Crucify the Curators: A Review of Nigerian-born Emmanuel Eni’s “Death of the Curator” held in Germany last week

Emmanuel Eni is a truly weird one. Well, the world is yet to know a truly creative person who is not. Last week, he took to the streets of Berlin on a major campaign tagged Death of the Curator as Group Editor (Arts and Culture) of The Nation newspaper, Lagos, Nigeria Solomon Tai Adetoye reports

I will tell you this:

The people are not interested in art these days….

They do not know that their art has been stolen by the curator.

WORLD WIDE this is so.

It is a Global thing that is slowly sneaking into Nigeria.

Death of the curator introduces them to the pros and consOf curetted art.

– Emmanuel Eni

Last week, he once more turned the streets of Berlin, Germany, into an exhibition hall. The last time he did it was when he displayed Israel and Palestine. It was an audacious display of – what does one call it, the sympathiser weeping louder than the bereaved? Doesn’t the African have enough problems to be trying to find solution to the problems of the Middle East?

Yet here was this Nigerian turning the streets of Germany into an artistic rallying ground for peace in the land God has cursed since the days of Ishmael and David. Apart from the paintings on display, he had both the Israeli and Palestinian flags flaying as he chanted his poetry as wayfarer wondered what new form of Fela had come to their neighbourhood.

For four days last week starting on Wednesday, 20th of June, Emmanuel Eni was back on the streets of Berlin. Not on foot this time around but in a limousine. Neither was he campaigning for peace. He was leading what one might term a death squad. His target? Curators.

Hear him: “Artists spend their time looking for curators, instead of doing their work. When they do they are nothing but deaf people, who are robots on the string of the so called (curators). Many so called artist are opportunist who actually are hustling to fulfil their personal ego trip (art being the only profession where hoodlums who do not have any qualification what so ever produce art), like they have seen hospitals and airlines who operate without qualified doctors or pilots as the case maybe.”Emmanuel Eni was born in Igbanke, in the Mid-West of Nigeria, in 1967. Already as a young man he was exposed to a very active literary society where storytelling is a part of the daily life.

Studying in the faculty of creative arts at the University of Benin exposed him more as he travelled around, reading most of the early and classic writings over years, on stage, in many famous plays. From African, through European, to American and Latin American works.

Now you want to present the craze between Charley Boy and Fela (Abami) Kuti, he is a cross and crystal of the two. Totally new. Emmanuel Eni is equipped with great weapon, yes because of the politics and natural philosophical context of what he does with visual arts, literature, philosophy, poetry and music as a poet and multi-media artist.Check Masquerade Undressing published by Cpn publishers England, and the new drama Death of the Curator.Moving to the Shelves are compilations of poetry and transcendental and natural philosophy, “Fallandstand” and “Kindonkind”. Emmanuel Eni’s world of visual installations carry titles like Anatomy of Man, The New Period, Escape, and the recently realized Israel and Palestine, and the famous Junking of the Elephant. Other works includes the popularized performance Blackman in European Kitchen which he presented at the Goethe Institut (German Cultural Centre) in Lagos a few weeks back and Do You Love Machine.You can present Emmanuel as the line between the old and new. Something totally new.Death of the Curator is an eye into the future of art. In the parallel show to documenta 12 in Kassel Germany, the presentation of the performance is translated this time into an American Lincoln Limousine that is (a big present from a Germany-based sponsor) filled with art for the people to view, all the while with a live performance from the just published drama Death of the Curator poet accompanied by acoustic guitar from English-born master guitarist and interpreter David Gawthorpe all with the poet’s evocative deliverance.The limousine is filled with bronze, fibre glass and terra cotta sculptures, un-stretched oil paintings which adorn the limousine and the surrounding areas where it is parked. The message is – when the curator is out of the way, all art works will come out in the open and the people can have direct assess to art and artists; hence the balanced presence of art products in the world market. At this point one is forced to ask, what is art? Art is the other parallel healing hand of nature apart from science.His publication entitled Masquerade Undressing, is a compilation of poems and stories. Some of the tales had been presented by the Berlin Multi-Cultural radio, as well as in countless stage performances and readings.Eni’s latest outing is informed by his belief that “the world and the art lover slowly carry sombre faces full of gloom as they walk in, more confused – deeper, deeper into total contempt and abject abandonment. The so-called artists, relishes in this and has more opportunity to make his (often) baseless installations, video documentations or whatever means he or she chooses to bring more confusion to the art world.“There are now as many artists, as in other professions. Most go in the name of newness, universetality and globalization to perpetuates freely the misconduct in what should be healthy and balanced system of art participation (usage and consumption) thus destroying their freedom as artists being able to search inside him- or herself to find the true useful product.”Fielding questions from The Nation, Eni queried, “When did a carpenter become a wine-maker? When did a wine-maker become a surgeon? Only in the field of art are strangers in domination. The proof of formed tutorship can help to partly guarantee, that the bought or consumed art is from a professional who has been groomed in an institution or by documented master in the trade of art.“In trying to justify their irregular domination of the art scene (people, artist who are in many curators’ list, and participants in Biennales and Documentas etc.) argue that they can abandon their studios, and work under dictation. Also that they can travel round looking for curators and shows to participate without bringing their own work, the ones done by their own selves to contribute to nature and a better living. Their own original works from concept to finish. Artists are free and liberated in their work and judgement. Thus the above-mentioned argument is a farce. This can simply be called cowardice and betrayal to the human course.”He went further, “Where are we living today? In a world of science and in a world of art that looks like one of science. A world where art (artist) abandon(ed) their ethic, and code of conduct. In a world where pirates and no do-gooders have robbed art of its sense and robbed nature of its other parallel healing hand.“The avant-garde and so-called new art lovers are possibly left to themselves, with arguably a pack of self-named experts, who might have neither the qualification nor honesty to deal with the subject. Who often are unemployed people, who look for customers for their market.

“One is also strongly advised to ask for formal or realistic art from the so-called artist, before one allows him- or herself to be bamboozled into the ambiguous world of installations of video documentations. What are the millions of television and radio stations for? Is it a question of the brain can work but the hands and feet cannot? What is it that cannot be expressed and rendered with the hands and impossible feet? Could this be art, or senseless pranks? Explain it any how you want.”

He then chips in his main argument against curators, “It is only good and true when the art buyer is left without deceit from false ‘gurus’. The consumers are to cut out these intermediaries and go directly to the art maker. Through direct contact, they can be able to access and select for them selves which art suits them, the ones they need. This guarantees that the real artist remains sustained in the art market. In place of this, the art consumer and government institutions and patrons give large sums of money to masquerade institutions and foundations as well as selfish individual proprietors who mostly are egocentric tyrants, who take advantage of the careless government sponsorship of art. The people have a right to be able to deal directly with artist, on the question of art.”

Does the artist have not role to play in this enterprise?

To Emmanuel Eni,“On a special note, artists should go to the people, and show their works. It is the people who use it not foundations and curators who use it only mostly to earn their own living, in propagating and securing their position of power and influence. Most of these art forerunners also use lobby to improve and to ascertain their permanence in the society. Democratically speaking, power belongs to the people so does art in its essence. Why is an artist who is not represented by a gallery or any one considered to be out of the mainstream though he or she produces works, and expresses the lifestyle and time of the people? Still the people do not get to the works. In present day democratic era, everyone goes to his or her own doctor, lawyer and other professionals, but everyone does not go to his own artist. They do not know them. The galleries, curators, art Olympic places via biennales, triennials and ‘documentas’, together with the anonymously many print and reproduction companies, make the entire world live almost without original art.

“It would make more sense when the work of art comes from the artist. One unique person or persons in the closer society or in the larger one. The people must stop slowly with being in solidarity with the saying that everything is art rather they should start considering what their own art is, and how they can go straight for it without hindrance or delay. Art is a special thing. Not everything is special. Through organizing art, one destroys art. Art takes care of needs of time. It follows the situations and relates and translates. This way of judgement leaves a free essence. This is with what art heals and sustains. Art is free, with the people. Art needs its freedom and the people.”

Meanwhile, Emmanuel Eni is expected in Nigeria as from 7th of July (yes, 7-7-07) for a special presentation entitled CharacterLAGOStika. It surely promises to be a unique time with the knotty dreadlocked six-foot chanter.

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