12th Berlin Biennale: Decolonization or Uncolonization
The main discourse of the 12th Berlin Biennale reads: “With its selection of venues, the 12th Berlin Biennale maps historical ruptures and processes of political and social transformation that were initiated in Berlin but resonate far beyond the city. Against this backdrop, participants in the 12th Berlin Biennale seek to formulate decolonial strategies and practices for the present.”
Decolonization is a concept that in the last years has become trendy in the institutional art world. Maybe because sounds very cool for the people who own the power of the art world. Accidentally those countries who hold control of the art world are the colonizer countries. I can widely speak about this topic because I come from a colonized country (Mexico) and live in a colonizer entity (Germany). In the last decade, among the immigrant community, the term decolonization has resonated a lot. Please be aware that I’m using the word “immigrant” and not “ex-pat”, I guess the difference resides that the “ex-pats” come also from a colonizer country and not from an “ex-colony”. So maybe the “ex-pats” don’t need to be decolonized.
But before continuing to talk about the 12th Berlin Biennale and its exhibitions, it is important previously know what does it mean the word “Decolonization”? According to Wikipedia Decolonization „is the undoing of colonialism, the latter being the process whereby a nation establishes and maintains its domination of foreign territories, often overseas territories“. As you can read this definition has nothing to do with what the „cool“ institutional people and the organizers of the 12th Berlin Bienalle refer to. Searching in internet I found also in Wikipedia, a definition that gets closer to what they want to point out: Decoloniality
„The Decoloniality movement includes diverse forms of critical theory, articulated by pluriversal forms of liberatory thinking that arise out of distinct situations. In its academic forms, it analyzes class distinctions, ethnic studies, gender studies, and area studies. It has been described as consisting of analytic (in the sense of semiotics) and practical -options confronting and delinking from […] the colonial matrix of power.-“
Meditating about Decolonization and Decoloniality, I realize that the use of this term leaves the responsibility to the ex-colony countries and their people to „change“ and liberate themselves from the colonialism imposed. But! (sounds of drums) in order that a colonized mentality exists and persist, it should exist and persist in the opposite: the „Colonization“ mentality (I mean, living in Germany for more than 15 years, I know what I’m talking about) So these „cool“ institutional people of colonizer countries should also take responsibility and make exhibitions of what they are the shame of and not only from what the ex-colonies are struggling with. And that is clearly the case in the recent scandal of „Antisemitism“ in the Documenta. These people dont want to take responsibility but just simply hide behind cool words like „Decolonization“. I would suggest that these colonizer countries should start learning to UnColonizer or leave the mentality of being a colonizer.
These kinds of events are really big, so I visited only three main big spaces: KW, HambuerBahnhof, and the Akademie der Kunst. I will not mention artists’ names, firstly because is unfair to mention only a couple of them and second because I want to concentrate on the impression that I get and not make propaganda and distract your attention with empty words like „was beautiful“. This event has been characterized by highly political content. Many of them I consider not artworks but art projects or archive shows. Some of them were based on research and investigation of hundred of sources and data. And this is something that „political“ artists have been using to create „trendy“ artworks, I think because it is very easy to research, gather sources, like books, papers, photos, etc., and show them in the space. When I was there I felt in some kind of archive, the artists didn’t make any effort to use their creativity to transform the ideas into something with substance (in an artwork), into something of its own that give us their opinion about the topic.
I mean not all artworks were like that, there were also artworks where the artist really enjoyed the creative process and embedded their roots and origin in their work. What was interesting for me is the presentation of the USA as a colonizer country. The artworks related to this country were shocking! they showed the violence that the USA perpetrated during the war through images leaked in the mass media.
Talking about the diversity, there were artists from many countries, and the most significant works presented were from „developing“ countries, like middle-east, Africa, and Latin America. Maybe in some of the pieces, we could perceive the feelings that surround the society of the country that the artist comes from, hate, revenge, suffering, and sadness. If you go to visit this Biennale don’t expect to get out with a smile, but more with a thoughtful face, because this event invites you to think that thanks to the enormous problems that the people of ex-colonies have been suffering we enjoy the abundance in the colonizer countries seeing this drama from distance watching “cool” artworks in “cool” places drinking a nice coffee afterward.
Call to action!
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