Universes in Universe / Biennials / Singapore Biennale 2006 / Encounters 13
26 March 2006, p-10, 10 Perumal Road, Little India, Singapore
Jointly organized by p-10, Universes in Universe and the Singapore Biennale
Discussion on biennials in the international art system and the effects the Singapore Biennale could have on the local art scene.
The idea of organizing such a discussion arose in talks between Gerhard Haupt and Pat Binder from Universes in Universe and Jennifer Teo and Woon Tien Wei from p-10, as well as Low Kee Hong, the General Manager of the Singapore Biennial. p-10 is an independent curator team with its own project rooms. It organizes exhibitions and communication and interaction between artists, art mediators, and the public.
At the beginning, Gerhard Haupt provided an overview of periodic international art events. A chronological list, by no means complete, made it plain that the last 10 years have seen a great increase in the founding of biennials, 24 of them alone since 2000. Based on the section “Caravan” from Universes in Universe, Haupt and Binder explained the profiles and characters of a number of biennials. Using the examples of Havana and Sharjah, they elucidated the effects that a biennial can have on the development of the local or regional art scene and of its international perception.
Among the approximately 30 participants in the afternoon event were Fumio Nanjo, the Artistic Director of the Singapore Biennial; his co-curators Roger McDonald, Sharmini Pereira, and Eugene Tan; some of the artists from Singapore and other countries who have been selected for the biennial; and other artists and art mediators, including Marie LeSourd from the Asia-Europe Foundation and Susanne Jaschko, co-curator of the Scape Biennial in New Zealand. Low Kee Hong not only moderated, he also exposed himself to the criticism he had consciously called for as co-organizer of this encounter, and he was prepared to understand it as a stimulus.
One of the themes discussed was how to measure the success of a biennial. While the Venice Biennial and the Documenta in Kassel focus primarily on the international and supraregional public, most of the discussants thought the majority of biennials should be judged in terms of how productive they are for the local and regional art scene and public and of what lasting effects they have there.
It became clear that not everyone in Singapore is happily looking forward to the first Biennial. For some, it is merely another attempt by the state to polish its image, and people fear that the high costs could be offset by cuts in the domestic culture budget. But some utterances from artists gave the impression of a very narrow self-absorption, with little curiosity about the work of colleagues who do not belong to their immediate circle of friends. Perhaps some people need the real experience of a biennial before they recognize how stimulating and productive for their own creation such encounters with artistic positions from various parts of the world can be.
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