Contemporary And (C&): The biennale’s title, We don’t need another hero, as well as the title for the public program, I’m Not Who You Think I’m Not, underline a position of negation or refusal, in a good way. Where do these negations or refusals come from?
GABI NGCOBO: I guess they come from different places. I think one is an expectation of what the biennale will focus on based on our subject positions. The negations can be read as a way of distancing ourselves or escaping a certain kind of expectation so we can work with the freedoms that other curators don’t even have to claim. And it became necessary to have these kinds of negations, especially with the public program title.
C&: Why the public program title in particular?
GN: Well, we decided to start the public program a year before the biennale would open. So it became an important tool to create a space, to have this conversation freely, and not to wait until the artist list was released. The public program helped us set the tone for the Berlin Biennale, but also to figure out how to work with the organization of the biennale itself.
YVETTE MUTUMBA: It also helped us a lot, while we were on the go, to think about what refusal even means. We had a lot of conversations figuring out if it’s against something, or whether it’s about being elusive. Is it something positive or negative or even violent? In that sense it was quite useful that people had certain expectations – or still have – because it forced us to really think through what our language is, or what language we want to use that stands against those expectations.
C&: The title “We don’t need another hero” seems to focus on collective power.
GN: Yes, I think that’s important. You know, when people like us – also women in general – go into these power positions, often they’re not interested in changing the rules of the game. They kind of play that game as they find it – as it’s defined by, let’s say, hierarchies defined by white male power. Over centuries. One has to be careful about how one refuses that position, because of course we are not refusing our subjectivities, and the fact that when we start thinking about the exhibition itself we think from a certain perspective. We also get asked questions that would never be asked to other people. There are a lot of other people who think that we start from the same position, especially white women. They make remarks about a shared subject, focus, or theme, but for us this is not a matter of interest or focus – we can only begin from here, it’s our reality, this is us – it’s not our subject.