Verslag van Yacouba Konaté, voorzitter AICA

Yacouba Konaté

Het jaarlijkse verslag van Yacouba Konaté, voorzitter van AICA Internationaal is gepubliceerd. Hij zal deze tekst uitspreken op het 43ste AICA congres in Dublin eind deze maand. Hieronder volgt het volledige verslag.

Door Yacouba Konaté

vertaling: Henry Meyric Hughes

1. Pro Decentralisation

I should like to congratulate AICA Ireland and thank them in the name of all of us, including the Bureau and me, personally. Only 6 months ago, it seemed unlikely that this Congress would ever take place, because of the difficulties the Section had encountered, in their efforts to raise the necessary funds. I should like to thank the Irish authorities and all those people of good will whose joint efforts have finally enabled us to be here now. First and foremost, I should like to thank our colleague, Ciaran Bennett, and his team. I know that their task has not been easy, but their determination has triumphed over all the odds. And I should also like to add my thanks to Liam Kelly, whose wise counsels have contributed to enabling us to be present here today.

This year, we are sad to record the death of a number of our members. In particular, I should like to invite you, to join me in marking in a minute’s silence, as a token of our respect for the memory of our Honorary President René Berger and the former President of AICA Croatia, Darko Glavan. Our colleague, Marie-Pascale Gildemyn, from the Belgian Section, kindly agreed to represent us at the commemorative ceremony for René Berger, and I should like to thank her for that.

Likewise, I should like to thank Marie Luise Syring and Christophe Domino for representing the Association at the seminars in, respectively, Skopje and Yerevan. These seminars which were mainly financed by grants from UNESCO’s Participation may be accounted a success. The Sections in Skopje and Yerevan deserve our praise for their role, in bringing this about. The seminar in Skopje was jointly organised by Suzana Milevska and the Paris office, and the seminar in Armenia by Nazareth Karoyan. Congratulations to both! We chose to devolve the organisation of these seminars onto the principal parties, to the greatest extent that we could. We feel sufficiently encouraged by the results to believe we can continue down the path of encouraging participants in such events to take on the maximum responsibility that is consistent with answering the trust placed in us by these who provide the funds.

2. ‘Calming down’ and Life in the Sections

After the Congress in Barcelona in November 2008, at which you did me the honour of entrusting me with the destiny of our shared Association, the Administrative Council, in February, advised me to exercise due prudence with the management of our current affairs. The advice of one colleague was simply to allow things to ‘calm down – we need to convalesce!’ Indeed, the background to the No Borders exhibition has been a factor in this, so one of our first tasks was, of course, to sort this out. Our finances have improved, but the general outlook remains a matter for concern.

That is why, in the end, you agreed that we should sublet our meeting-room to AICA France, at the request of the latter. This step, which was in response to our concern to reduce general overheads has also been accompanied by a number of other small economies on items such as the mobile ‘phone, which we could dispense with.

Now that the controversy surrounding the No Borders exhibition has died down, I should like to take another look at the proposal that we elect the former Secretary-General, Ramon Tio Bellido, to the role of

Honorary Secretary of AICA. The eleven years that he has devoted to the service of AICA have amply demonstrated that he deserves this mark of respect.

3. Life in the Sections

At least two of these subjects are particularly close to my heart. One of them is the provision of training for art critics and curators, which I hope we can restart in the coming year. The other is the idea of AICA Prizes at some of the large international artistic events, and I am pleased to note that this has, indeed, served as a stimulus to a number of Sections. Indeed, the Turkish Section organised a Critics’ Prize on the occasion of the last Istanbul Biennial, and I have little doubt that the Dakar Biennial will take up this idea, as well. Other discussions on the idea of prizes have been taking place in Nigeria, Senegal and Ivory Coast. I have already taken the opportunity of holding informal discussions in all those countries, as well as having the pleasure of meeting colleagues in Denmark and Norway and using the occasion to discuss AICA’s affairs with them.

We have also established contacts which are worth pursuing with some critics in Cameroon. Our Honorary President, Henry Meyric Hughes has also invested a great deal of effort in India and China, and we now have reason to hope we may be able to establish Sections in these huge countries, which play an increasingly important role in contemporary artistic creation. In the meantime, the Ivory Coast Section has been re-established, along new lines. Now it only needs to regularise its situation, by submitting the appropriate documentation, for approval by the relevant Commission. The Brazilian Section continues to take significant initiatives and might, indeed, be able to help us to relaunch certain Sections in the rest of Latin America.

4. Commissions and Publications

Our Commissions have given their support to the membership in a variety of ways, by advising them on a number of concrete matters. The Finance Commission, incorporating, as it does, the Fellowship Commission Fund, chaired by our dynamic colleague, Tineke Reijnders, has managed to raise some funds, to assist, above all, with covering the annual subscriptions of a number of our members.

Pending the reform of the Publications Commission, in anticipation of which we eagerly await Jonathan Dronsfield’s report, there has continued to be a strong collaboration between Ramón Tio Bellido and Henry Meyric Hughes, on the one hand and Lisbeth Rebollo, , on the other. The publication on 60 Years of AICA (AICA in the Age of Globalisation) is ready. Our only concern is the small number of people, so far, who have committed themselves to purchasing a copy, in advance.

Publication of the paper from the seminars in Africa is still conditional on their being taken up by Dakar Biennial’s magazine, Afrik’art. This should happen by January, at the latest. Alternatively, I have also being contacted in Abidjan by a modest publishing hose, called CERAP, which is willing to look at our proposal. The entire documentation will be submitted to their editorial committee in November, for evaluation. I am hopeful that this material will become available for sale in book form, in the course of 2010.

As for the website, there has been an overall increase in the number of hits we have received. However, there has been more than one occasion when colleagues have asked me for information that is already on the site. We should all grow accustomed to feeding the site and consulting it regularly. News from the Sections and even some of the more significant activities of individual members could easily feature there more frequently.

5. AICA’s Public Profile and Defence of Freedom of Expression

The amount of visibility we can give to our Association also serves to make it better known. Our colleagues, Andriano and Anselmo Villata, in Italy, have contributed to giving wider exposure to AICA, by publishing a very beautiful book on a great Italian sculptor, Maria Cristina Carlini, in association with us. 7 of our members contributed to the catalogue and AICA gave its official support to this publication. We also did the same thing for the Biennial of Mercosur, at the request of Lisbeth Rebollo.

As in previous years, AICA one again found itself to the forefront of the battle for freedom of expression. Our colleague, Geneviève Breerette, was the first to alert us to the resumption of the affair surrounding the exhibition, Présumés Innocents, presented in Bordeaux in 2000. An association of fervent Catholics had found this exhibition so shocking that they claimed some of the images to be potentially conducive to paedophilia. Henry-Claude Cousseau, the then Director of the CAPC, in Bordeaux, where the exhibition had been shown and the two curators of the exhibition, Marie-Laure Bernadac and Stéphanie Moisdon, have all been summoned to court. AICA has lent its support to these colleagues, in the same way that it will for Sithabile Mlotshwa, a Zimbabwean artist whose installation at the Pan-African Festival in Algiers in Algiers, in July 2009, fell foul of the authorities from his own country, who sent an official complaint to the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

5. Participation from Other Countries and Budget

As you will have noticed, this is the first time that a relatively significant number of delegates from Africa and the Caribbean have enrolled for this Congress. This is a beginning, and I hope that this trend will be continued and reinforced in the coming years. However, taking part in the Congress is not a goal in itself. The exchanges that result from this and the collaborations that grow out of it can help the relatively young Sections to play a fuller part, in promoting the role of the critic.

This is the third occasion, to date, on which the Getty Foundation has given its support to initiatives taken by AICA. In 2006, it did this for the Congress in Paris; then in 2007, for the Congress in Brazil. We are extremely grateful for its consistent support. We hope that this help, together with the help that we have received from other partners, will provide us with the means of organising some form of collaboration between Sections in the Northern and Southern hemispheres. We feel encouraged by the responses we have received to our initial approach to a number of funding agencies. We shall continue to work on this and develop our contacts, over time.

Nevertheless, it seems to me that AICA itself could learn to become more self-reliant. Several Sections make huge efforts to raise the fees from their members and thereby sustain the life of the Association. I should like formally to congratulate and thank all those Sections, a number of which have also agreed to pay their fees in advance. We may have some grounds for hoping for an overall increase in the revenue from subscriptions, but I cannot accept that the bulk of the funds we raise by this means should have to be set aside to pay for the operational costs of the office in Paris, without there being anything left for the Association’s programme of activities. It seems to me that at least $20,000 US should be set aside for organising seminars, however modest in scale, like those we have just had in Skopje and Yerevan, or for supporting publications. In the long run, we should not be spending more than 50 % of our revenue on administrative overheads. I should like to invite delegates to the Congress to think carefully about this question, to which I can only see too alternative solutions: increasing revenue, and reducing overheads.

We should seek to raise funds from, and negotiate long-term partnerships with, institutions and foundations whose aims are compatible with our own. The type of structural partnership that links us to UNESCO should also be investigated, in relation to other foundations in the USA, The Netherlands, Germany, or Scandinavia. But if we are to approach institutions in these countries for assistance, we also need to be certain of having meaningful and relevant projects to offer them. Then we can mandate Sections to engage in negotiating deals, in the name of the Association, as a whole.

In closing, I should like to thank Marie Luise Syring and Haydee Venegas for their collaboration. I should also like to thank Anne-Claude Morice and Akiko Issaverdens for their support and the dedication they bring to the delicate task of dealing with the Association’s administration.

I wish you each and every one of you a good Administrative Council meeting and a good Congress.

Thank you!

Yacouba Konaté

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