Contemporary Art Biennials—our hegemonic machines in states of emergency

Contemporary Art Biennials—our hegemonic machines in states of emergency


Delia Popa, Cautious Mouse Holding the World, (after Atlas Holding Up a Celestial Map, 17th century, A. Quellinus), 2020. Linocut print on printmaking paper, 33/47 cm.

June 10, 2020
Contemporary Art Biennials—our hegemonic machines in states of emergency
Online conference alongside 9th Bucharest Biennale
June 27–28, 2020

Each day with a full programme from 9:30am to 6pm. Detailed schedule to come soon here.

Registration process
The conference will be held online via Zoom. Please register by sending an e-mail with your name to this e-mail address: info [​at​] Once registered, an e-mail invitation will be send out to you with further details.

Participants among others:
Vasyl Cherepanyn (Head of the Visual Culture Research Center / Kyiv Biennial), Ekaterina Degot (Steirischer Herbst), Patrick Flores (Singapore Biennale 2019), Martin Guinard (Taipei Biennale), Răzvan Ion (Spinnwerk Vienna & Bucharest Biennale), Ioana Leca (Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art), Yung Ma (11th Seoul Mediacity Biennale), Oliver Marchart (political theorist), Sarah Owens (ZHdK), Shwetal A. Patel (The Kochi—Muziris Biennale), Nora Sternfeld (Documenta Professor), Farid Rakun (Ruangrupa, Documenta fifteen), Roma Jam Session Art Kollektiv (RJSaK), Mirjam Varadinis (Kunsthaus Zürich, Manifesta Palermo), Farah Wardani (Jakarta Biennale), Beat Wyss (Art Historian).

Yet in 2020, in the midst of a new form of crisis, one might feel the affection for “hegemonic machines”, like Biennales, that aim for an international discourse in a democratizing manner in a different light. With all its underlying problems (canonizing, hegemony, colonial pasts, dominant art market, political influences), Biennales tend to establish an international discourse, at best, rooted in local cultural specificities. States of emergency  enables states to not only protect but also to control their citizens. We are in many respects in a precarious state in which structural violence becomes evident in so many levels.

Biennials are, as Oliver Marchart has remarked, big hegemonic machines. They make proposals how to understand the world we live in—locally and globally—, how to be in the world as a subject within a regional and national frame, and how race, class, gender are positioned. Insofar Biennials are part of a bio-political process in the framework of specific local situations.

Biennials are deeply involved in politics of display, politics of sites, politics of transfer and translation and they produce in each single case specific politics of knowledge. The scales of biennials are co-implicated not only with each other but also with different understandings of politics: contestation, resistance, dissent, hegemony, and empowerment.

For this conference—which is established for the 9th Bucharest Biennale directed by Henk Slager—(also in times of crises) we are not only interested in how content directly agitates but also in the formats, ideas and concepts that are delivered through the politics of display, through specific forms of production and dissemination, through proposed communities and subjectivities; the more subtle ways of in the bio-political arena when we encounter art. Which forms can we use in states of emergency?

In the conference, we want to critically explore the pitfalls and benefits of these machines, how to use them progressively and how to keep and strengthen cultural exchange they can provide. Biennales in that sense can become imaginary machines to shape and influence possible futures.

Organised by Dorothee Richter (Head of PhD in Practice in Curating, University of Reading/ Zurich University of the Arts) and Ronald Kolb, Scientific researcher PhD in Practice in Curating.)

Correspondents to the speakers are PhD Candidates of the PhD in Practice in Curating (University of Reading/ Zurich University of the Arts) and students of the MAS in Curating.

An OnCurating issue will be published alongside the conference. Speakers of the conference will contribute with significant texts, pivotal reprints are taken into account. The issue will be added by a wide array of writers, critics, art historians, curators and artists, who submitted their texts through an open call. The open call was occupied with the development of innovative research in the field of international biennials. The issue is co-edited by Ronald Kolb, Shwetal A. Patel, Dorothee Richter.

The online conference alongside 9th Bucharest Biennalec is supported by Goethe Institut, ProHelvetia, and Zurich University of the Arts.

RSVP for Contemporary Art Biennials—our hegemonic machines in states…
June 10, 2020

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OnCurating will be in touch.


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