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Jason Farago Comments on JM Coetzee Curating Berlinda de Bruyckere’s Show at the Venice Biennale

Writer and art critic Jason Farago has written about Belgian artist Berlinda de Bruyckere’s decision to have JM Coetzee curate her exhibition at the Venice Biennale. Coetzee and De Bruyckere previously worked together on the publication Allen Vlees, which combined photographs of her work with quotes by him. Farago says that he finds the decision to have Coetzee curate her show to be “a head-scratching affair”, saying that “sending Coetzee to Venice may result in a fish-out-of-water surprise hit” but that he “wouldn’t bet on it”.

JM CoetzeeThe Childhood of JesusDe kinderjaren van JezusHere and NowSlow ManDisgraceEen manier van vriendschap

Farago acknowledges the parallels in their work, such as the focus on the relationship between people and animals, but says that he’s “not sure if they go any deeper than the surface” as De Bruyckere abstains from moral judgement in her work, while Farago believes Coetzee is in essence a “moralist”. He goes on to say that Coetzee may hold conflicting views to that of the art world, where “to claim that some creative endeavor can bring us closer to goodness or truth can only be seen as a ridiculous anachronism”.

Berlinde De Bruyckere, an artist known for her disturbing humanoid sculptures, announced last week that she wanted some outside assistance organizing her exhibition for the Belgian pavilion at this summer’s Venice Biennale—but instead of tapping a professional curator, she’s chosen a writer to help her mount the show. And not just any writer. She’s tapped J.M. Coetzee: the South African-turned-Australian author of such austere, even pitiless novels as Waiting for the Barbarians and Disgrace, the man who no-showed the Booker Prize ceremony both times he won and who, upon winning his inevitable Nobel, gave just a few interviews.

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