Forword by Solveig Øvstebø


Elena Filipovic, Marieke van Hal, and Solveig Øvstebø, “Biennialogy”




Donald Preziosi, “The Crystalline Veil and the Phallomorphic Imaginary” (2001)


Maria Hlavajova, “How to Biennial: A Consideration of the Biennial in Relation to the Art Institution”


Marian Pastor Roces, “Crystal Palace Exhibitions” (2004)


Ranjit Hoskote, “Biennials of Resistance: Reflections on the Seventh Gwangju Biennial”


Caroline A. Jones, “The Historical Origins of the Biennial”


Elena Filipovic, “The Global White Cube” (2005)


Rafal Niemojewski, “Venice or Havana: A Polemic on the Genesis of the Contemporary Biennial”


Vinicius Spricigo, “Changes in Strategies of (Re)presentation at the São Paulo Biennial”


Yacouba Konaté, “The Invention of the Dakar Biennial” (2009))


Bruce W. Ferguson and Milena M. Hoegsberg, “Talking and Thinking about Biennials: The Potential of Discursivity”




Carlos Basualdo, “The Unstable Institution” (2003)


Charlotte Bydler, “The Global Art World, Inc.: On the Globalization of Contemporary Art” (2004)


Lawrence Alloway, “The Biennial in 1968” (1969)


Thomas McEvilley, “Arrivederci, Venice: The Third World Biennials” (1993)


Simon Sheikh, “Marks of Distinction, Vectors of Possibility: Questions for the Biennial” (2009)


Gerardo Mosquera, “The Marco Polo Syndrome: Some Problems around Art and Eurocentrism” (1992)


John Clark, “Biennials as Structures for the Writing of Art History: The Asian Perspective”


Okwui Enwezor, “Mega-Exhibitions and the Antinomies of a Transnational Global Form” (2004)


Jan Verwoert, “The Curious Case of Biennial Art”


George Baker, “The Globalization of the False: A Response to Okwui Enwezor” (2004)


Gerardo Mosquera, “The Havana Biennial: A Concrete ‘Utopia’”


Sabine Marschall, “The Impact of the Two Johannesburg Biennials on the Formation of a ‘New South African Art’” (1999)


Oliver Marchart, “Hegemonic Shifts and the Politics of Biennialization: The Case of Documenta” (2008)


Daniel Buren, “Exhibition of an Exhibition” (1972) and “Where Are the Artists?” (2004)


Biographies of contributors


Michael Brenson, “The Curator’s Moment: Trends in the Field of International Contemporary Art Exhibitions” (1998)


Bibliography on biennials


Paul O’Neill, “The Curatorial Turn: From Practice to Discourse” (2007)




Federica Martini & Vittoria Martini, “Questions of Authorship in Biennial Curating”




Raqs Media Collective, “On Curatorial Responsibility”



Norway. the City of Bergen agreed. we wanted to create a platform where crucial aspects of the phenomenon of the perennial exhibition could be discussed. The incredible debate that ensued prompted intense and vivid exchanges among the leading historians. curators. and 9 . Well aware of both the rewards and the problematic realities of founding a new biennial. scholars. Thirty-three professionals from all over the world. as well as an audience that was both local and international. rather than immediately succumbing to the seductive power this exhibition format can have. at the encouragement of the Bergen Kunsthall. critics. to begin the planning process with a this exceptional open-mindedness that the City of Bergen. To conceive this conference.The Biennial Reader FOREWORD This publication has its origins in the Bergen City Council’s interest in establishing a biennial of contemporary art in Bergen. gave the Ber- for a Bergen Biennial. thus tials and problems of the production and presentation of contemporary art with the large-scale exhibition format. which developed into one of the most extensive dis- 8 Together.

some of which are derived from lectures given at the Bergen Biennial Conference. and this convinced us all of the need for a more profound publication about the biennial phenomenon.The Biennial Reader - constitutes the world’s most comprehensive documentary resource on biennials. which provided us with valuable source material to draw upon in the process of conceiving both the conference and what later became The Biennial Reader. ten on the subject of biennials. which we hope will serve as an inspiration for further research. Although it is still uncertain if Bergen will one day host a biennial of its own. one that would serve not 10 letting us develop our project one step further with the publication of The Biennial Reader. tion of the Bergen Biennial Conference and the preparation of The Biennial Reader. - hibition phenomenon. tant part of our approach to this project. Our research and the “Call for Biennial Knowledge” new contributions. The City of Bergen’s plan included producing a publication. Solveig Øvstebø Director Bergen Kunsthall 11 . which saw research as a crucial starting point. The Biennial Reader reviews of the various sessions of the conference. the lication. will surely stimulate future artistic and curatorial development in the city. We can say the same about the international “Call for Biennial Knowledge” issued prior to the conference. which was initially encarried out in preparation for the conference revealed that there was a lamentable paucity of material on biennials. but also incorporates lication possible. ones that have shaped scholarship and curating and have opened up the possibility for continued debate today.

and demanding contemporary condition. What.BIENNIALOGY céticos blown symptom of spectacular event culture. however.” And between the contradictory positions of either malaise or rapture. is a biennial? Over the years. dar conta / perhaps no other art institution before it—for grappling with such issues as politics. but the “proliferation” we now attribute to the biennial was slow and. mir- 13 . cynicism or critical embrace lie questions about what a biennial can or should be. a Western world. Marieke van Hal and Solveig Øvstebø The now- Others were established in the decades that followed. diversely veined. speculations. the term has been used to refer to a vast - 12 3 4 Elena Filipovic. And while being emphatically also enfrentar the biennial’s supporters often understand it as being “neither exclusively nor even in his essay in this volume. in many ways.”1 vital alternative to museums and other similar institutions whose institutional inart’s developments. where such events are little more than entertaining or commercially driven and damningly reduced to “festivalism. and investigations concerning the nature of our shared. the result of some of the most specious transformations of the world in the age of late capitalism—in short. resolver / today. but rather as “a discursive environment: a theater that allows for the staging of arguments.

architecture. and more - - ennials. and generation of public discourse around contemporary art. a panoramic view of a new generation of artists. And there are others: Tania Bruguera’s The Burden of Guilt Western Deep Waste Not - 6 abreviada / estrita Other related evocative descriptions of their regional or other focuses. sometimes dispersed across several locations in a al in ambition. history. artists. who critically examine the biennial’s conceptual. is to attempt to understand something crucial about our culture today. and politi- then it is the largely been “the biennial exhibition that has arguably since proved to be the medium through which in the span of just a few decades. the writing of that history should also involve the analysis of the site or 11 15 .The Biennial Reader Biennialogy Elena Filipovic. the creation of curating courses. 14 or perceiving its proliferation as a problem in itself.” To attempt to understand biennials. extensive publications. And for many. one of the most vital and visible sites for the production. and memory. distribution. alare written by curators. then. for the most part. and often involving discursive components such as symposia. “the biennial” has titude that reveal. critics. and scholars. - today. “biennial” of art in space and time creates relationships between viewers and objects. which merely shuts down discussion. 8 The project of The Biennial Reader is based on the premise that this potentially contradictory thing called “the biennial” must not remain unexamined. institutional. all the more so precisely because its relevance and critical currency is so profoundly contested. politics. the direction in which culture is moving. between one object and another. this publication brings together a wide range of opinionated texts that. if only by the anxieties they create. composed of the shattered inte- are just some of the many cities that have appended “Biennial” to their names over the years to announce their own versions of a contemporary art event that generally as nation. and between all of these elements and space. for the term to become the household name with which we are now familiar. both established and emerging. Germania. but also the way in which its history can be writ- recent years. being conceived and received today. aesthetic. Marieke van Hal and Solveig Øvstebø increase in the number of art journals. or even accompanying journals alongside a group show featuring. Often grandiose in scale.

following the global shifts of ideologies.13 surprisingly. with. which is to say that it is impossible to completely separate the words on a page from the fact that they are on a page. in a certain context. it also seemed important to gather preexisting texts written about biennials over the last - biennial as an object of study over time. because despite the number of symposia. quite simply. so that.14 16 - biennial. it would be naïve . not a single publication Charlotte Bydler published her doctoral dissertation. This publication thus reads the claimed theoretical.. but only that the container. Inc. undo the very arherein lies its incredible power and complexity—can construct the exhibition as much as it can be constructed by it. This result of the exhibiogy” usually connotes the study of something in a systematic. They can. and its future. political. too. in the process. hardly changed the situation since. and empire that have faced the world in the last few decades. the tion. relation to the increasing number of biennials. the the more urgency today. Doing this felt necessary. and that the page is published in a certain way. armação for art’s presentation today means. many of which are now out of that articulates a meaning that unquestionably inheres in itself. by These conditions are integral to our understanding of that text. but instead administers readings and interpretations. lectures. Apart from a number of now-semi- tion frames within which we place them. and debates that biennials have inspired. The Global Art World. increasingly. its potential for continued relevance. to attend to the history and specispatial—is never neutral. and other ambitions the biennial in a sustained way remain rare. volume’s attempt to bring together new research by both celebrated and emerging scholars as a means of addressing a major contemporary phenomenon. power. rigorous way in order 16 more important than what is contained. should not possibilities—indeed the necessity—of treating this contemporary phenomenon as a serious subject of study. and alongside an understanding of the biennial in particular. little sustained critical rather profuse bibliography on the museum existed by then. just as they are for our understanding 17 other historic essays reprinted in the present volume. Marieke van Hal and Solveig Øvstebø the history of contemporary art must be written through.The Biennial Reader Biennialogy Elena Filipovic.” and. These seminal essays range from the late - texte.” no outside the text that is not also in some way also the text. be able to critically assess its past.

. political. because of decisive “local” events turn to democracy after years of repressive military dictatorships was claimed as its reason for coming into being. or even ecological needs much of what biennials have become. and the Luanda Triennial was supposed to be about the cultural enrichment and empowerment of a population recovering from years of war . while it may Complicating this paradox is perhaps yet another question that poses itself: after exploring what the biennial is and has been. the fall of the of the conditions and development of contemporary art. in the aspirations of many of them to repre- sible. how can we determine what the biennial can yet be? Again and again contributors to this volume counter prevailing doubts about whether query: how and what should we biennial today?18 to such structures as the art fair and even the Olympics. which. Besides perceived social. because despite their emphatically global ambitions. the event’s motivation was to and. it was the end of apartheid. - 18 the fact is that the founding stories of individual biennials must also be told. must be studied. And the list could go on. many large-scale recurrent exhibitions were made possible. and we hurricane. ex his extensive doctoral research on the topic? Together. for Manifesta. these texts not only articunegativo. exposition universelles deed the true “mother” of the genre. the one institutional body 19 . as we argue. or even necessary and urgent. - of such myths of origin. but even these origins are the subject of some dispute: Do they lie in the CrysLes Magiciens de la Terre. economic. to articulate in terms of continuity or as something more than just the sum of its edi- dox: the biennial cannot the Johannesburg Biennial. for the Riwaq Biennial. as art historian Caroline A.” as an overarching genre or type—might still be coming to terms with its own historical development. Marieke van Hal and Solveig Øvstebø provisional answers to the questions haunting our contemporary moment.The Biennial Reader Biennialogy Elena Filipovic. Jones argues in her We thought it was important that this volume provide a sampling of these vexed his- how each individual biennial—and indeed “the biennial. .

And along the way. shown. but also that the biennial would have to as well in order to continue to be relevant. and ration of how shifts in art practice may have impacted the turn towards discursivity the traditional art institution has long been understood as being conventional in constructs—most notably. cannot be separated from the proliferation of biennials. or. in short. these essays propose that the art institution itself could change. from being a faiseur d’expositions Ausstellungsmacher even the “author” of the exhibition. Kunsthallen. contingency. causes. conversely.” for instance. The rise of the “independent curator. the biennial itself might have become or even if it is immaterial. following the rapid transformations of the art world.” Together. Marieke van Hal and Solveig Øvstebø it has most frequently been discussed in relation—or rather in contrast—to is the - ture or tenor of the art being made. as several texts in in the nineteen-sixties in combination with the overwhelming transformations of - 20 the place of the biennial as a critical public sphere and the curatorial responsibility it ing the “curatorial turn” that has shifted the central role of the curator from “prac- - 21 . despite its institutional-critical pretensions. addressed. at certain points in recent history. the experimental cousins of more established also art centers. testing. Thus while biennials might have been. thereby causing the distance between the two to shift at times. and merits - was to provide a site for experimentation. has moved. ambiguity.The Biennial Reader Biennialogy Elena Filipovic. the museal “white cube. are biennials the direct product and development of art? And how can we assess the direction. and discussed. has repercussions for the way art and other non-biennial exhibitions are made. the question of the biennial’s format matters.

we aesthetic positions of its predecessor—has also been included here in an abridged - one of our ways of attempting to confront the multiplicity of cultural positions that lies at the very heart of the biennial. Rather. [also] an investment in the future: a statement about art. ennial. transnational. it is not because our interrogation of the biennial proposes a hierarchy now-defunct Johannesburg Biennial and Gerardo Mosquera’s new discussion of the artist. we translated a number of texts so as to - 22 tory of the biennial form that has yet to be narrated. so that the discourse on biennials presented tions themselves.” The promulgation of counter-narratives and experimentation with counter-models al sphere of the last few decades a development towards greater inclusivity of artistic - it prove to be a truly inclusive. these two texts as well as others in this volume underscore something we have tried 23 . To strive to achieve this. paradoxically. at its core.” one that has emerged from transitional “biennials are not only part of the present. . a global phenomenon that has played a crucial role in the dissemination of art from all over the world. but also always .” Thus. our research we were interested in gathering critical writing from as wide a cultural and geographic spectrum as possible. multicultural. Through an in-depth pology he calls the “biennial of resistance. but also the ways each taposing two compelling but dissenting positions on the claims of the biennial. Marieke van Hal and Solveig Øvstebø velopment of art.The Biennial Reader Biennialogy Elena Filipovic. shared issues in the genre. are less a site privileging the presentation - reveal a great deal about larger. the suggestion that contemporary art history should be written alongside a consideration of the biennial thus necessarily also hopes to prompt the writing of a properly global art history. if a direct investigation or interpretation this volume. but also. it seemed to us that exposing the site of art’s public presentation and - Because the biennial is. “counter-hegemonic” Biennial and the historical and conceptual underpinnings of its twenty-eighth edi- mere consolidation of dominant bourgeois culture that is both “archaically nation- herent politics of any such large-scale perennial exhibition. .

as we have posited. In 1973. in changing. Marieke van Hal and Solveig Øvstebø 1 Peter Schjeldahl. This essay began with a paradox: although the biennial cannot be precisely or absoing the biennial seriously. an international one. but let’s acknowledge for the time being that the radically diverse projects that take place under this label. founded in 1955 in Kassel. although not properly speaking biannual. founded in 1968 in New Delhi and from the start imagined as an event that would recur every three years. about all the things that biennials depend upon. and the Triennial India. although initially it took on the term to mean not the frequency of the exhibition but the purview of the art it represented: in 1932 it was as annual exhibition that featured a panorama of the production of art in America over the preceding two years. react to. could also help sketch a picture of the landscape in which the creation of new biennials emerged.” The New Yorker (July 5. Venice Biennial. 1 as-yet-unanswered questions that haunt the biennial. it became a properly biannual event and then. contradictory. Documenta. hand in hand with the expanded field of contemporary curating. every four years between 1955 and 1972. pp. founded in 1896 in Pittsburgh as a yearly survey exhibition. And. Maria Hlavajova states: “We now know that it is undeniable that the exhibition format is the primary vehicle on which biennials rest. Germania. The entire thrust of this assemblage of texts is thus meant to invert the logic 3 One exception to this is the Whitney Biennial. and ineluctably impact: art. aims to prompt us not only to attempt to 24 the end. They also testify to our desire that The Biennial Reader - 2 Confirming this. the production of discourse and the distribution of knowledge. with only one exception. logical object we call “the biennial” might well be considered inspiring or absurd. And who says that biennials need to be exhibitions at all?” See her essay in this volume. 1993 25 . or that unequivocal motivations or trabeing rigidly empirical and teleological. radical or retrograde in turns. nothing less than the future of art history depends on it. but then went on to recur. “Festivalism: Oceans of Fun at the Venice Biennale. we felt that the promise and greatest potential of biennials could lie in their capacity to be experimental forms whose contours are capable of continual change and which. the notion that neat lineages can be drawn. and progressively even more importantly. 85–86. finally taking on its current quinquennial or onceevery-five-years format after Harald Szeemann’s 1972 edition and retaining the hundred-day format. can both question and reinvent both themselves and the his- 1 Hans Haacke. began as a one-off major survey show lasting a hundred days. with shows occurring approximately every three years. and even contested. became a biennial event renamed the Pittsburgh International in 1950 and then a triennial event in 1955. only to return finally to its original name and more anthological format in 1982.The Biennial Reader Biennialogy Elena Filipovic. 1999). founded in 1932. it nevertheless matters as an instrument that helps us 4 The founding of several other large-scale recurring contemporary art events. all the while embracing the possibility that the phenomenon would remain something essentially amorphous. involve not only production and display but also. Some of the most influential examples from the period before the wide proliferation of the biennial include: the Carnegie International. only in very recent years.