Lecture

11 July 2014

Why Biennial?

Beginning with a diagnosis of the conflict zone that is the world today, Maria Hlavajova’s keynote lecture Why Biennial? addresses the urgent need to reevaluate how we think about the biennial. Instead of merely positioning the biennial within the history of exhibitions, curatorial concepts, artistic contributions, and event culture, Hlavajova maintains that it is crucial to ask questions about both how it is governed and how it governs. “As we hear the agonistic voices of artists, activists, and intellectuals intensify these days, from Sydney to St. Petersburg, Istanbul to Bussan, Athens, New York, and elsewhere, the biennial itself seems to have become (anew) a vital site of political contestations, though oft times it is its own politics that is questioned and questionable,” she argues. And while acknowledging that the turmoil in each of these cases arguably has its own rationale, Hlavajova emphasizes that they nevertheless call for continuous, ongoing attention to how the biennial functions as an institution. She proposes that the networked biennial institution can become not just a place for distributing the language of contemporary art within global flows of ideas and capital, but one through which to invest in an individual and collective ethics as well. This would require a political project of continuous instituting alongside, and in negotiation with, changes in society as well as a recognition of the radically shifting texture of “audiences” towards what she calls future publics. These publics are formed alongside the fault lines of global class recompositions, and by placing pressure on the ills of present-day aesthetic and political representation, they are both transformed by—and transform—the times in which we live. To effectively probe the question “Why Biennial?” at this point in history thus requires of us to find alternative tools through reciprocity and the mutualizing of spaces, concerns, resources, and competencies with these social actors. Hlavajova regards the biennial institution as among the best equipped for this task, yet only insofar as it manages to resist dissolution into neoliberal ideology, finding instead ways to constructively combine its flexibility in thinking through unorthodox solutions to present-day challenges with its vigorousness to push these solutions through.

In collaboration with

Suggestions from the archive

Screening

24 June 2021

Fragments of Repair/Gathering V: The Object’s Interlacing

Taking place on Thursday 24 June 2021, the fifth gathering of Fragments of Repair/Gatherings, consists of a screening of artist Kader Attia’s The Object’s Interlacing (2020), followed by a conversation between Souleymane Bachir Diagne (philosopher New York/Dakar) and Wayne Modest (material culture curator and researcher, Amsterdam/Rotterdam).

Education Program

21 June–07 July 2021

Course: Art as Politics

Due to popular demand, BAK Public Studies offers yet another rerun of the online course Art as Politics, taking place on the following dates: 21, 23, 28 and 30 June & 5 and 7 July 2021. This digital extension of BAK Public Studies, taught by Maria Hlavajova, is prompted by the urgency to continue collective thinking through, learning about, and imagining critical, politically-informed artistic practices that grasp—and intervene into—the present.

Exhibitionary

Lecture

3 June 2021, 18.30-20.00

FEINART Lecture: From Art Institution to Community Portal, by Maria Hlavajova

FEINART (The Future of European Independent Art Spaces in a Period of Socially Engaged Art) is a PhD training network funded by the EU, in partnership with several universities and art spaces, amongst which BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht. As part of the FEINART Lecture Series, BAK’s general and artistic director Maria Hlavajova presents […]