Explicitly political context

with Anton Vidokle

Artist and the founder of the e-flux journal, Anton Vidokle, was one of the first who raised the educational topic within the exhibition space. After the loud cancellation on ethnic basis of Manifesta 6 in 2005, where Vidokle was taking part as a co-curator, he, in collaboration with Boris Groys, Liam Gillick, Nikolaus Hirsch and other practitioners, he set an independent platform – the Unitednastionsplaza – in Berlin. The archives of this project were presented, as a documentation of one of the first art events positioning the education as an exhibition, on 1st Tbilisi Triennial.

CaucasusArtMag: How do you see the possible continuation of the issues raised on the 1st Tbilisi Triennial?

Anton Vidokle: I think the conversation and discussion has ended few years ago. What is happening right now is some kind of rehearsal.

CAM: But what was the reason to visit Tbilisi then?

A.V.: Well, there are always multiple reasons for somebody to come. I wanted to visit Georgia since my childhood and this was the specific opportunity of course, but I also wanted to show an archive of my project, maybe just because the subjects are very similar. Time passes, public will forget about them that’s why it’s interesting and maybe even important to present an archive in context of Unitednationsplaza, in this case. There were quite interesting people collaborating around the Berlin project. Five or six years ago, it was one of the first art project that positioned education as an exhibition, as an artistic work. Again, it’s especially significant for me to present those archives in a certain way. Although in the conversation about education, I don’t really see that it’s clear. Lots of people are attracted by this particular topic for different reasons. For example with this show what I was worried about, education is being chosen as a topic or as a subject of triennial in a very politically complex, very agonistic… And education is kind of… Nobody is against education. Everybody is for it, right?

CAM: It’s also about the attitudes towards the education…

A.V.: But when you make the subject of triennial out of that, it gives you some kind of a role. In fact it’s much more complex. My project was explicitly political, you know. Basically it started as an exhibition as a biennale on Cyprus which immediately turned into the huge political problem; it was canceled, fired… It was really something quite dramatic – the gigantic law suit against curators, against foundation of Manifesta… I was forced to continue it in kind of an exile position in Berlin. The entire problem was developed from Cyprus because of ethnic and political tensions between Turkish and Greek sides. This is what worries me in this whole discussion about the education and the only reason of ending it up in Berlin or New York was this huge, huge problem. I think there is or should be the sort of consensus in education, you cannot really criticize that much, and it makes me very irritated.

CAM: We’d like to use the opportunity and touch your personal experience. More or less it can be said that e-flux informs the world and it’s also the notable part of education in the wider sense of the word.

A.V.: We started just like you, with a very small group of maybe three or four artists without any resources for doing something and had never had this kind of ambition to inform the world… The idea was to set up a platform which would serve as the informational medium for the many ongoing worthwhile projects that didn’t had enough money for the advertisement. In 1998 relatively few people had e-mail addresses. Only 10 or 15 % of my friends actually used e-mail. Most of them were based in New York. It was very, very small, very local gesture. We were just experimenting. So we didn’t really think that it could be kind of a certain grow. Perhaps we realized that much latter, when we understood that a lot of people around the world were reading our journal and it was international. After couple of years even my mother was using it. That’s quite interesting what happened in the last decade or so… There are more than two hundred biennials around the world, add art fairs also. And the traditional forms holding them together in the past do not work anymore…