and a fantastic "how to" pull-out on pinhole photography that beautifully complements Jo Ractliffe's article on her workshop in Nieu Bethesda, subsequently exhibited at the Market Theatre's Photography Gallery. Local graphic literature, Sue Glanville and Wayne Barker's seeing ourselves documentary, rural murals and drama productions also feature. It has the promise of becoming South Africa's foremost arts-related print publication. To subscrive, contact Mocke on (011) 725-2420 or at Postal address is PO Box 1073, Joubert Park, 2044.

... MWeb

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