TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT December 2019

Susanne Pfeffer

Susanne Pfeffer is the Director of the Museum Mmk Für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt, where she organized the current exhibition “Museum” as well as a recent survey of the artist Cady Noland. For the German Pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale, she curated Anne Imhof’s Faust, which was awarded the Golden Lion.

1
FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE

When a global movement initiated by schoolchildren succeeds in mobilizing so many vociferous detractors who have never been involved in anything but their own careers and who have no plans to involve themselves in anything in the near future, it’s a sign that something important is happening. And it is a true stroke of luck that, in Greta Thunberg, Fridays for Future has a leader who refuses to resort to emotional posturing, who represents her cause seriously and straightforwardly, and who so lucidly articulates how the exploitation of humans and the exploitation of the earth have always gone hand in hand.

Graph of wealth distribution in France, 2015, from Thomas Piketty’s Capital et Idéologie (Capital and Ideology) (Le Seuil, 2019).

2
THOMAS PIKETTY, CAPITAL ET IDÉOLOGIE (LE SEUIL)

The French economist’s follow-up to the landmark Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2013) sheds new light on the systematic magnification of inequality that is occurring globally. Piketty shows how traditional political parties on the Left as well as the Right have imposed lesser tax burdens on the rich than on the economically vulnerable, utterly failing to achieve a fairer distribution of wealth. He proceeds to offer a vision of how it could be done, with concrete proposals for everything from corporate governance (give employees 50 percent of the seats on company boards) to carbon-dioxide taxation (calculate it based on taxpayers’ contribution to global warming).

Fabrizio Terranova, Donna Haraway, Story Telling for Earthly Survival, 2016, HD video, color and black-and-white, sound,82 minutes. From “Ökokino” (Ecocinema).

3
ÖKOKINO” (ECOCINEMA) (TAXISPALAIS KUNSTHALLE TIROL, INNSBRUCK, AUSTRIA; CURATED BY NINA TABASSOMI)

The program of Tabassomi’s “Ecocinema” included moving-image works about biologist and theorist Donna Haraway, environmental pioneer Rachel Carson, and Thunberg. Soothed by the calming fragrance of the hay on one of the gallery floors, viewers could focus on the often-frightening content of these films, then lie down in the dried grass to reflect on the latest figures from the US, where, in recent years, three billion birds have disappeared without a trace, bringing Carson’s silent spring harrowingly close to fruition.

El Anatsui, Tiled Flower Garden, 2012, aluminum, copper wire. Installation view, Haus der Kunst, Munich. Photo: Maximilian Geuter.

4
EL ANATSUI (HAUS DER KUNST, MUNICH; CURATED BY OKWUI ENWEZOR)

Enwezor’s final exhibition was a wondrous affirmation of faith in his lifelong ethos, according to which we cannot comprehend the world unless we adopt a genuinely global view of contemporary art. Working with the detritus of consumer capitalism in his hometown of Nsukka, Ghana, Anatsui and a host of helpers produce dazzling tapestries that transform the gaze of the colonized (in Fanon’s phrase) into the triumphant rays of a shimmering dawn. 

Co Westerik, Liggend met een Engel (Lying with an Angel), 2018, tempera, alkyd, and oil on canvas on panel, 29 1⁄4 × 39 7⁄8".

5
CO WESTERIK (MUSEUM BOIJMANS VAN BEUNINGEN, ROTTERDAM, CURATED BY FRANCESCO STOCCHI; SADIE COLES HQ, LONDON, CURATED BY HELEN MARTEN)

The works of Dutch painter Co Westerik (1924–2018) are expeditions into the little rough spots of everyday life. Hands, feet, pores, the bumps and shallows of the body, are examined with depth and respect for their actual condition. Flesh expands and contracts and transmits emotion, as when fear makes sweat bead on skin. History—a sense of origin, of progression—is present, but it plays a less important role than the process of becoming, in all its granular detail.

Ho Tzu Nyen, CDOSEA: Flat Rhombicuboctahedron, 2019, acrylic, light box, metal frame, 76 × 47 1⁄4 × 1 1⁄8".

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HO TZU NYEN (EDOUARD MALINGUE GALLERY, HONG KONG)

With this show, Ho reckoned with the diversity of the vast region, encompassing numerous cultures and polities, that is reductively known as Southeast Asia. Suspended from the ceiling was a rhombicuboctahedron (twenty-six-sided form), each facet corresponding to a letter of the Latin alphabet, as does each “volume” of the artist’s Critical Dictionary of Southeast Asia, 2012–, which is less a dictionary than a database of texts, music, images, and objects. This exhibition, “Volume 8: R for Rhombicuboctahedron,” was an attempt to gain control of the maladies of language, not as therapy but as the unfolding of a work in progress.

Éric Baudelaire, Un film dramatique, 2019, 2K video, color, sound, 114 minutes.

7
ÉRIC BAUDELAIRE, UN FILM DRAMATIQUE 

Baudelaire spent four years working on this engaging portrait of twenty students at a middle school in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis. It’s clear from the outset, when we see a few of the children talking about what kind of a film they want to make, that Baudelaire’s work is about what they have to say. They become authors of a group project that demonstrates that community is not a given but rather something that must be continually reestablished. By showing us what they see and what they think about politics, racism, difference, the moving image, and the impossibility of documentation, they become the “ignorant schoolmasters” Jacques Rancière saw in the nineteenth-century proletarians who were so eager to learn. 

8
LA COLONIE, PARIS

Founded by artist Kader Attia and restaurateur Zico Selloum, La Colonie is a multidisciplinary venue, at once coffee shop, screening room, and lecture hall. The name was chosen pointedly. With the attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan discotheque, Paris became a scene of our era’s boundless violence, and it remains a scene of old colonial violence as well. That the two belong together is unquestionable. Attia and Selloum’s space responds to the demand that we reassess the concept of “the colony,” and not only through critical histories of colonialism. Feminists, refugees, activists, and theorists of the Anthropocene are as welcome here as the unknowing teachers from Saint-Denis.

Christopher Kulendran Thomas, Being Human, 2019, glass, aluminum, steel, HD video projection (color, sound, 25 minutes). In collaboration with Annika Kuhlmann. Installation view, Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin. Photo: Andrea Rossetti.

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CHRISTOPHER KULENDRAN THOMAS AND ANNIKA KUHLMANN, BEING HUMAN (SCHINKEL PAVILLON, BERLIN)

Shown in the “Ground Zero” exhibition at the Schinkel Pavillon in Berlin, Being Human revolves around a human rights dilemma in Sri Lanka and beyond: Only sovereign states have the power to guarantee human rights, yet by exercising this supposedly humanitarian power, such states impose their will on other countries. Perhaps, Thomas and Kuhlmann suggest, the fundamental problem lies in the very question of what it means to be human. Their ambiguous answer is expressed as a (biographical) walk over Sri Lanka’s parched fields and a visual reflection on the manifestations of contemporary art in the world’s exhibition halls.

Cover of the German edition of Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race (Tropen Verlag, 2019).

10
RENI EDDO-LODGE: WARUM ICH NICHT LÄNGER MIT WEIßEN ÜBER HAUTFARBE SPRECHE (WHY I’M NO LONGER TALKING TO WHITE PEOPLE ABOUT RACE) (TROPEN VERLAG)

“White privilege is deviously, throat-stranglingly clever because it owns the companies that recruit you, owns the industries you want to enter, so that if you need money to live you’re forced to appease its needs.” It’s the old story of repressive tolerance that prompts Eddo-Lodge’s bitter realization that it’s often “more comfortable” to interact “with openly racist, far-right extremists, because at least you know where you stand with them; the boundaries are clear.” As she persuasively argues in this book (originally published in English in 2017), her decision to never again speak with white people about race is the best political option, as there can be no real dialogue with members of the Herrenmenschen (ruling race). Never.