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Conceptual Framework of the Biennale of Sydney 2006
By Charles Merewether, artistic director & curator

The conceptual framework of the 2006 Biennale of Sydney exhibition is "zones of contact" and will include a range of artists from around the world practising in all forms of the visual arts.

The focus of the 2006 Biennale will be as much on the subject of "zones" as that of "contact" - emphasizing the occupation and mapping of spaces such as territories, settlements, homes, dwellings, and zones in-between. 'Zones of contact' constitute a threshold to the global because the encounter always begins from a point of view and experience that is local. There will be some 80 artists from more than 40 countries that brought together explore how contemporary art continues to provide a contemporary embodiment and articulation of the colonial era and histories of conflict, underdevelopment, as much as reflect the increasing transcultural flows produced through globalization and growing cosmopolitanism of metropolitan centers across the world.

The Biennale of Sydney '06 concept of 'zones of contact' is not acting as a surrogate for visual anthropology or cultural history per se, nor does it suggest some natural state that precedes the technology of representation or viewing. Rather, the concept embraces spheres of engagement or entanglement with the world, and art's materiality becomes both the form of articulation and medium of perception. Hence, 'zones of contact' encompasses not only a spatial dimension, i.e. borders, frontiers, intersections, but equally refers to both a temporal and sensuous mode of experiencing the world, that is, an elaboration of issues concerning the affect and sensate body, everyday life and the formation of the subject. It is, in other words, to open the discussion to a range of contemporary art whether it be at the immediate and intimate level of the individual or social body and the world at large, with its thresholds of sameness and difference, the gaps between, the thresholds, horizons and absences that constitute both the legacy of history and experience of the present. From this perspective, 'zones of contact' entails the tactility of the image that goes beyond the practices of observation or interventions within the field of the documentary. The encounter with art becomes a field of sensate knowledge, an imaginary of images that guides us in our encounter with the world. Within this framework art lives and gathers meaning by way of memory and reception like a membrane that acts as a mediating transmitter or tuning fork between its subject and viewer.


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© Text: Charles Merewether, November 2005; website: Universes in Universe - Worlds of Art