Biennialing: Excitement or Exhaustion

Lecture date: 2016-02-09

Nicola Lees, Elvira Dyangani Ose, Joseph Grima and Shumon Basar in conversation

Not a day goes by without a biennial of art or architecture opening somewhere on earth. They’re the cultural format of choice in a habitually overcultured world. They often privilege the same criteria (where potency is measured by size) and rely on the market to be realised (while critiquing the market, content wise). Have biennials fallen into a default mannerism? Is the format exhausted? What would experimentation, innovation and iconoclasm look like? Shumon Basar invites a number of recent biennial directors to discuss these the dilemmas of Biennialing.

Nicola Lees was the curator of the 31st Biennial of Graphic Arts in Ljubljana, which took place in 2015. Between 2013 and 2015 Nicola was the curator for Frieze Projects, the annual not-for-profit programme featuring artist commissions, film, and music at Frieze London. She was previously Senior Curator of Public Programmes at the Serpentine Gallery, London, where she oversaw interdisciplinary, time-based and performance projects, artist commissions, initiating Park Nights and the Serpentine Cinema series, and realizing the Serpentine Gallery Marathon (co-curated with Hans Ulrich Obrist).

Elvira Dyangani Ose was the curator of the 8th edition of the Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art, which took place in 2015. Prior to that, Elvira was Curator International Art at Tate Modern. Previously, she was curator at the Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno (2004–2006) and at the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo (2006–2008. She is currently completing a PhD and holds an MA in History of Art and Visual Studies from Cornell University, New York; an MAS in Theory and History of Architecture from Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Barcelona; and a BA in Art History from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

Joseph Grima is a graduate of the AA and a partner at Space Caviar, an office based in Genoa, which operates at the intersection of architecture, technology, politics and the public realm. He is currently a unit master of AA Intermediate Unit 14, the co-artistic director of the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial and director of the Ideas City programme at the New Museum in New York. He was previously the editor-in-chief of Domus magazine and director of Storefront for Art and Architecture.

Shumon Basar is a writer, editor and director of the AA’s public program series called Format. His most recent book was co-authored with Douglas Coupland and Hans Ulrich Obrist, entitled The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present (Penguin). He is Commissioner of the Global Art Forum, Dubai; Editor at Large at Tank magazine, London; Contributing Editor at Bidoun magazine; and a founding member of the Fondazione Prada Thought Council in Milan.



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