Synantiseis: #6 documenta 10
ek
with Clare Butcher and Georgia Kotretsos

MAY
25
7–10 pm
Koukles Club, Zan Moreas 32, Koukaki, Athens

to echo that rainbow nation business of the time_2017

We were not a destination, not part of the extended map. There was land, but we were not en route. The South was not news but still posed a logistical challenge for the usual professionals in transit. Naïve, yes, to assume that a biennial could drop into a blank, untouched terrain—if anything it was quite the contrary. Isolated, no, as it came as a coalescent symptom of the bigger picture, wedged tightly between documenta X and 11: a dense era bursting at the seams with pathologies, conflicts, contradictions, imposed strategies, maps, routes, and more. Much-needed audiences were recruited—but for most part, to this day, the event exists as an echo, a rumor, a thought, a press release.

The 2nd Johannesburg Biennale: Trade Routes – History & Geography in 1997 joined in the euphoric state of South Africa’s Rainbow Nation, bringing along with it creative paraphernalia and the franchise of the known. Distance mattered at the time, and the notion of everything North was pervasively impacting lives in a pre-Internet media frenzy. Grounded at the southernmost tip of Africa, the event was all a rather hazy version of reality, its resonance resembling that of underwater acoustics. Yet it was devoured with unparalleled appetite—everything that had been out of reach for so long. It felt as if the South had teeth, a wet tongue, a gut, and a voice.

Our unorthodox exhibition history traces a web of trade routes over space and time, taking full advantage of our position as a secondary audience, a tardy public. documenta X in 1997 was curated by the institution’s first female artistic director, Catherine David, in 1997. The 2nd Johannesburg Biennale followed shortly thereafter, pulled off the same year by a young Okwui Enwezor, who immediately went on to produce documenta 11 in 2002. Now, twenty years after where we began, another edition has landed in Athens. For those physically present, these exhibitions are real, urban, and gritty. For others, they may remain shadows, outlined by weighty mother catalogs circulating among trustworthy hands.

Hence the time for storytellers is nigh (nè?)—those who neither confirm nor deny the past, testaments to the high strung, spun, loose-tongued and looped-lipped lingering at the doors of mega events. Faded facsimiles and post-truths play fictive witness. What does this knowledge become in the flesh, when word becomes mouth? Who is excluded in our effort to continuously include, re-route and re-educate the (art) world? What is there left to ?


Clare Butcher is a member of the documenta 14 aneducation team. Originally from Zimbabwe, Clare cooks as part of her practice and has organized reading, writing, and research programs with students at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, the Piet Zwart Institute’s Masters of Education in Art & Design, and the University of Cape Town.

Georgia Kotretsos is a visual artist and a professional spectator based in Athens, Greece. She moved to South Africa from Greece in her early teens while the abolition of apartheid was underway. With her work, she critiques the conformity of seeing by studying, and proposes and practices liberating and anarchic approaches of looking at art.

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