Sunday, June 05, 2011

Spring Rain: Okwui Enwezor on Ai Weiwei and Sharjah Biennial

The universal cries of liberation heard on the streets of Cairo, Tunis,
Benghazi, Damascus, Sanaa, and elsewhere, have in no small measure
awakened the global art world to the intricacies of the transitional
politics of which it had studiously remained oblivious. These are
interesting times, in which artists, curators, and institutions may be
compelled to choose sides. The question is, Which side? To my mind, the
several petitions that have been circulated in the past months have
failed in one striking respect—namely, their inability to engage the
larger complexities of the geopolitics of art, much of which they seek
to smooth away. If the capacity for critique and defense of the ideals
of free thought is to remain the bedrock of all serious art, then we
must submit statements proffered on behalf of art themselves to
scrutiny. The paradox is that while the long Arab Spring continues
apace, setting off tremors that have terrified even China, something in
the opportunistic response of the art world to recent events feels
decidedly autumnal.