World Biennial Forum No 2
How to Make Biennials in Contemporary Times

São Paulo, Brazil
November 26 – 30, 2014

Venue: Auditório Ibirapuera

The Forum will run alongside the 31st Bienal de São Paulo curated by Charles Esche, Galit Eilat, Nuria Enguita Mayo, Pablo Lafuente, Oren Sagiv, Benjamin Seroussi and Luiza Proença who will also function as the Forum’s Artistic Directors.

Organized by:
Biennial Foundation
Fundação Bienal de São Paulo
ICCo – Instituto de Cultura Contemporânea

1 - Mapa Mundi (World Map) 1979 Oil on linen

2014 has heralded what seems to be a reawakening of potential in international art biennials. From Istanbul to Sydney and Saint Petersburg, an exhibition form that was threatening to slide into neoliberal conformism has again become the site of conflict and controversy. While the dilemmas of each biennial has its own origins, these developments will, in general, bring a renewed engagement with the symbolic value of biennials and the ways they can be contested in public. It is in this spirit of questioning and provoking the concept of the biennial, that the World Biennial Forum No 2 has been assembled.

The World Biennial Forum No 2 will look at the biennial from the point of view of the southern hemisphere. It will concentrate above all on recent biennials in what has come to be termed the ‘Global South’, occasionally taking a broader perspective to investigate how we have arrived here. The main focus will be on the cities of Dakar, Istanbul, Jakarta and São Paulo, where the Forum takes place, but other southern biennials will also come into the picture. The four focus cities have been staging biennials in different forms for at least the past 20 years, during which time they have invented new traditions and created suitable structures to support and develop them. At a time when the relationship between artistic desire and political will is under negotiation more broadly, and biennials are seen simultaneously as both opportunities for harvesting cultural capital and threats to the smooth operation of the status quo, these biennials will serve as the anchor points for a more general discussion about what is the potential of biennials in contemporary times.

Following an evening keynote address by Peter Osborne (Professor of Modern European Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University, London), looking at the nature of contemporaneity in art, four sessions will be held over two days.

The four sessions are titled:

1. Once Again, as If for the First Time: archives, biennial memory and the balance between continuity and reinvention.

2. No More Imagined Communities: what comes after national art competitions and neoliberal city marketing.

3. Popularity without Populism: education, ideology and exchange.

4. Works and Their Consequences: the role of art and artists and how both address the public.

These sessions will be open to the general public. In addition, workshops will be held for professional guests.

More information on the participants coming soon.

Image credit: Juan Downey, Mapa Mundi, 1979. Oil on linen. 180 x 205.
Photo: Harry Shunk.
Courtesy of Marilys Belt Downey, The Juan Downey Estate.