The Berlin Biennale has announced South Africa’s Gabi Ngcobo as the curator of its upcoming event in 2018.
Founding member of the Johannesburg-based collaborative platforms NGO – Nothing Gets Organised and Center for Historical Reenactments (CHR, 2010–14) Gabi Ngcobo will lead the 10th Berlin Biennale in 2018.
The Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art was founded in 1996 by Klaus Biesenbach, Founding Director of KW Institute for Contemporary Art, and a group of collectors and patrons of the art such as Eberhard Mayntz, inspired in 1995 by the Venice Biennale with the idea of promoting a representative and international forum for contemporary art in Berlin.
The first Berlin Biennale took place in 1998, curated by Klaus Biesenbach with Nancy Spector and Hans Ulrich Obrist. Since the year 2004 KW Institute for Contemporary Art has been supporting the organisation of the Biennale, which since its fourth edition has been funded by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation). To further the growth and professinalisation of the Berlin Biennale, the organisation has been restructured for its 20-year anniversary in 2016: Gabriele Horn, until this year both the director of the Berlin Biennale and KW Institute for Contemporary Art, is from July 2016 director solely of the Berlin Biennale. The Biennale and KW are now operating as separate business units under the umbrella of the KUNST-WERKE BERLIN e. V.
The Berlin Biennale takes place every two years at changing locations throughout Berlin, and its latest edition, the 9th, ran from 4 June to 18 September 2016 curated by New York-based collective DIS, composed of Lauren Boyle, Solomon Chase, Marco Roso and David Toro.
Past curators of the Berlin Biennale include among others Ute Meta Bauer (2004), Maurizio Cattelan and Massimiliano Gioni (2006) and Juan A. Gaitán (2008). The Berlin Biennale writes in the press release that
With the selection of Gabi Ngcobo, the Berlin Biennale continues its mission of serving as an experimental platform for exploring and expanding the format of the exhibition and a curatorial agenda as well as for examining current global discourses and developments in relation to Berlin as a local point of reference.
A voice from Africa: Gabi Ngcobo
The curator for the 20th Berlin Biennale, Gabi Ngcobo, was selected by a selection committee consisting of Krist Gruijthuijsen (KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin), Vasif Kortun (SALT, Istanbul/Ankara), Victoria Noorthoorn (Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires), Willem de Rooij (Frankfurt/Berlin), Polly Staple (Chisenhale Gallery, London) and Philip Tinari (Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing).
A graduate of the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, New York and now a member of faculty at the Wits University School of Arts in Johannesburg since 2011, Gabi Ngcobo is a South African artist, independent curator and educator based in Johannesburg, South Africa. She has worked as Assistant Curator at the South African National Gallery in Cape Town and as Head of Research for Cape Africa Platform where she co-curated the Cape07 Biennale (2007). She is a founding member of the Visual Arts Network of South Africa (VANSA), and a founding member of the Johannesburg-based collaborative platforms NGO – Nothing Gets Organised and Center for Historical Reenactments (CHR, 2010–14). In 2010 Ngcobo headed The Incubator for a Pan-African Roaming Biennale task-force, a yearlong project arranged to facilitate the articulation of critical positions regarding the notion of a Pan-African Biennial.
Ngcobo has collaborated with various institutions around the world, including LUMA/Westbau, Pool in Zurich, New York’s New Museum and Raw Material Company in Dakar, Senegal, amongst others. Ngcobo is not new to international biennial curatorship: she is a co-curator of the 32nd Bienal de São Paulo, currently taking place at the Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion in São Paulo until 11 December 2016.
Ngcobo is also not new to Germany, having curated and participated as an artist in “A Labour of Love” (2015) at Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt am Main, nor to its capital Berlin: in 2008 she participated in the second edition of the Young Curators Workshop Eyes Wide Open on occasion of the 5th Berlin Biennale, and in 2014 the Center for Historical Reenactments presented its project Digging Our Own Graves 101 as part of the 8th Berlin Biennale.
In an interview about “A Labour of Love” in 2015, Ngcobo said:
For me, ‘a labour of love’ is working towards a goal that would intend to help humanity no matter how small the gesture is, almost like contributing a drop of water on the mind river knowing that that would help the river flow.
This statement can be applied to how the artist and curator approaches her artistic and curatorial practice, and to how she views the role of art in contemporary society and its potential to effect change.
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
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