February 26th, 2007


Global podering

There was an Irishman and a Lithuanian. They were out hunting dick. The Irishman said "Pass the sugar."

"Are you crazy?" says the Lithuanian. "You know I don't take sugar."

"I'm not asking you to take it, just to pass it," said the Irishman.

"If I could pass it," said the Lithuanian, "I wouldn't be here".

That's a Bob NewArt joke, and I'm still waiting to learn whether I'll spend the month of November using material like that to make large question marks appear above the heads of visitors to the second Performa Biennial of performance art. Even if the invitation isn't forthcoming, though, I'm also in negotiation at the moment to appear as a speaker (not an avant garde stand-up comedian) at the AIGA Conference, which happens in October in Denver, Colorado, and is themed around the question "Where do we go from here?" (my theme is "The Future of Texture") and at the ICA Boston sometime in the Fall, where I've been sounded out to speak as part of its ongoing event "What New Is".

The near future isn't just talking about the future in America. Here in Europe we have some exciting biennials lining up, events I'm hoping to attend as a "large scale art spectacle consumer" rather than a producer. Because mingling with the international art crowd, and seeing what other artists are showing, is even more pleasurable than showing off and getting paid for generating my own content, I'm willing to save up and pay to attend these things. Here's a (partial) calendar.

June is the big month here in Europe. I'll be hurrying back from Tokyo to catch some or all of what's going on -- it's so close together that you could catch it all in a big round trip, sleeping, perhaps, in your rental car (hotels are hard to book when the art tribe descends).

We have the 2007 Venice Biennial, the 52nd of its ilk, opening on 10th June (no rush -- it's open until the end of November... but of course all the glamour happens up at the front). I had such a good time visiting the last Venice Biennial that this is, as far as I'm concerned, unmissable. Then, from 13th to 17th of June, it's Art Basel, the world's biggest commercial art fair. From 16th June to 23rd September there's Documenta 12 in Kassel. The last Documenta I attended was Documenta 9, back in 1992. Me and my friend Thomi Wroblewski hired a red VW Golf and drove to Kassel from London. The main thing I remember discovering there was the painting of Luc Tuymans -- small, tight, undemonstrative yet mysterious. Finally, opening the day after Documenta, there's Sculpture Projects Muenster 07. Perhaps I'll be able to drop into that on the way back to Berlin.

This Calendar of International Biennials and other regular art exhibitions can keep you up to speed on the extravaganzas being mounted in the art world. Reading down it I see that the Taipei Biennial (theme: Dirty Yoga) ended yesterday. There's still a month left in which to see the 1st Luanda Triennial, down in Angola (the Flash on their website refused to load or skip, so I can't tell you their theme, alas). The Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art runs in Brisbane, Australia until 27th May. In Moscow, the 2nd Moscow Biennial spans March. Curator Joseph Backstein is focusing on "Art in the Epoch of Social Darwinism". "The neo-liberal reality," he writes, "challenges the artist and forces him or her to develop new survival strategies. One of these strategies is in the creation of artworks fighting against the dominating pop culture and exploiting it for their specific purposes."

There's also the Third Auckland Triennial down there in New Zealand, the Biennial at the End of the World in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina (the very tip of the bottom of South America, and the most southerly point before you hit Antarctica). "Podering [sic] at end of world that other world is possible" is the theme of that one, according to the Flash sequence on the splash page. In the United Emirates, Ecuador, Montréal and Prague people will also be "podering" through the coming months, thanks to art, just as they are right now at the Armory Show, which ends this evening on Pier 94, jutting out into the Hudson there in New York City.

Not everybody is happy with the plethora of biennials. "There will be no Documenta in Kassel in 2007" is a proposal by Shanghai artist Shi Yong. "Today the world is filled with biennales... The global art events are every where. Curators, artists, art organizations, foundations, galleries, collectors and audience shuttle around the world to catch the scene. Is it time for “art” to take a rest? Could the Kassel Documenta, one of the most important regular art event in the world, act as an example to take a rest first? Let the artists relax. Let the curators relax. Let the critics relax. Let the audience relax. Let the art organizations relax. Let the art foundations relax. Let the sponsors relax. Let the galleries relax. Let the media relax."

Tellingly, though, Shi Yong himself does not intend to relax. "No Documenta" is a proposal for a project he hopes to carry out... at Documenta. While everybody else is, apparently, relaxing, Shi Yong will "use panels to wrap up venues like the museum, beer factory, cultural station stop and other newly added satellite venues. On the panel written "Sorry, there is no 2007 Documenta." He also hopes to "delete or hide all the information on 12th Documenta on the internet or magazines".

Sorry, Shi!