‘Portraits and wall painting form a unity: only in the pavilion emerges the impact’

Foto: Aad Hoogendoorn Foto: Aad Hoogendoorn

‘The Rietveld pavilion is a beautiful, markedly modernist building. That factors into my new work for the Venice Biennale. How do we see this building, in the context of the national pavilions: how do we present ourselves as a country? And: where is the black modernity? These questions cannot rectify the past, but they are a necessary addition to the future. I paint portraits of black feminists from modernism and combine them on a wall painting. It will be an integrated installation. At this scale, that is a step in my development. That experiment, the time and space to prepare new work in a focused way for almost a year, is perhaps the most exciting thing. The result to scale and the impact in the space will become visible in the realization.’

‘Contemporary model for the joining of worlds’

Under the title of The Measurement of Presence, Kensmil and her colleague Remy Jungerman, together with curator Benno Tempel, prepare their duo exhibition. This exhibition comprises, as Kensmil explains, art that comes from a counter-culture that develops itself within Dutch culture, by means of the current position that both artists take up. It will be a contemporary model for the joining of times and worlds.

‘For black women, the idea of utopia also implies survival; that offers a different view of the past and the future of the world and of art,’ Kensmil points out. ‘What I hope is that my site-specific installation will bring this experience across to the public, when they enter the pavilion. Remy and I work in different techniques, but both in a monumental way; we challenge and complement each other. We also both pay homage to stanley brouwn. In a second installation, next to the one about black feminism, I refer to brouwn and fellow artists, such as Charlotte Posenenske, Adrian Piper and David Hammons. Just like brouwn, they define their position in the world, by strictly determining their own artistic position and that of their work within the art world.’

In the run-up to the Venice Biennale, on Saturday 23 February, a debate will take place at The Black Archives in Amsterdam. An international group of artists, writers and curators will address the theme of transnational art, the diaspora and the journeys that patterns take, the gaps in our knowledge of history, black feminism, the meaning of the invisible and the role of the ritual in contemporary art.