Irving Norman, M.F.I. Complex, 1981 © Crocker Art Museum Association, Sacramento; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY / Lene Berg, Stalin by Picasso or Portrait of Woman with Moustache, 2008. Courtesy the artist / HKW image by Sebastian Bolesch
After the Second World War, the battle of the systems also involved the arts and culture in a symbolic arms race. One prominent example was the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), an organization founded in West Berlin to consolidate an “anti-totalitarian” intellectual community. The CCF subsidized countless cultural programs from Latin America to Africa and Southeast Asia, developing a network of journals, conferences, and exhibitions that advanced a “universal” language of modernism in literature, art, and music. By 1967, a major scandal erupted: the CCF was secretly bankrolled by the CIA as a form of propaganda to support an anti-Communist consensus in favor of U.S. hegemony. The exhibition Parapolitics: Cultural Freedom and the Cold War is devoted to the global dimension of cultural politics in that era and to the changing meanings attributed to modernism. The artworks and archival materials on show explore the friction between the political instrumentalization of art and artists’ struggle for autonomy. It’s thoroughly illustrated how modernism became a signifier for individual freedom and was tantamount to establishing Western cultural hegemony in the 20th century. Thus, the CCF is in a way returning to its 10-year-anniversary location, Berlin’s former Congress Hall, today’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt.
© Robert Rieger
Advocating for the integration and inclusion of people from migration and refugee backgrounds, and all kinds of minority groups, lies at the core of The Power of the Arts initiative. Through different expressions of culture — like music, art, theater, and dance — a deeper sense of understanding is fostered across the board. This year’s winning non-profit initiatives touch on numerous issues of discrimination and inequality. Label m invests in youth subcultures and the flourishing scene of young talents in Saarbrucken. Sprayers, skaters, rappers; they all herald the creativity emerging from this often underestimated city. Through Weissensee academy’s *foundationClass program, refugees who want to follow an artistic path are given an opportunity to prepare themselves for applying to art schools. In Saxony, Banda Internationale uses music to neutralize hate, tear down prejudices and connect different cultures. A further aim is to render integration successful and create a more open community where democratic exchange doesn’t merely exist as an idea. Meanwhile, Un-Label seeks to do exactly what its name implies: remove labels and fight against putting people into boxes. Discriminatory boundaries and biases are banished using the means of performing arts.
“You can avoid people but you can’t avoid architecture.“
Whether through questions about gender and sexuality, or by investigating architecture’s imposing ability to manipulate our physical actions on a daily basis, Monica Bonvicini consistently explores themes of power and control. Her multidisciplinary approach—videos, installations, drawings and sculptures—touches on identity as well as socio-political and economic issues with a hint of humour. Conceived for the large exhibition hall of the Berlinische Galerie, Bonvicini’s new installation, amongst other things, investigates the term “facade” and its function in the built environment. The institutional viewing space is often the subject of her work and thus, Bonvicini’s site-specific, power-conscious and gendered allusions to the norms of architectural and artistic modernism quite literally operate on the boundary between artwork and spectator.
Poster by Karl Holmqvist
Gathering more than 240 independent publishers in the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Miss Read is dedicated to building community and creating a public meeting place for discourse around artists’ books, conceptual publications and publishing as practice. The art book fair suffuses art, graphic design, literature and publishing and seeks to cultivate dialogue within various thematics, and essentially give impetus to further cross-pollination between disciplines. Like every year, the fair will be accompanied by a series of lectures, discussions and workshops with the common mission of exploring the boundaries of contemporary publishing and the possibilities of the book. Among other events, the renowned ARCH+ magazine will be celebrated alongside a panel discussion on critical architecture theory, utopias and discursive practice. The 5th Conceptual Poetics Day, a recurring element of the bookfair, will explore the imaginary border between visual art and literature in the form of readings, lectures and performances.
In a small village close to Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso, arts and culture take center stage as contributors to the growth of a country and its younger generation. Initiated as an idea in 2009 by the German artist and theater director Christoph Schlingensief (1960-2010), the international art project Operndorf Afrika provides a platform for cultural encounters, workshops and collaborations. Schlingensief envisaged the initiative as a meeting place where people from different backgrounds are able to work as artists and exchange views. Over the last few years, that seed has grown from mere abstract plans into a full-fledged community that includes sustainable homes, education, health care as well as a bedrock for the area to evolve its singular artistic expression and set an example the world over. Operndorf is essentially a center where ideas can be cultivated as people from across the globe merge in one location. Here art paves the way to a thriving community, cross-cultural dialogue and much-needed postcolonial discourses building up a new image of Africa.
“The Operndorf is a project that arouses hope – hope that there can be a relationship between Europe and Africa, which is based on reciprocity and not on dominance. Hope that culture can contribute to the development of children and the development of a country.” — Horst Köhler, former Federal President of Germany
A profound love for words and images shape Pascale Obolo’s world and artistic output. Hailing from Cameroon and raised in Paris, this prolific creative works between publishing, journalism and cinematography. Bureau N met with her in Basel during the I Never Read art book fair where she’s the first exhibitor to represent independent publishers from Africa. As the founder of the African Art Book Fair and the contemporary art journal AFRIKADAA, Obolo seeks to foster artistic voices from Africa, offering them increased visibility and a platform for widespread discourse.
Pascale Obolo with one of her colleagues
When did you establish the African Art Book Fair?
It’s a very young project. We started in 2016 at the Dakar Biennale, but before that we founded AFRIKADAA, an art journal created by a collective of artists, art critics and book lovers. The idea is to present each issue’s content in an actual exhibition space. We want to have a platform where we can show the artists we collaborate with whether they are from different parts of Africa or the diaspora. Most national museums are not interested in showcasing this kind of artists, they go for safer choices. So the journal acts as a sort of laboratory and a curatorial exercise. Also, we invite various writers from around the world to contribute, and thus the result is a great mix of academic writing, clearly journalistic pieces, and experimental texts.
How did your collaboration with I Never Read come about?
INR is the one who found me and initially we were thinking of joining forces during the Art Paris fair but unfortunately we didn’t manage to get financial backing. Then later on, we picked up the discussion again and they invited me to talk about the projects I’ve been involved in and introduce them to indie publishers from Africa — a completely unknown scene to them. It’s the first time that an African publisher is exhibited at the fair, so that’s very interesting.
What kind of books did you bring with you this time for the fair?
We selected three books (award-winning artist Marc Johnson with lacune féconde, books by artist Sammy Baloji from Galerie Imane Farès and others) and as well as the upcoming issue of AFRIKADAA, which will be out in September 2017. We publish three issues per year plus one special edition. Last year we collaborated with the Centre Pompidou for their group show “Museum On/Off”. The museum gave us a carte blanche to propose ways on how to reinvent the museum in the future. I suggested a fictional museum including artists that I knew the Centre Pompidou had never exhibited before. We decided to do an extension of what we did there and create “paper museum” of sorts for the special issue.
How many publishers did the African Art Book Fair have first?
Not that many, maybe 25. From different places in Africa. We also invited three artists from South Africa who use the book as their artistic medium.
What would a potential collaboration between the African Art Book Fair and I Never Read look like next year?
We actually have plenty of ideas. For the next edition of the fair in Dakar in May 2018, we’re thinking of doing an exchange with Basel and mixing publishers from the north with publishers from the south. It will be more of an artistic project and we’ll question the role and existence of fairs in the contemporary world. Why are there so many nowadays? And what purpose do they serve, especially for independent initiatives.
Running parallel to Art Basel, the annual Swiss Art Awards exhibition, organized and conceived by the Federal Office of Culture since 1899, provides a representative overview and unique insight into contemporary art and architecture in Switzerland. It shows the works of the artists that have been invited to the second round of the Swiss Competition for Art and Architecture, and aims to encourage the cultural movers and shakers originating from Switzerland. A definitive index for art professionals and art lovers alike.
Aiming to foster the notable art publishing community worldwide, the annual I Never Read, Art Book Fair is back in Basel for the sixth time. What started as a platform for experimental publishing and printed matter straddling the line between art object and reading material, has now become an integral part of the renowned Art Basel week. More than 130 publishers, authors, artists and designers from more than twenty countries will present their art and artist books, catalogues, monographs, rare editions, magazines and zines from the fields of art, photography, graphic design and architecture. This time around, fair-goers will have the opportunity to also see projects from Latin America and Africa: from works by publishers specializing in risographs, independent books by Latin American artists, and conceptual editions all the way to niche magazines turning the spotlight to African photography and small local publishers. Like every year, the fair will be accompanied by a radio station hosting talks about zine culture and the world of publishing within the arts.
Jan-Peter E.R. Sonntags SYNTH im Tieranatomischen Theater
Built in 1790, the Tieranatomisches Theater (Veterinary Anatomy Theatre) is the oldest still-existing academic building in Berlin. Since 2013, the Hermann von Helmholtz-Zentrum für Kulturtechnik has used the venue as an experimental exhibition space. Based on research and teaching at the Humboldt-Universität, the programming is dedicated to an interdisciplinary investigation of material cultures of knowledge, and to new practices in displaying them.
SYNTH, an installation on the phantasm of sound and music synthesis by the artist, composer and researcher Jan-Peter E.R. Sonntag, is one such investigation. Shown and heard throughout the Theater’s seven rooms, technical and aesthetic objects connect the 19th century’s physiology to Neue Musik, media theory of the 20th century, and contemporary experimental music. For Sonntag, sound art is spacial art, a form that addresses the percipient’s whole body. Space itself becomes corporeal as well: turning the classical anatomy theater into a Rausch-Körper (“body of noise”), the artist composed the three-act chamber opera SINUS especially for the venue’s unique architecture. There will be held a number of discussions, workshops and events regarding the exhibited objects and instruments. All the while, Sonntag’s radio opera RUNDFUNK AETERNA – a work commissioned by Documenta 14 – will be broadcasted worldwide. Sonntag developed his own special circuits for RUNDFUNK AETERNA, and, in the tradition of Marinetti, Arnheim and Brecht, investigates the radio and (radio wave) as a form.