For this year’s Venice Biennale, curatorial director Okwui Enwezor has planned a performance that owes more to Andy Kaufmann than Andy Warhol. He has enlisted actors to stage an epic-length live reading of the three volumes of Karl Marx’s magnum opus, Das Kapital, in a central space, the Arena, designed by the Ghanaian British architect David Adjaye. “Das Kapital will serve as a kind of oratorio that will be continuously read live, throughout the exhibition’s seven months’ duration,” says Enwezor, the director of the Haus der Kunst, in Munich, and one of the art world’s most traveled intellectuals.
Enwezor, who grew up in Nigeria and moved to New York at 18, is the first curator in a generation tapped to lead both Documenta, in Kassel, Germany, and the Biennale—and the first African to helm either. He is well attuned to the powerful mechanisms of history, particularly the challenges of post-colonialism and late capitalism, two frequent themes in his curatorial practice.
“Beyond the distemper and disorder in the current state of things, there is one pervasive preoccupation that has been at the heart of our time and modernity,” Enwezor says, in his typically orotund style. “That preoccupation is the nature of capital, both its fiction and reality. Capital is the great drama of our age.”
He cited the 1974 edition of the Biennale, which rallied against Augusto Pinochet’s coup d’état in Chile, as a major inspiration as he assembled the 2015 show.
“The dedication of the program of events to Chile and against fascism that year remains one of the most explicit attempts, in recent memory, by which an exhibition of the stature of the Biennale not only responds but also courageously steps forward to share the historical stage with the political and social contexts of its time,” Enwezor says. Starting in May, Enwezor hopes to repeat that very feat.