Discussion on biennials in the international
art system and the effects the Singapore Biennial 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.
>> 8 photo pages
26 March 2006
Jointly organized by p-10, Universes in Universe and the Singapore Biennale
10 Perumal Road