• Gerardo Mosquera, Ntone Edjabe, Karol Radziszewski, Sabrina Moura
Photo: Tiago Lima
    Gerardo Mosquera, Ntone Edjabe, Karol Radziszewski, Sabrina Moura
    Photo: Tiago Lima

  • Karol Radziszewski
​Photo: Tiago Lima
    Karol Radziszewski
    ​Photo: Tiago Lima

  • Ntone Edjabe
Photo: Tiago Lima
    Ntone Edjabe
    Photo: Tiago Lima

  • Gerardo Mosquera
Photo: Tiago Lima
    Gerardo Mosquera
    Photo: Tiago Lima

  • Gerardo Mosquera, Ntone Edjabe, Sabrina Moura, Karol Radziszewski
Photo: Tiago Lima
    Gerardo Mosquera, Ntone Edjabe, Sabrina Moura, Karol Radziszewski
    Photo: Tiago Lima

Rethinking Time: Art, Silences and Histories

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posted on 11/03/2015
Final 19th Festival Seminar meeting is marked by discussions on political persecution against gay people, foreigners and political dissidents

Rethinking Time: Art, Silences and Histories, the fourth and final meeting of the Seminar Places and Meanings in Art: Debates from the South, curated and moderated by Sabrina Moura at the Sesc Pompeia Theater as part of the Public Programs of the 19th Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil, brought together the Havana Biennial cofounder and curator of New York’s New Museum, Gerardo Mosquera (Cuba); the artist, curator and publisher of DIK Fagazine, Karol Radziszewski (Poland); and the journalist and creator/editor of curatorial/editorial platform Chimurenga, Ntone Edjabe (Cameroon).

DIK Fagazine founder Karol Radziszewski, whose work and research are based on the queer archives of his native Poland and of Eastern and Central European countries, said he strives to build a historical account from a queer perspective based on his local context. According to Radziszewski, his research, part of which laid the foundation for the creation of DIK Fagazine, was based both on personal archives that revealed moments of intimacy and on the “pink archive” kept by the Polish communist regime. “The Polish secret police would collect data in order to blackmail gay people, and in some cases force them to work for the secret service,” he says.

Regarding private collections, he says he was surprised when he had access to the archives of LGBT rights activist Ryszard Kisiel, a series of photographs and slides produced during the dictatorship days that revealed moments of intimacy, the use of the body as a protest tool, always with an ironic bent, and a series of photos dealing with the AIDS issue. “I had access to a man who was creating his own work, his own world” and who was doing something unheard of: “There wasn’t any art connected with the AIDS issue in Poland at that time,” he says.

The artist does research as a means to create art, straddling different eras, materials, and languages. “I transform collage to create several artworks that relate to the original sources. My strategy is to use art in a political way, to work with this queer archive without restricting myself to the LGBT agenda, establishing a perspective that extends beyond gay rights instead.”

The founder of the Pan-African magazine Chimurenga [Spirit of struggle], which kept being published for seven years, Ntone Edjabe shared the experience of a series of xenophobic attacks in South Africa, 2008, that claimed over 100 lives and changed him entirely by forcing him to reflect on several issues, ultimately leading him to change the character of his publication. “Attacks, crisis, violence. These are not uncommon things in South Africa. It’s a new country, there are disputes, there are many unanswered questions. We’ve been having these attacks since the early 1990s.”

For Edjabe, Chimurenga was a literary journal or a platform for reflection. According to him, art and culture can be regarded as spaces of resistance. “Relevance is what defines culture production. When you write, you must know why you are writing. This is a condition sine qua non in culture. Chimurenga was an attempt to struggle against relevance. We wrote because we were alive.”

With the 2008 clashes, he says, “I became aware that we were being defeated. Questions arose regarding citizenship, nationality. We had been writing about it (Pan-Africanism) for 8 years. I never recovered from it.”

At that point, a transformation began. The magazine stopped being issued in 2009 and began anew in 2011. “We decided to switch from magazine to a newspaper format. The 2008 crisis showed me that we were experiencing a crisis of language, of articulation. Why not create a newspaper, a ‘time machine’ that would allow us to go back in time – not to revisit or recreate the experience, but to learn from the crisis and the language crisis we were in?,” he says. “When I talk about a language crisis, I am referring to difficulties in speaking about our own selves. We don’t have a language with which to say what we know. The newspaper is there as a producer of knowledge and language,” he asserts.

Ntone Edjabe presented maps created by Chimurenga, suggesting new definitions based on vectors, circles and open-ended borders. “What would maps be like if they were built by Africans for their own use?”. One example was a mapping of internal conflicts in the continent.

Gerardo Mosquera discussed the work of the Cuban artist Tania Bruguera. In the sidelines of the 12th Havana Biennial, as a protest against the repression she experienced, the artist enacted another performance: a reading of Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism from start to finish, nonstop. “The police wouldn’t let her do the performance on the street. Tania did it in private. It was legal to read the book at home. The performance began, and it was threatening for the government.”

Faced with the threat, the government started doing noisy construction work on the street as Bruguera read. In spite of the danger, the artist took to the street yielding a pigeon and the book. Stopped over by a policewoman, Bruguera considered giving her the book, but chose to set the pigeon free instead; it flew, hit a wall and fell on the sidewalk near her. Next, Bruguera threw the book against the wall, giving it the same trajectory and fate as the pigeon’s.

“This street performance was complemented by police repression. What she did by setting the book and the pigeon free was an improvisation that became symbolic of freedom and repression, of the individual against the State,” he explains.

According to Mosquera, the various manifestations of State repression against Bruguera, most of all in the latter case, led to the creation of a solidarity network in the country and out of it. “She is a serious artist who was threatened for standing up for freedom of expression. We could all be Tania. Let’s hope that one day freedom of expression in Cuba will not be just a performance.”

On November 4 and 5 (Wednesday and Thursday), from 1pm at Galpão VB, the artists Clara Ianni, Débora Bolsoni, Felipe Bittencourt and Rodolpho Parigi, featured in the 19th Festival’s Southern Panoramas | Selected Works show, will take part in the Reading of Portfolios, in which they will review past works by artists who have enrolled previously for the activity. The Reading of Portfolios is open to the general public and provides a unique educational opportunity, allowing access to the research and strategies of each of these artists. To attend, collect your ticket at the venue one hour prior to the event.