The Global Art Project

The Sea is History

The exhibition title is inspired by the seminal poem by the St. Lucian Nobel-laureate poet Derek Walcott. The reference serves to emphasise the poetic undercurrent of the exhibition, while also highlighting the relevance of great Caribbean thinkers such as Derek Walcott, Stuart Hall, and Édouard Glissant within a wider geographical and theoretical context. The exhibition features work by contemporary artists who address issues of migration and displacement from both a historical and contemporary perspective. The exhibition explores topics related to postcolonial discourse that are not limited to a single geographic region, one type of visual art practice, or one specific theoretical approach. As such, the exhibition brings the individual perspectives and narratives of each participating artist to the fore, while also questioning how these various histories are interconnected and entangled.

 

Within this context, migration and displacement are recurring themes that relate to a timeframe that begins with the Atlantic slave trade and continues until today. If the exhibition were visualized on a map, the works could be understood in relation to an expansive sea, the ebb and flow of which is never-ending, and cyclical, where the currents move back and forth between countries and continents, through time and history. The routes on the map would extend from West Africa to the Caribbean, from the Caribbean to the UK and the United States, and also between Asia and the Caribbean. The intertwined and overlapping histories and stories are connected to an ongoing discourse that is fluid, open-ended, and unresolved.

 

At a time when migration presents an ever-increasing social and economic challenge worldwide, the question is how contemporary artists can effectively and sensitively address issues of migration through their work. The artists featured in The Sea is History stand out in their ability to convey a complex and nuanced picture of migration from both a historical and contemporary perspective. Derek Walcott's poems, and Stuart Hall's and Édouard Glissant’s contribution to cultural theory all provide valuable insight into the works featured in the exhibition and the topics addressed by the participating artists

Participating artists: John Akomfrah, Andrea Chung, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Christopher Cozier, Manthia Diawara, Isaac Julien, Naiza Khan, Hew Locke, Nyugen E. Smith, and Cosmo Whyte.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue to be published by SKIRA, with essays by Salah M. Hassan, Manthia Diawara, Annie Paul, and Selene Wendt, as well as an essay and a selection of poems by Ishion Hutchinson.  Poems by Linton Kwesi Johnson, Kei Miller, Christian Campbell, and Nyugen E. Smith will also be featured. 

A Sheet of Paper Can Become a Knife

The exhibition title is inspired by a poem by Tsering Woeser, whose ongoing struggle against oppression and violence has been a source of inspiration for activists throughout the world. Her description of what is presumably an ordinary paper-cut suggests that almost anything can suddenly become a weapon—inexplicably and without warning. Her poem resonates as an apt metaphor for the proximity and threat of violence worldwide.  The entangled histories of violence and oppression conveyed in this exhibition convey a deeply unsettling collective narrative of social injustice. 

Although the primary focus is on violence and oppression in contemporary society, the brutal weight of history looms heavily throughout. The stories that unfold reveal striking similarities between forms of violence regardless of location. Recurring themes include gender violence and the prevalence of violence against women and children in particular; censorship and surveillance; the exotification of the black female body, and shared histories of war, military rule, and political oppression. The featured works also shed light on the social circumstances that lead to violence and oppression in the first place.

Orhan Pamuk: The Art of Fiction

The Art of Fiction offered a unique journey through Orhan Pamuk’s literature, with The Museum of Innocence as the focal point. 

Orhan Pamuk’s critically acclaimed novel The Museum of Innocence is both a classic love story and an ode to Istanbul. On its most basic level The Museum of Innocence is the story of Kemal who falls so deeply in love with Füsun that he becomes obsessed with collecting objects that remind him of the time they spent together before fate would tear them apart—not only once but twice. These objects are spun into a nostalgic and sentimental story that also paints a vivid picture of Istanbul from the 1970s to the early 2000s.  

As viewers, we are invited to consider the symbolism of real objects that relate to a fiction. As readers, we are confronted with reality through intermittent references to Orhan Pamuk and the museum that he would later create to house the objects that Kemal collects. This playful balance between fiction and reality—so typical of Orhan Pamuk’s literary style—teases our understanding of both.  Neither a book about a museum, nor a museum about a book, these are two sides of the same story; one told through words, the other expressed through objects. As such, an epic tale of love, an ode to Istanbul, and an unprecedented work of art come together to reveal the full potential of the relationship between words and images, literature and art.

The exhibition featured twenty-nine replicas of vitrines from The Museum of Innocence in Istanbul.  Inside each vitrine is a selection of carefully composed objects that reference specific chapters in the novel The Museum of Innocence.  It is worth mentioning the strong link between Orhan Pamuk's vitrines and Joseph Cornell’s shadow boxes as Pamuk’s vitrines are based on many of the same principles: ready-mades, found objects, assemblage, the relationship between objects, and surrealism.  

The vitrines were complemented by historical film footage, family photographs, a sound component, and an interactive video presentation of Orhan Pamuk’s notebooks filled with texts and watercolors. The Art of Fiction also featured twelve original accordion notebooks filled with words and images, which have never been presented or published previously. These served to emphasize the importance of Orhan Pamuk’s role as a visual artist. In  fact, he dreamed of becoming an artist until the age of twenty-three when “a screw fell loose” and he decided to become an author. Although Pamuk went on to become an award winning author the artist inside him never died. In its entirety the exhibition demonstrates that literature and art are of equal importance to Orhan Pamuk.

The exhibition opened at The Museum of Cultural History, Oslo on May  22, 2017 and was on view through October 15, 2017. The exhibition was accompanied by an audioguide, and a fully illustrated book with texts by Orhan Pamuk, Bernt Brendemoen, and Selene Wendt. 

With generous support from The Foundation for Free Speech, The Norwegian Cultural Council, The City of Oslo (Kulturetaten), Films from the South, and Bergesenstiftelsen. 

The Art of Storytelling / A arte de contar histórias

The Art of Storytelling was inspired by Latin American literature and its distinct tradition of storytelling, and featured work by contemporary artists whose work is directly inspired by poetry and literature. Authors such as Jorge Luis Borges, Pablo Neruda, João Guimarães Rosa, Mario Vargas Llosa and Gabriel Garcia Marquez have all had a tremendous influence on the development of literature and poetry both in their own countries and internationally. Latin American literature has also been a valuable source of inspiration not only for readers and other authors, but also for artists. This was the source of inspiration for a comprehensive exhibition that featured contemporary artists whose work is directly inspired by literature and poetry. 

The Art of Storytelling was created specifically for MAC Niterói, with special focus on Brazilian artists. The exhibition included a very important community aspect that involved a collaboration with the artist/writers collective Dulcinéia Catadora. We developed a book project and series of workshops created to engage youth from the local community in the outcome of the catalog in the months leading up to the exhibition, using art and literature as tools to create a positive impact on their lives. 

Participating artists: Gilvan Barreto, Dulcinéia Catadora, Marilá Dardot, Magne Furuholmen, Lobato & Guimarães, William Kentridge, Cristina Lucas, Fabio Morais, Ernesto Neto, Ulf Nilsen, André Parente, Rodrigo Petrella, Rosana Ricalde, Eder Santos, Elida Tessler, Sergio Bernardes/Guilherme Vaz, and Nina Yuen. 

Follow the link to see the film about the Dulcineia Catadora book project for The Art of Storytelling:

http://files.cargocollective.com/556055/A-arte-de-contar-histo-rias-SD.mov

Jamaican Routes

Stuart Hall suggested that one should think of culture not necessarily as a return to roots, but rather in terms of routes, an idea that fully embraces an expansive notion of culture. This includes the routes by which people travel and also how culture travels, moves, develops, changes and migrates. As such, the exhibition title Jamaican Routes pays homage to Stuart Hall, and also serves to emphasize that although rooted in Jamaica, the exhibition extends well beyond Jamaica. The routes of this exhibition are complex and intertwined, reach from past to present, and back again. These routes are as influenced by history as they are by personal experience, whether they extend from Jamaica to Trinidad, The United States to Mauritius, from Kentucky to Kingston, or whether they are local routes that lead from Half Way Tree to the hills of Saint Andrew.  

Already well known in Jamaica and the Caribbean, the eleven participating artists featured in Jamaican Routes are young artists whose careers are on the rise internationally.  The  works in the exhibition addressed a wide range of topics, including the social, cultural and political implications of Jamaican music as well as themes that relate to Jamaican cultural and identity issues in more general terms. Although not a strictly thematic exhibition, the intricacies of Jamaican music, and dancehall in particular, provide a powerful undertone for many of the works featured in Jamaican Routes.  The works were carefully selected to provide a meaningful and nuanced impression of Jamaican contemporary art through video, film, photography, painting, works on paper and installations.  

The exhibition catalogue is designed by Richard Mark Rawlins, a Trinidadian  artist and designer based in Port of Spain (with strong ties to Jamaica and a deep understanding of Jamaican culture). Richard Mark Rawlins is also publisher of Draconian Switch, an art and design e-magazine. In addition to a curatorial essay by Selene Wendt, contributions to the catalogue include essays by the prominent writers Annie Paul, and Nicole Smythe-Johnson. Annie Paul is a writer and art critic based in Kingston, who also writes extensively about Jamaican music. Her blog Active Voice features witty commentary on current events in Jamaica, the Caribbean, India and the world. Nicole Smythe-Johnson is an independent curator and writer based in Kingston.  

Participating artists:  Camille  Chedda, Andrea Chung, Marlon James, Leasho Johnson, Matthew McCarthy, Olivia McGilchrist, Oneika Russell, Ebony G. Patterson, Storm Saulter, Cosmo Whyte and Andre Woolery.

Dulcinéia Catadora book project and workshops for The Art of Storytelling

The Art of Storytelling was a thematic exhibition that featured international contemporary artists whose work is inspired by literature and poetry. Curated by Selene Wendt specifically for Museu de Arte Contemporanea (MAC) Niterói in Brazil, the exhibition took place June 16 - July 24, 2016. 

To reflect the importance of the societal dimension of the exhibition project Selene Wendt developed a special book project and series of workshops in collaboration with Lúcia Rosa of the Dulcinéia Catadora collective.  During the workshops we produced 500 one-of-a-kind cardboard covers for The Art of Storytelling exhibition catalog/book. More specifically, youth from the neighboring Morro do Palacio favela, as well as catadores and students from local schools, were directly engaged in the actual outcome of the book to the extent that it reflects their dreams, aspirations, stories and ideas. The book also features information about the exhibition as well as documentation of various aspects of the workshops, in addition to short stories and poems by Paulo Scott, Sergio Sant'Anna and Fabio Morais. 

The creative  process involved engaging the youth to paint the covers cut from cardboard boxes both freehand and with the aid of stencils. The handmade process means that each cover is a unique cover created out of recycled cardboard boxes. Exposing the youth to literature was an essential aspect of the workshops, and each workshop began with Lúcia Rosa reading a poem and a short story. Additional writers and artists were also invited to meet with and inspire the participating youth. Invited guests included Magne Furholmen and Rosana Ricalde, who are also participating artists in the exhibition, as well as Paulo Scott.  

Dulcinéia Catadora’s work in general is driven by clearly defined ideals. They provide a platform for artistic and literary expression for individuals whose voices would otherwise not be heard and for the underprivileged of society, which is why Dulcinéia Catadora also pays workers of the recycling cooperative (catadores) who are members of the Dulcinéia Catadora collective for the books that they make. With The Art of Storytelling book project, both the youth and the catadores who were involved were directly compensated for their time and participation.

What makes The Art of Storytelling book project so special is that it provided a unique opportunity to empower underprivileged youth within the context of an important international exhibition at an established Brazilian museum. By bringing the youth into the project at an early stage, with art and literature as our tools, we sought to empower the youth and ensure that their voices were heard in terms of the hand-painted covers, the actual content of the publication, and also in relation to a collective work that became an important and vital part of the exhibition itself.

Participating artists in the exhibition:

Gilvan Barreto, Dulcinéia Catadora, Marilá  Dardot, Magne Furuholmen, Lobato & Guimaraes, William Kentridge, Cristina Lucas, Fabio Morais, Ernesto Neto, Ulf Nilsen, Andre Parente, Rodrigo Petrella, Rosana Ricalde, Eder Santos, Elida Tessler, Sergio Bernardes/Guilherme Vaz and Nina Yuen.  

Please click on the link to see a short film about the project:

http://files.cargocollective.com/556055/A-arte-de-contar-histo-rias-SD.mov

Mind the Map

In 2014 Norway celebrated the 200-year anniversary of its constitution. To mark this occasion, Punkt Ø/Galleri F 15 invited Selene Wendt to curate an exhibition that also included archival maps from around the time of the signing of The Moss Convention, which was the peace treaty that formed the basis for the union between Sweden and Norway.  Historical maps were complemented by a more comprehensive presentation of contemporary art, featuring work by artists who work with cartography and maps either directly or in a more subtle manner, resulting in an exhibition that was political, poetic, conceptual and highly visual, revealing issues related to power structures and geopolitics seen from the perspective of a world in constant change. The historical aspect of the exhibition emphasized the importance of Moss to the outcome of Norwegian history. Expanding the parameters of the exhibition from the topic of a local site of national importance, the work of these international contemporary artists helps to emphasize the importance of a more global perspective rather than an overly nationalistic one.

Participating artists: Mona Hatoum, Bouchra Khalili. Joyce Kozloff, Miler Lagos, Kevin Simón Mancera, Julie Mehretu,  Fabio Morais, Vik Muniz, Rosana Ricalde and Susan Stockwell

The Storytellers: Narratives in International Contemporary Art

The story begins on the pages of the literary treasures that turn libraries into places of magic and wonder. Inspired by the powerful narratives that unfold in award-winning books, the artists featured in The Storytellers translate the stories of legendary authors into magnificent works of art. This exhibition was initially inspired by a personal interest in Latin American literature and its distinct tradition of storytelling. Authors such as Jorge Luis Borges, Pablo Neruda, Mario Vargas Llosa, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Octavio Paz, Reinaldo Arenas and Jorge Amado have all had a tremendous influence on the development of literature and poetry both in their home countries and internationally. Neruda’s poems, Borges’ labyrinths and Marquez’s magical realism, is the stuff that bibliophile dreams are made of. Through the years,their stories and poems have provided a valuable source of inspiration not only for other authors, but also for artists. More than ever before, the impact of literature is also seen within the realm of international contemporary art.

While the inspirational seed for this exhibition was planted in Latin America, it has grown and blossomed far beyond its roots, reaching across geographical, linguistic, and creative borders. The result is an exhibition that features contemporary artists from around the world whose work is also inspired by authors such as James Joyce, William Blake, Karl Marx, Virginia Woolf, Ibsen, Italo Calvino and Rimbaud.  

The exhibition title is inspired by Mario Vargas Llosa’s book The Storyteller, a captivating story with an intricate narrative that juxtaposes the voice of  the narrator with chapters relating to Peruvian Indian mythology. The Storyteller contains all the elements of a classic, award-winning novel: an underlying personal struggle and a search for meaning and truth found along the path of a life-changing journey of discovery. The story hints at many of the underlying themes in this exhibition, and also captures the unique and powerful storytelling qualities of many of the artists featured in this exhibition.  Just as Mario Vargas Llosa guides us into a mythic and magical world with his poetic tale of a storyteller, the artists included in this exhibition are visual storytellers who capture our imagination with their interpretations of some of the greatest stories ever written. 

Participating artists: Georges Adéagbo, Liliana Angulo, Mónica Bengoa, Milena Bonilla, Monika Bravo, Ryan Brown, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Eloisa Cartonera, William Cordova, Mariliá Dardot, Alfredo Jaar, William Kentridge, Lobato & Guimarães, Cristina Lucas, Fabio Morais, Ernesto Neto, Ulf Nilsen, Rosana Ricalde, Eder Santos, Tracey Snelling, Valeska Soares, Elida Tessler, Sergio Vega, Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries, and Nina Yuen.

Participating artist in The Storytellers: Ernesto Neto

To enter the world of Ernesto Neto is to take a personal journey of the imagination, and with Circleprototemple, 2010, we are also introduced to the philosophical and metaphysical world of Jorge Luis Borges. Neto’s installation makes specific reference to The Circular Ruins, an intricate and complicated tale that involves the journey of a wizard who enters circular ruins where he has one goal, to create a son through his own dreams and imagination. Ernesto Neto’s red, heart-shaped structure is a fantastic metaphor for the beating heart described in Borges’ story; the drum inside immediately brings to mind the intense sound of a heartbeat. 

Participating artist in The Storytellers: Marilá Dardot

Marilá Dardot captures the complexity and mystery of Jorge Luis Borges’ famous short story, The Book of Sand, in an exquisite work that she created in 1999. Her interpretation of this Borgesian tale is, in fact, a book of mirrors. From a bibliophile’s perspective, the work resonates with the beauty of a rare and coveted book. The conceptual power lies in the link to the paradoxical book that is featured in Borges’ short story, which is built around the idea of a book  whose pages are infinite. As described in classic Borgesian prose, “neither sand nor this book has a beginning or an end.” As is typical for Borges, the tale is spun from an intricate web of secrets, treasures, riddles and dreams related in a surreal and unforgettable narrative.