[REMEMBERING OKWUI ENWEZOR, 23 October 1963 – 15 March 2019]
“Enwezor, who has died aged 55, was a peerless, charismatic Nigerian curator who helped place non-western art histories on an equal footing with the long-established narrative of European and North American art.”
“Part of a generation of auteur curators who rose to prominence in the 1990s, he, more than any other, was one with a mission.
……….Enwezor’s approach to making shows was to do so ‘outside of the canon, but within culture’.
His exhibitions were confrontational and never escapist.”
“They could be hard going.
Refusing to shy away from knotty politics or traumatic stories, the curator would often invoke the German philosopher Walter Benjamin and his description of a Paul Klee engraving in which an angel looks like it is moving away from the viewer while facing backwards.
Enwezor, likewise, sought out artists whose interest in history might just offer a way forward.”
“As a curator, Enwezor’s style was emphatic and exploratory without being ‘stagey’.
As a political science student in New York, he had turned to art criticism, based on his passion for art.
The facility to articulate his ideas of post-colonialism and inclusivity rendered his position even more compelling.”
“His curation of the 2015 Venice Biennale, for instance, was titled ‘All the World’s Futures’, in which he stepped closer to the idea of staging a massive exhibition in the mode of a multi-durational performance.
He specifically invited artists, filmmakers, writers, choreographers, to use a performative mode. Isaac Julien’s direction of actors reading from Marx’s Das Kapital, for instance, lasted over seven months.”
“I don’t make presumptions. I am not an explorer. I am not parting the waters. I do not operate from the point of view that there is something out there to be discovered.
I work in the field and fill the blank spots of my knowledge through conversations with colleagues, agents, double agents, artists, native informants.
Making an exhibition, for me, is manifested through an active engagement with research.
Research is the manifestation of an exhibition’s praxis. That is, to bring ideas to the public.”
“There are three audiences I am thinking about immediately.
First, the general, non-professional audience – you want to present ideas to this audience that are worth considering on their own terms, and in spite of everything else that they know.
The second is the audience of colleagues, of professionals in the field.
And finally, I am speaking very specifically to the broader historical field.
Which means: you’re looking back.”
“You are not going to reinvent the wheel.
But what you do with what you find – this is what curating, what exhibition-making is all about for me.
It is, fundamentally, an intellectual practice.”