When French Algerian artist Kader Attia was invited to curate the 12th Berlin Biennale, which opened this past weekend across six venues in the German capital, he kept asking himself, why put on yet another another exhibition?
Recalling his careful existential deliberation in a talk to press last Thursday, he said he didn’t want to pretend that art could change the world per se, but still felt that artists could help alter certain perceptions, slightly and slowly.
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With “Still Present!” as its title, Attia’s sprawling exhibition is devoted to works that help us see histories and perspectives that have been rendered invisible by colonialism and its afterlives. He pointed out that we are inundated by images and information, but that artworks can function as a magnifying lens that helps us slow down and reflect because they command a different kind of attention than social media’s constant stream. The artist also said, poignantly, that if humanity has only ever created machines for speeding things up, perhaps we could think of artworks as a tool for slowing down.
The resulting show, which runs September 18, brings together works by 70 artists and collectives from around the world, and is laden with research-based works—archival materials in vitrines, timelines and infographics, and many videos. Some works emphasize decolonial perspectives on ecology and feminism, while others respond to issues concerning the restitution of looted artworks.
Below a look at 7 of the standout works—nearly half of which are by artists of Vietnamese descent, a testament to the discerning eye of Đỗ Tường Linh, a Hanoi-based curator who is part of this edition’s artistic team.