This paper examines the notion of emancipation and the various meanings it could produce. By analyzing questions such as ‘what is emancipation?’, ‘Can true emancipation be achieved in a late capitalist world?’, and other such questions, the paper will argue for true emancipation that is opposed to paternalism. Contemporary art offers the privilege of speaking from a global perspective and so by highlighting the histories of colonial, postcolonial and anti-colonial formats of international exhibition making, the paper will deal with the relevance of the large scale exhibition format on the African continent and its place in an accelerated phenomenon of ‘biennalization’ increasingly driven by dependency on private capital and Cultural Ministries of respective governments towards international tourism. The paper will also analyse some contradictions immanent to contemporary art. Although most of these transnational or ‘mega exhibitions’ proclaim a desire for progressive politics, the paper will argue that some of these claims are not far-reaching especially in the context of Africa’s anti-colonial struggle. In line with this, the paper makes the case for a decolonial ethic upon which a useful emancipatory politics could be modelled.
Key words: emancipation, freedom, art, biennial, equality, capitalism
***Note: A version of this text is to be published in the forthcoming publication ‘What Do We Tell Freedom, Now? Emancipation and Art’ from Obsidian, vol. 45, no. 2, Fall/Winter 2019 which thinks through “the history and legacy of biennales, triennales, and quadriannales in Africa as emancipatory practices”.
Read full text here: https://iubeezy.wordpress.com/texts/on-emancipation-freedom-and-art-2019/