Jens Hoffmann is the Director of the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in San Francisco. In 2011 he will be the curator, with Adriano Pedrosa, of the 12th Istanbul Biennial as well as a curator for the 3rd Biennial of the Canary Islands, for which he is developing an exhibition on Christopher Columbus. Additionally, in his capacity as a curator for the CIAC Foundation, Mexico City, he is organizing the exhibition “Blockbuster: Cinema for Exhibitions.” With Harrell Fletcher, Hoffmann developed the People’s Biennial, presented in 2010 and 2011 at five US museums and organized by Independent Curators International in New York.
ART iT asked Hoffmann for his thoughts on the coming year.
ART iT: What are some of the upcoming exhibitions and events in 2011 to which you are looking forward? For example, do you have any expectations for the Venice Biennale, or any upcoming in-depth exhibitions about which you may be aware?
JH: There are very few artists that really do matter and make a difference. Most of what we see out there in the world does not matter on a larger scale. Yet, not everything has to be relevant on a broader level to be appreciated in some way.
The Venice Biennale is the Venice Biennale. I have no expectations for it to be anything else than what it always is, a big exhibition of some good and some bad art. There has never been more to the Venice Biennale than that. It is politically, structurally and economically just too complex of an undertaking to ever be a more refined exhibition.
One exhibition to which I am looking forward is “Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-90” (September 24, 2011, to January 8, 2012) at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London next September.
ART iT: What do you see as the emerging themes that will inform the way people look at, think about and, of course, make art in 2011? What are some of the significant conversations that you expect to be taking place next year?
JH: I doubt there will be any major new themes or conversations emerging in 2011. There are still so many open debates that need to be continued before moving on to something completely new.
ART iT: Do you think 2011 has any potential to change the way we perceive the overall direction of international contemporary art? Do you think it will be a year for optimism, or a year for concern?
JH: Every year, every month, every week and every day has the potential to change the way we perceive art. We just have to be open for change, let our imaginations loose and allow ourselves to take risks. The art world is afraid of taking risks and breaking out of the system it has created as that would mean stepping into the unknown, a place of potential failure and instability of which most people are scared.
We always need to be optimistic and have concerns at the same time. That is the way we move forward. I would call it “critical euphoria.”
ART iT: A good forecast usually builds upon the past. How would you assess your own experience of 2010, and were there any particular frontiers that you explored this year?
JH: I have been able to spend much more time teaching, reading and researching other fields such as theatre, film and literature than I have in the past, and this has had a profound impact on my interests as an exhibition maker.