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The Biennal: a geostrategic weapon

Contemporary Art | Since the Venice Biennial, established in 1893, more and more major cities are putting on a biennial contemporary art exhibition. Views on contemporary design are changing, with influence and power a factor at major events where courted curators unveil visionary themes : the biennial as a geostrategic weapon.

Parvis de la Biennale de Gwangju - Corée du Sud © DR
Parvis de la Biennale de Gwangju - Corée du Sud
© DR

Indicative of the forces at work, the influence of biennials is telling in terms of global balance. Once European (Venice, 1893), major biennials later sprung up in North America, (Whitney Biennial, 1932), and it is now Asia that sets the tone, illustrated by the influential Gwangju Biennial (South Korea, 1994), curated by Massimiliano Gioni in 2010. Its 2013 theme « Burning down the house » , from curator Jessica Morgan, is echœd in the « If the world changed » theme at the Singapore Biennial and the « Saku (booming) «  theme at the Kobe Biennial, which underlines an opening and the shift of the contemporary world towards Asia. This theme was taken up, less imaginatively, by the Sharjah Biennial (UAE) in « re : emerge, towards a new cultural cartography ».

The West is shutting down and starting from scratch ( » Palazzo Encyclopedico » at the Venice Biennial), searching for answers to its economic and institutional weaknesses in destructive creation ( » Effondrement et Reconstruction » , dOCUMENTA) and new political developments ( » Agora » , Athens Biennial, « The ungovernables » New Museum Triennial, « Mom, am I a barbarian ? » , Istanbul Biennial).

And the Marrakesh Biennial « Où sommes-nous maintenant ? » alone illustrates the way in which Africa is slowly preparing to become one of the next influential centres of contemporary creation; the same is true of Sao Paulo whose upcoming biennial in September 2014 ( » How to talk about things that don’t exist » ) will demonstrate the revelatory power of art.

Pierre-edouard Martial
Publié le 23/03/2014
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Parvis de la Biennale de Gwangju - Corée du Sud © DR

Parvis de la Biennale de Gwangju - Corée du Sud
© DR

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