Vibe Nielsen defends her PhD thesis at the Department of Anthropology

Vibe Nielsen.

Title: 'Demanding Recognition – Curatorial Challenges in the Exhibition of Art from South Africa'.

Time and venue:
15:00 at AUD 1, Gothersgade 140. After the defence the Department of Anthropology will host a reception at 'Glassalen' between building 4 and 26, CSS Campus.

'Demanding Recognition – Curatorial Challenges in the Exhibition of Art from South Africa'
This thesis explores how demands for recognition are influencing debates about curation and decolonisation in contemporary South Africa, where a wish to be recognised on the international art scene is constantly present in museum settings, art fairs and exhibitions. The demands are voiced by curators, artists, students and sex-workers, who demand to be heard in a world that they feel for many years has neglected Africa and African artists and not given them the attention they deserved.
The demands for recognition raised in South Africa are at times demanding for the often white curators expected to deal with them: despite or because of their often privileged backgrounds, they too experience their lives in an ambivalent and “betwixt and between” (Turner 1967: 97) environment as challenging. The demands for recognition targeted at them and audiences in the Global North can be seen as a wish to be ascribed a positive status in a society in which black South Africans continuously are marginalised.
Demands for recognition are often the driving force behind political movements and social struggle (Honneth 1995: 137; Taylor 1994: 25), but this thesis shows that they can also be one of the driving forces behind the establishment of a new museum: at the Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town, attempts to direct international attention toward the South African art market is not just a corporate adventure, but also an example of an institution that demands global recognition for Africa as a continent that for long has been overlooked in the global art world.

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town. Photo: Vibe Nielsen.