Brief CV
Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung (PhD), born in 1977 in Yaoundé, Cameroon, is an independent art curator and biotechnologist. He has been living on and off in Berlin since 1997, where he studied food biotechnology at the Technische Universität Berlin. He completed his doctorate in medical biotechnology at the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf and a post-doctorate in Biophysics in Montpellier. He currently works, parallel to his activities as a curator, as a scientist in a medical device company. He is the founder and art director of the art space SAVVY Contemporary Berlin, where he has directed and curated exhibits with more than 30 artists from five continents. He has worked as curator, art director and consultant for several international exhibition projects and festivals in Germany, France, England and Cameroon, and has published more than 15 exhibition catalogues. He is also the initiator and editor-in-chief of the journal SAVVY|art.contemporary.african., the first bilingual e-journal on contemporary African art. He has cooperated on different projects with the Tensta Konsthal Sweden, Goethe-Institut, Institut für Auslandsbeziehung (ifa), Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, Arsenal Institut für Film und Videokunst e.V. Berlin.
Curatorial Statement
My curatorial work is based on a continuous research in art and a zealous effort to create an articulated space, where art communicates with itself and with spectators from diverse backgrounds. I am interested in new positions of a creative curatorial practice and their relation to art from the “West” and “Non-West.” Furthermore, my interest stretches the boundaries of materiality in terms of the desire to find out how non-material artistic positions can be materialized within the framework of an exhibition and without merely displaying them as a „representation.“ Questions about communication form the core of my work. How can communication help to integrate heterogenic media, formats or backgrounds within the same frame, yet still produce an artistic tension and draw the spectator’s attention? My research also involves the creation of novel concepts and contexts of artistic and scientific expression and presentation, not only in relation to a closed system or space, but extended in open or public spaces in relation to time. Being an art curator and a scientist, my motivation takes the word SYNAPSE for its weight in gold. In many ways, my curatorial concepts and projects are reminiscent of the synaptein, i.e. clasping together and building bridges, as defined by Sir Charles Scott Sherrington.Bridging the cultural gap My interest in building bridges is reflected in projects I initiated, such as the art space SAVVY Contemporary, where my exhibitions are always engaged in a critical dialogue between “Western” and “Non-Western” art. By bridging the alleged gaps between the two, I strive at questioning these circular terminologies on the West and Non-West, placing art in a primary position and geography in a secondary position. In other thematic exhibitions I have curated, e.g. Nomadic Settlers – Settled Nomads in the Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, I endeavoured to invite artists from different continental, national, linguistic, religious and philosophical backgrounds, so as to get diverse nuances of interpretation and reflections on the exhibition themes. Bridging the biographical gap Before embarking on a career as a curator, I studied Food Biotechnology, completed a doctorate in Medical Biotechnology and a post-doctorate in Biophysics. Thus, my interest has always been to find ways to combine art and science projects, as well as researching on how these fields might be able to complement or serve as projectile for each other. To accomplish this goal, I organized talks by scientists in the realms of art exhibitions and invited scientists to contribute articles for the art exhibitions’ catalogues. For example in the exhibition Here and Now… Amnesia, a neurobiologist was invited to write about the biochemical mechanisms that lead to amnesia and in Nomadic Settlers – Settled Nomads, I invited a biologist to write about the nomadic behaviour of animals gained through evolution. This implicitness is at the centre of my work. The rebirth of the Renaissance This is far from a simple play on words. My curatorial work draws inspiration from the likes of such polymaths as Leonardo da Vinci, Leon Battista Alberti or Michelangelo, who are known to have championed the fields of art and science. The idea that humans have a limitless potential to gain knowledge and exercise these learned capacities in manifold ways was at the centre of the Renaissance and the backbone of Renaissance humanism. My work as an art curator and scientist is inspired by the notion of reviving the Renaissance. Projects include: NOMADIC SETTLERS – SETTLED NOMADS (Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien Berlin, July 2011), The body as grammar in the language of transnationality (Transeuropa Festival: Arsenal Berlin, Espace Jemmapes Paris, May 2011), Consciences and Frontiers (Alte Post Berlin, 2008).
Projects realized (Selection)
Curatorial Video Project – The body as grammar in the language of transnationality Curator: Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung Artists and films: Arcadia (2009) by Yaron Lapid, Renate (2005) by Antje Engelmann, The Phantom Desire (2009) by Sergio Roger, L’esprit de Madjid (2009) by Ines Johnson-Spain, Territory of intimacy (2009) by Verena Kyselka and Pandore (2010) by Virgil Vernier. Transeuropa Festival: Arsenal Berlin, Espace Jemmapes Paris | May 2011 The body as the backbone of a nation, the body as the grammar that functions in the language of ‘transnationality’, the body as an institution within and without the concept of inter-, supra-super-, or trans-nationality, i.e. the body as an axiom of the nation. In my bid to make this notion accessible by simplifying, without banalizing, I looked for art videos (as I am no specialist in film) that to a greater or lesser extent deal with the body. The criteria of choosing these videos was based on the artists’ lack of staging to create a particular surprise, suspense and mystery, or make the videos culminate to a climax, but rather the ability of the videos to be per se a low- and/or highlight. The intention is not to use the body as political apparel or to instrumentalize these movies as weapons, but to have the movies work, more or less, as allegories of real or imaginary structures or forms that might offer a possibility for understanding. The claim, hereby, is not to answer any questions, but to open more doors, allowing my neighbours and the spectator further possibilities for posing questions about the concept of trans-nationality and how it functions. International Group Exhibition – Nomadic Settlers - Settled Nomads Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien Berlin CURATOR: Bonaventure S. B. Ndikung (PhD) CO-CURATORS: Simone Kraft (M.A.) and Pauline Doutreluingne (M.A.) ARTISTS: Yasmin Alt (Germany) | Lars Bjerre (Denmark) | Marció Carvalho (Portugal) | Rudy Cremonini (Italy) | Dalila Dalléas (France/Algerie) | Yingmei Duan (China) | Roberto Duarte (Chile) | Juan Duque (Columbia/Belgium) | Antje Engelmann (Germany) | Surya Gied (Germany/Southkorea) | Michael á Grømma (Denmark) | Satch Hoyt (UK) | Lan Hungh (Taiwan) | Paul Huf (Germany/Mexico) | Bruno Jamaica (Portugal) | Essi Kausalainen (Finland) | Leena Kela (Finland) | Magda Korsinsky (Germany/Czech Republic) | Christina Kyriazidi (Greece) | Cyrill Lachauer (Germany) | Christoph Ndabananiye (Ruanda/Germany) | Inês d'Orey (Portugal) | Soavina Ramaroson (Madagaskar) | Joris Vanpoucke (Belgium) | Michael Zheng (USA/China) NOMADIC SETTLERS – SETTLED NOMADS Invited 26 international artists to contribute fulminant impulses and perspectives to engage in a process of communication between artists and art works, between domestic and foreign, between old and new, and to pose questions about what contemporary nomadism is, or could be. The project will flow in streams of Displacement and Identity, Memory and Traces, Myth and Mystery, Architecture, Space and Urbanism, Intervention and Replication, Otherness and Narration. The exhibition project will be accompanied by a catalogue book featuring essays from a multitude of perspectives, ranging from art theory, natural sciences, sociology, history to philosophy, as well as critical texts on, or interviews with, the artists. International Group Exhibition – Consciences and Frontiers Alte Post Berlin Curator: Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung (PhD) Co-Curators: Simone Kraft (M.A.), Sophie Eliot (M.A.) and Dorina Hecht (M.A.) Artists: Joris Vanpoucke| Antje Engelmann| Cyrill Lachauer| Berit Zemke| Nicole Cohen| Julio Bittencourt| Tuca Vieira| Soavina Ramaroson| Cie N.N.| Diego Lis Materon| Sofie Arfwidson| Lars Bjerre| Anton Unai| Surya Gied| Wafae Ahalouch el Keriasti| Emmanuel Eni Throughout time, artists have thematized human conscience and the frontiers it poses, whether allegorical, emblematic or symbolical depictions of a personified Conscientia, or – more prevalent – the depiction of related moral faculties, like Justitia or virtues and vice, as well as metaphorical narrations of situations when decisions of conscience need to be made. For example, the “Hercules at the crossroads” who, must choose between a comfortable and sensuous life, or a virtuous, life of labours, opts for “arête” and honour. Such is the case with the numerous confrontations of a life of virtue versus a life of vice established in Christian iconography. The omnipresent social differences continue to be a vital topic in contemporary art. Tuca Vieira’s remarkable photography of São Paulo, showing a ghetto and a rich quarter literally wall to wall, is of symbolic character – the dividing force of a simple wall could hardly be more striking. In a similar way, Yishay Garbasz’s photos of “The Fence” portray the reality of the Israelian-Palestinian barricade with its human and economic consequences.