October 15, 2013 - art-agenda - Reviews: Bergen Assembly, 13th Istanbul Biennial, 5th Moscow Biennale, and Dossier #1 Venice Special
October 15, 2013

Reviews: Bergen Assembly, 13th Istanbul Biennial, 5th Moscow Biennale, and Dossier #1 Venice Special

Halil Altındere, Wonderland, 2013. Still from video, 8:25 minutes. Image courtesy of the artist and Pilot Gallery, Istanbul.

September Round up

A number of major exhibitions that opened recently—Bergen Assembly, the 13th Istanbul Biennial, the 5th Moscow Biennale, and the 9th Bienal do Mercosul—grappled with pressing political and artistic issues related to their specific sites, with mixed results. While many flock to London for frieze art fair and the attendant wave of openings and events this week, we’d like to use this as an occasion to remind you of some of last month’s highlights—a few of which you can still catch if you act fast.

September kicked off with “Monday Begins on Saturday,” the first iteration of Bergen Assembly. Adam Kleinman examined Ekaterina Degot and David Riff’s attempt to dissect the lingo of “artistic research,” entangled as it is in a neoliberal knowledge economy. The curators’ device of choice? A return to literature, reading today’s artistic production through the lens of fiction and narration. Meanwhile in Istanbul, Elmas Deniz critiqued curator Fulya Erdemci’s decision to retreat into the city’s white-cube spaces in the wake of the Gezi protest movement—despite the fact that an interest in urban and civic space was a stated focus of the exhibition. In Moscow, Anna Tolstova praised the lyricism and subtle political critique hidden in Catherine de Zegher’s show, but in today’s Russia, the luxury of not taking an explicit stance may be a thing of the past. And curator Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy’s use of weather—and its inherent unpredictability—as a metaphor for the Bienal do Mercosul in Porto Alegre led Brian Kuan Wood to read the art on view as full of inspired contingency.

Speaking of biennials old and new, the venerable Venetian variant, now in its 55th iteration, remains on view through November 24th. The particular engagements with political and social context seen in the above exhibitions were, many have argued, notably absent from this Venice Biennale. Natasha Ginwala’s “The Palace of False Mirrors,” Adam Kleinman’s “Google Won’t Save Us,” and Ana Teixeira Pinto’s “Tree of Life” consider this lacuna from various angles. Now is as good a time as any to check out these three special texts on “The Encyclopedic Palace” in the art-agenda Dossier #1 Venice Special available on our website as well as via the new art-agenda app.

Recently on art-agenda:

VIENNAFAIR and Highlights from curated by_vienna 2013
October 10–13, 2013/October 11–November 14, 2013
After some changing of hands, Astrid Mania considers the strengths of the return to a “preexisting order” at this year’s VIENNAFAIR, and checks out the strongest group exhibitions in the curated by_vienna project, now in its fifth year.

“Sea Salt and Cross Passes” at The Modern Institute, Glasgow
September 7–October 19, 2013
A collaboration between STANDARD (OSLO) and Glasgow’s The Modern Institute, this exhibition takes as its premise a contemporary consideration of the North Sea. Jaclyn Arndt finds that in “an artistic tradition easily reduced to flea market kitsch,” the exhibited artists’ “overwhelming use of industrial materials—aluminum, wood, steel, leather, concrete—splits open the working-class reality” of their shared space and culture.

“The Gravity of Things” at Galeria Quadrado Azul, Lisbon
September 26–November 16, 2013
As “one of the most noteworthy engagements” with the theoretical framework of OOO (object-oriented ontology), Filipa Ramos writes that this group show—curated by Chris Sharp—invites viewers “to take both human and nonhuman agencies into account as elements that shape and determine social space and modes of existence.”

9th Bienal do Mercosul, Porto Alegre
September 13–November 10, 2013
In a “spirit of receptiveness to contingency and contradiction,” curator Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy structured this year’s Bienal around “the weather as a figure of submission and grace.” In his review, Brian Kuan Wood charts a shift in the way we view art, where “we see straight through humanistic fantasies about sculpting the world in our own image and start hearing the weather telling us that it is the world that sculpts us.”

General Idea’s “P is for Poodle” at Mai 36 Galerie, Zürich
September 13–October 27, 2013
“There are always good reasons to organize a General Idea exhibition,” writes Kerstin Stakemeier of the artists’ collective whose work is a “source of limitless and ongoing self-invention.” Here the perpetual recycling and re-staging of the image of the poodle testifies “to the fact that the rich cultural history [General Idea] invented has never been exhausted.”

Carol Bove’s “RA, or Why is an orange like a bell?” and “Qor Corporation: Lionel Ziprin, Harry Smith and the Inner Language of Laminates” at Maccarone, New York
September 7–October 19, 2013
Ginny Kollak visits these twin exhibitions on view at Maccarone: in the first, artist Carol Bove’s “focused yet multifaceted sculptural practice” is presented alongside a handful of works by other artists; in the second, Bove curates an exhibition with selections from the archive of Lionel Ziprin—”an under-recognized, but hugely influential artistic figure of the New York postwar years.”

“More Light,” 5th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, Moscow
September 20–October 20, 2013
With few big names and a constellation of non-western artists, this year’s edition of the Biennale promises to challenge Moscow’s du jour interest in “contemporary art of an entertaining and apolitical kind,” writes Anna Tolstova.

abc art berlin contemporary, Berlin
September 19–22, 2013
In this sixth edition of abc, an event whose nomenclature carefully avoids the use of the word “fair,” organizers continue to experiment with striking a balance between commercial and cultural ambitions. “If abc manages to resolve this major contradiction,” Kito Nedo writes, “then it’s on its way to becoming a very unique, very Berlin-ish affair.”

Mungo Thomson at Galerie frank elbaz, Paris
September 7–November 2, 2013
Kevin McGarry takes in the most recent exhibition of Los Angeles-based artist Mungo Thomson, who “balances tidy conceptualism with dexterous formal conceits in his ongoing, obsessive abstractions of the editorial purview and design of the iconic TIME magazine.”

“Mom, Am I Barbarian?” 13th Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul
September 14–November 20, 2013
This year’s edition of the Istanbul Biennial opened four months into the Gezi resistance. Though it aimed to address the issues of “aggressive urban transformation, political engagement, [and] collective living,” Elmas Deniz explores the consequences of the exhibition’s willful retreat into white-cube venues.

The Magic of the State: A Conversation with Silvia Sgualdini and Beirut (Sarah Rifky, Jens Maier-Rothe, Antonia Alampi)
This spring, two interconnected exhibitions with the same title, “The Magic of the State,” were on view at the venerable commercial gallery Lisson in London, and the fledgling not-for-profit Beirut, Cairo. In this conversation between writer Laura McLean-Ferris, Lisson’s Silvia Sgualdini, and Beirut, the organizers discuss art, the market, and the dynamics of their unusual collaboration.

“A Different Kind of Order: The ICP Triennial” at the International Center of Photography, New York
May 17–September 22, 2013
Alan Gilbert uses the two iPads in the exhibition to unpack the ICP’s third triennial in the context of contemporary (digital) image culture, looking for “an instigation of a different kind of engagement” beyond “relatively passive spectatorship.”

Guy Ben-Ner’s “Soundtrack” at Galleria Pinksummer, Genoa
June 7–end of July; September 3–28, 2013
Guy Ben-Ner’s most recent video uses as its eponymous soundtrack a “readymade” eleven-minute excerpt from Steven Spielberg’s movie War of the Worlds to accompany footage of his family inside their Tel Aviv home. “Living in the midst of a real battleground,” Barbara Casavecchia writes, “the artist overturns all comfortable perspectives on the neutral remoteness of disasters of war.”

“Monday Begins on Saturday”
August 31–October 27, 2013
For Bergen Assembly, a new triennial in Norway’s second city, Moscow-based curators Ekaterina Degot and David Riff borrowed its title from the Soviet-era fantasy novel satirizing the absurd bureaucracy of a fictional scientific research institute. “In Bergen,” Adam Kleinman reports, “the counter-factual is the moderator,” provoking the idea that “contemporary narratives, such as the ‘new normal’ and ‘austerity,’ are themselves ideological fictions which must be queered in the here and now.”

Coming soon reviews of this fall’s major fairs—frieze, London; FIAC, Paris; and Artissima, Turin—plus reviews of “The New Morals” at Galeria Stereo, Warsaw; Heidi Bucher at freymond-guth Fine Arts, Zürich; Henrik Olesen at Galerie Buchholz, Berlin; and many more.

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