New Biennialism - Contemporaneity in Transnational European Art Biennials

One of the main features of contemporary art related to the geopolitical transformations of 1989, is the rise of the biennial exhibition. Within a decade – the 1990s – the phenomenon has exploded, and today biennials have become “epicenters” or exemplary spaces for studying the constant production and exploration of contemporaneity in art and exhibition making. This subproject aims to examine how contemporary transnational biennials in Europe function as agents or producers of contemporaneity: Venice 2015 and 2017, Istanbul 2015, Manifesta 11 2016, Documenta 2017, Münster 2017 and Aarhus – European Capital of Culture 2017. In doing so, the project will investigate more closely how the biennial format formulates the world as an amalgamation of different cultures, times and places, thereby functioning as a combined representation of “time and space compression” (Harvey).

The main question of the project – How do we register the contemporary in transnational art biennials? – implies two issues within artistic and curatorial practice: 1) Contemporary art beyond the local/global: a) Conceiving the biennial as a testing ground for the relation between the local and the universal (Sheikh; de Duve), how is contemporaneity part of contemporary art?; b) How do biennials influence the production of works of art; do we find a new kind of artistic production? 2) New models of transcultural curating: a) As a historically new type of “art institution”, how do biennials foster new models of curatorial practices with regard to globalisation and transnationalisation? Thus, the subproject will contribute to the still-forming field of “biennialogy” in developing an understanding of curating contemporaneity (Smith; Osborne).

Camma Juel Jepsen