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[Nettime-ro] Prague Biennale 1 press release
Flash Art International on Tue, 24 Jun 2003 10:57:36 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-ro] Prague Biennale 1 press release

Title: Untitled Document
Prague Biennale 1
June 26–August 31, 2003
National Gallery/Veletrzni Palac

Opening days: June 26-27-28

Info: www.praguebiennale.org
Email: praguebiennale1 {AT} flashartonline.com

Organized by Giancarlo Politi and Helena Kontova, editors of Flash Art magazine, together with Milan Knizak and Tomas Vlcek, directors of the National Gallery in Prague, the inaugural edition of the Prague Biennale, “Peripheries become the center,” is one of the major art events of the year. This benchmark exhibition showcases the work of around 260 emerging artists from all over the world, selected by a team of 30 influential curators, to create a pluralistic vision of contemporary art today. A huge survey realized with a low budget (compared to other blockbuster exhibitions), the Prague Biennale has pushed its organizers to face amazing challenges, but these constraints represent a move towards new horizons, new solutions, and new exhibiting philosophies.

The title of the Prague Biennale, “Peripheries become the center,” refers to the dissolution of the dichotomy between “periphery” and “center” and to a liberation of plurality in terms of both identity and artistic practice. The distinction articulated in this dichotomy has become increasingly irrelevant due to information technology, the mass media, migration, and nomadism. The escalating phenomenon of globalization and the seeming collapse of physical distances brought about by the Internet have changed the terms in which the relations between periphery and center are negotiated, and even the definitions of what these two places are. The proposal that “Peripheries become the center” is a point of departure for the curators of the Prague Biennale, opening up space for investigation of their own diverse areas of research and interest.

One of the main focuses of the exhibition is new trends in painting. Lazarus Effect is an impressive panorama of works by emerging painters represented each by one or two large-dimension works, most of which were made specially for the Biennale. Curated by Luca Beatrice, Lauri Firstenberg and Helena Kontova, Lazarus Effect is an attempt to assess the health of the medium of painting, which constantly manifests its possibility and vitality through young painters’ forays into diverse styles including abstraction, collage, figuration, and hyperrealism. Superreal, curated by Lauri Firstenberg, further considers hyperrealism, investigating the return to the traditional, historical, slow territory of realist painting in an age informed by advancing digital technologies and accelerating speeds of information.
All the artworks at the Prague Biennale will be presented not in national “pavilions” but in a pluralistic mix. In this way Mission Possible, the Czech section curated by Michal Kolecek, is open to other European nationalities and aims to rethink the identity of Central Europe. This view opposes the typical understanding of Central Europe as an intersection of European East and West, and focuses instead on the North-South axis, underlining the significant role of the Czech state.

The melting of the opposition between center and peripheries is explored as a potential ground for new creativity in the section entitled When the Periphery Turns Center and the Center Turns Periphery, curated by Jens Hoffmann. This section of the Biennale gathers the work of artists coming from places that directly express the ambivalence of the terms “center” and “periphery,” for whom issues of racial, sexual, political, or social identity have become an optional reference but not necessarily an unalterable doctrine.

In the contemporary globalized cultural situation, Space and Subjectivity, curated by Lauri Firstenberg, intends to examine the concept of the masses vis-à-vis Hardt and Negri’s model of the multitude. A selection of photography and video, from portraits of urban life in Mexico City to anonymous Israeli suburban borders, explores the anxiety between homogenization and difference in the constitution of identity.

In the same vein, alone/together, a section of artists from Northern Europe curated by Jacob Fabricius, examines the relation between the individual and the collective, focusing on artistic strategies that challenge the restrictions of society. Beautiful Banners: Representation/Democracy/Participation, curated by Marco Scotini, similarly addresses artistic practices as the meeting point between the public and symbolic sphere in the new global order; and The Art of Survival, curated by B+B (Sarah Carrington and Sophie Hope), presents tactics, strategies, and attempted expeditions by artists working towards a space of self-determination, independence, or resistance.

Overcoming Alienation, curated by Ekaterina Lazareva, considers what globalization means for the art world today. Demonstrating a wide interpretation of the Biennale’s themes, the selected Russian artists are all engaged in overcoming the alienation of cultures, languages, and religions, by addressing topical subjects such as consumerism and corporations, immigration, communication, and social relations.

(Dis)locations, curated by Julieta Gonzalez, proposes that mobility and the diaspora are direct consequences of the globalization of the art world, and accordingly presents works by Latin American artists who either currently live abroad or have done so for a long time during their careers. An awareness of the “location” of the work, not only within the exhibition space, but also within the more general sphere of the art world, is an articulating thread in all the selected works. Through their problematization of space as the site of power, knowledge, and culture; and with their dislocation of given concepts, situations, and myths, the selected artists contest the stereotypes the West has imposed on the rest of the world.

The Prague Biennale explores new trends in digital art as well. The image chosen for the catalogue cover and the poster for the Biennale is a digital manipulation by Jean-Pierre Khazem of one of the icons of the Western visual tradition, the Mona Lisa.

IMPROVisual, curated by Lavinia Garulli, ventures to explore the ways in which the liveness of digital media performances brings a new kind of contact with reality into the audio-visual work. Electronic music is a pure sound event in which there is no specific image of the sound source, allowing the music to suggest new visual landscapes. Works investigating the live interaction of sound and image are freed up to concentrate on improvisation instead of reproduction, as reality no longer means an external thing. For the first time a Biennale proposes live VJing as a kind of artistic practice.

Virtual Perception, curated by Laurence Dreyfus, presents an international selection of digital artists. Innovative and unclassifiable, these inventors of images use different forms of expression: animated film, Flash, net art, analogue and digital images. Different types of reality confront each other and mix together, often with the appropriation of narrative figures from video games or interactive fictions that progressively move away from traditional video. From an aesthetic point of view, these images do not resemble any others: they are flat, pixilated, super-colored, rapid, and unusual.

In addition to the changes brought about by digital technology, the issue of retaining a national identity as the art world becomes increasingly globalized is a subject of debate and investigation. Several sections of the Biennale focus on diverse artistic scenes: Leaving Glasvegas, curated by Neil Mulholland, presents work by artists active in the Scottish cities of Dundee, Edinburgh, and Glasgow; individual “atypical” presences in the Hungarian art scene are gathered together by Judit Angel in Differentia Specifica; Fragments of Contemporary Identities, curated by Charlotte Mailler, exhibits works by (mostly Swiss) artists examining the representation or value of tradition in contemporary culture; Italy: Out of Order, curated by Luca Beatrice and Giancarlo Politi, surveys contemporary art from Italy; Dorothée Kirch has selected artists as different as possible for Global Suburbia to paint a picture of contemporary art in Iceland; The Deste Foundation presents a panorama of contemporary Greek art curated by Xenia Kalpaktsolgou; Francesca Jordan and Primo Marella present a survey of Chinese Art Today; Tomas Vlcek highlights work by leading historical protagonists of the Czech art scene in Special Homage to Czech Women Artists; and Seduced (by Speed and Movements): Towards active agencies of fictions and realities in Polish art, curated by Adam Budak, maps the vast cultural territories in which Polish contemporary artists construct multilayered and fluid structures of meaning, immersed in a process of constant shifting between the real and the fictive, the active and the passive, the mobile and the fixed.

Other thematic exhibitions include Come with me, curated by Gea Politi, which presents works by experimental filmmakers, including Alfonso Cuaròn, director of the upcoming Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; Aión: An Eventual Architecture, curated by Andrea Di Stefano, a survey of digital architecture; Collecting, Channeling, curated by Sofía Hernández, which exhibits three projects that collect and channel a range of views, interests, and objects of material culture; Illusion of Security, curated by Lino Baldini and Gyonata Bonvicini, which presents works that investigate questions of surveillance and “insecurity” culture; Disturbance, curated by Helena Kontova, which gathers a small group of contemporary artists intently pursuing their own singular visions; and Brand Art, also curated by Kontova, for which three artists were commissioned to create works interpreting the Mattoni brand on billboards around the city. The Prague Biennale also presents special projects by Oliver Payne and Nick Relph, curated by Gregor Muir; Sigur Rós, curated by artist Francesco Vezzoli; and Pass It On, an exquisite-corpse video project by Raimundas Malasauskas.

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