The Electric Workshop
where the flagship show
Alternating Currents will be held.




Keith Piper
Tagging the Other 1994
Video Installation




Sophie Calle
Neue Wache 1996
Colour photograph and book
100 x 75 cm




Steven McQueen
Bear 1993
Photographer : Peter Fleiss




Wayne Barker
The World is Flat 1995
Photo : Ronnie Levetan

The high point of 1997 in the contemporary art life of the nation is undoubtedly the Second Johannesburg Biennale and the events surrounding it. Opening on Sunday October 12, the Biennale has generated keen overseas attention, and hundreds of the top artists, critics, curators and journalists from all over the world will attend. The line-up ensures that this will be an incredibly stimulating event of unparalleled interest, and every person who can possibly get to Johannesburg before January 18 when the Biennale closes should make a point of checking out the offerings.

The artistic director of the Biennale is Nigerian Okwui Enwezor, publisher and founding editor of Nka: Journal of Contemporary Art, a critical art journal published in New York, and the theme he has set is 'Trade Routes: History and Geography'.

Artists from 63 countries, including 35 South Africans, will be amongst the 160 who will show in six core exhibitions at venues in Johannesburg and Cape Town on the main Biennale programme. In addition to this, there will be a number of fringe events and art offerings at alternative sites ranging from billboards, bus shelters, bars and restaurants.

In addition to the main events, the Biennale encompasses a film programme centred around African cinema, curated by Mahen Bonetti, a native Sierra Leonean who has lived in the United States for the past 20 years. This programme will be held at the newly restored Rex Movie house in Norwood and the Ster Moribo Kine Centre. Films will be shown four times weekly from October 9 to November 16.

To highlight two of many special projects: Paris-based Lucy Orta's Collective Wear Project will be a collaborative intervention working with local communities to produce 'collective wear garments'. This is a project that involves various cities around the world. Utilising billboards, Peter Robinson's 'Colonial Sale' Project will advertise historic buildings and monuments for sale, raising issues of colonialism, ownership and history.

Here are the main shows:


Alternating Currents' at the Electric Workshop

This is the flagship show, curated by Enwezor himself, along with Octavio Zaya, a New York-based editor, art critic and curator. The 82 artists here include such art world stars as Gabriel Orozco from Mexico, Ouattara from the Ivory Coast, Ken Lum from Canada, Vong Phaophanit from Laos and the Russian artists Igor and Svetlana Kopystiansky. From South Africa we have Kagiso Patrick Mautloa, Kay Hassan, Kendell Geers and Jo Ractliffe and ten others.


Transversions' at the MuseumAfrica

'In the digital age,' says South Korean-born curator Yu Yeon Kim, 'we have all become colonizers and are in return, colonized.' Transversions is an attempt to create a broad interface to decipher and reflect the interweave of contemporary experience. The 22 artists on this show include Xu Bing from China, Dennis Oppenheim and Gary Simmons from the United States. South Africa is represented by Minnette Vari, Stephen Hobbs and William Kentridge.


'Hong Kong', etc. at the Rembrandt van Rijn Gallery, Market Theatre

Hong Kong, etc. is an interdisciplinary exhibition in which Hong Kong's paradoxical position, straddling the divide between the East and West, is employed to map the cartographies of the modern global city. The exhibition will take place both within the gallery and, through the internet, in cyberspace and has been curated by Hou Hanru, a graduate of the Central Institute of Fine Arts, Beijing and now working as an independent curator and critic in Paris. The 11 artists in the gallery include Keith Piper from the U.K., Ellen Pau from Hong Kong and Bodys-Isek from Zaire. A further 15 artists around the globe will be part of the internet website - Artthrob will supply the address in an update - and then there will also be a video programme in public spaces.


Important and Exportant at the Johannesburg Art Gallery

Cuban-born Gerardo Mosquero , a curator for The New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, here works with the idea of "important" artists whose works exhibit the complexities of contemporary artistic processes as well as influencing the work of younger artists. It will focus on installation and photography, considering their role as two chief art paths for dealing with the contemporary kaleidoscope, and each of the nine artists involved will have a small one-person show in the Gallery Space. Artists include the South African Willem Boshoff and Sophie Calle from France.



Life's Little Necessities at The Cape Town Castle.

Taking its title from the old saying 'necessity is the mother of invention', this exhibition highlights installation art by women in the 1990s, showing how this medium has an ability to display and imply a variety of truths as an active component in their work. Curator Kellie Jones, from the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, says: 'The two ideas I wanted to highlight in the exhibition were: art by women from all over the world, and an investigation of how the personal fits into the larger issues of globalism and transnationalism that are the focus of the Biennale.' Listed artists include Lorna Simpson and Pat Ward Williams from the U.S.A, and local artists Veliswa Gwintsa and Bernadette Searle.




Graft at the South African National Gallery

The only all-South African show, this one focuses on the work of younger artists living both here and abroad. Colin Richards, art historian from the University of Witwatersrant, describes his show 'Graft' as addressing, directly or obliquely, three common meanings of the word: the botanical: 'graft' as cutting or joining; 'graft' as labour, and finally as corruption or black marketeering. All of these have particular significance in this historical moment in South Africa, and 'Graft' explores the way some artists are exploring these themes. On show will be Alan Alborough, Moshekwa Langa, Candice Breitz and the Sluice group, amongst others.

... MWeb

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