Since the Triennial opened in early September a number of comments and observations about the exhibition have been addressed to ARTWOLFE, either through our email account or our WordPress site. It was comments like these that initially gave us the idea to publish an issue on public opinion of the Triennial, because we realised that people had things to say – and nowhere to say them! To date, there has been remarkably little press coverage of the Triennial and we hope that this issue will generate more comments, analysis and debate still.
Similarly to other articles in this issue, the selection and judging process came under scrutiny. As Gerdis Stadherr put it, “NAGN has to decide whether they want to promote Art in an honest way (which would be their assigned duty) OR be a platform for Politics – both at the same time is not possible…The political decisions taken by the judges ruin the art scene in Namibia because these decisions give the wrong signals especially to young upcoming artists. For a First Prize, an artwork has to be chosen for its cutting edge quality. This is a sore point in Namibian Art competitions. I have seen many young artists here who have been praised over the top by officials far too early for their achievements so there was no challenge for them to improve and in the end they simply give up because at some stage they were not good enough anymore.”
Alfeus Mvula expressed a similar sentiment in the interview he did with us (also in this issue), regarding the rewarding of amateur talents over professional art practitioners, and the impact this has on standards and education in art in Namibia.
Concern has also been expressed over the submissions categories, which consisted of 2-dimensional, 3-dimensional, New Media and Crafts. As Jo Rogge pointed it, “Hage Mukwendje’s portrait of his namesake has, in my opinion, been judged in the wrong category. This piece is an assemblage or collage on a 2D surface and new media art is widely accepted as “a genre that encompasses artworks created with new media technologies, including digital art, computer graphics, computer animation, virtual art, Internet art, interactive art, video games, computer robotics, and art as biotechnology,” (wikipedia). I would assume that any public information sharing vehicle (specifically in a Namibian context) should have some educational function and value. It hurts us all, now and in the future to not have these basic mistakes corrected in the interests of elevating arts practice in Namibia.”
NAGN’s ‘New Media’ category included photography (which was invented in 1839 – so, not that new!) as well as installation, conceptual and performance works, which significantly shifts the emphasis from the digital technologies that are usually considered to be New Media. In the end, there were only 2 video works in the Triennial, no performance or conceptual work and only conservative non-digital installations. Rogge’s comment seems especially pertinent under these circumstances.
Lastly, we noticed that people outside of Windhoek made some noises about how hard it is to access images of artwork that is shown at big-hype, high-profile exhibitions like the Triennial for people who were not in Windhoek.
Jude Irwen wrote to say “I hope your ‘zine’ will include plenty of photos of the artwork, and I wonder why nobody at the opening thought to share them with those of us who could not make the long schlep from the coast or other parts of this desolate hinterland to the “centre of everything.” We have been wondering about this too.
At NAGN’s official feedback session, the matter of publishing images of artworks online was discussed, and concern over copyright was raised as the major reason that NAGN had not explored this option as yet. There is some hope that they will begin to do so, as many galleries and museums worldwide publish material online in order to be accessible to more people and promote the artists they work with.
These observations sentiments expressed here are all opinions, expressed by interested members of the public. If you agree or disagree, feel free to comment or send an email to: email@example.com