Okwui Enwezor curated ‘All the World Futures’, the signature show of the 56th Venice Biennale at the Giardini and the Arsenale. If you looked into the faces of the visitors at the preview (mainly art professionals, journalists and wealthy collectors), you could see a lot of confusion and disappointment. Often, even anger about the show.
My main problem with his all too narrow and dark show is that it lacks to point out any future for the world. Many works circle around urgent social issues like capitalism, colonialism, labor conditions, social issues and - also - Marxism.
If you thought history had closed the pages of Karl Marx’s ‘Das Kapital’, here in Venice, Okwui Enwezor reopens it and stages a lecture of it running every day through the end of the Biennale in November. Enwezor told the Guardian in an interview before the show, ‘I wanted to do something that has contemporary relevance and speaks to the situation we are in. And so I thought of Das Kapital, a book that nobody has read and yet everyone hates or quotes from.’
Many works are from, or look as if they were made in a time when Marxism was intellectual mainstream in the West, the late 1960s and 1970s. Sometimes you feel as if you were in a seminar on Marxism (like the video installation KAPITAL of 2013 by the British film-maker Isaac Julien), at other occasions you find an ironic approach to it (like Alexander Kluge’s ‘Nachrichten aus der ideologischen Antike: Marx, Eisenstien – Das Kapital of 2008 – 2015 featuring the German comedian Helge Schneider as masterblaster).
For many older visitors this show will be an unwanted reencounter with the fallen idols of their 1970s youth, or a surprising reappearance of a long time defeated enemy. I asked Russian artist Evgeny Svyatsky, member of the art collective AES+F, how he felt about this Marx lecture. He said, 'The readings reminded us about the 1970s (the epoch of Brezhnev) when we had to memorize Marx & Engels' texts just as a kind of a poetry or mantras for our exams in universities. For most of the people in a so-called Socialist time in the USSR it was more or less a formal text, a kind of ritual.'
These individual issues are probably the largest potential of this depressing show. I simply doubt that theories of the past (may it be Marxism or Monetarism) will successfully serve as solutions for the future…
If the show wants to point out all the worlds current problems - I ask, why is there no room to debate the questions circling around religious tolerance? Why is Christoph Büchel’s brilliant Mosque installation at the Icelandic pavilion not part of the Enwezor show?