History of Art and Architecture

The Biennials Explosion: An Argument, a Conversation, a Downpour of Questions

Thursday, October 20, 2016 -
7:30am to 9:00am

CP Projects Space
MA Curatorial Practice, School of Visual Arts
132 West 21st Street, 10th floor

New York, NY

Thursday, October 20, 2016
7:30-9:00 pm

Free and open to the public

The Biennials Explosion: An Argument, a Conversation, a Downpour of Questions

CP Projects Space at the MA Curatorial Practice program, the School of Visual Arts is pleased to present The Biennials Explosion: An Argument, a Conversation, a Downpour of Questions, featuring three of the leading experts in the field: Terry Smith, author of Talking Contemporary Curating; Carolee Thea, author of On Curating and On Curating 2; and Rafal Niemojewski, director of The Biennial Foundation.

Carolee Thea has written, “The biennial or mega-exhibition—a laboratory for experimentation, investigation and aesthetic liberation—is where the curator’s experience and knowledge are tested.” To this could be added the thought that the biennial itself, as a form of cultural and social expression that has so thoroughly surmounted the globe in our period of unbridled market capitalism, must be tested. It must be interrogated in many way, indeed in every way, and so Terry Smith begins his essay, “Biennial Logic: A Double, Divided Dynamic”: “What is the role of biennials within what is loosely named the ‘ecology’ of contemporary art? I doubt that one single answer, or even kind of answer, can be found, as that would presume the definition of an ideal biennial, one that would set the same goal for everyone, and a standard by which to measure our success and failure each time we stage such an exhibition.”

These concerns about art biennials as to their nature, evolution, usefulness, viral character, political, social and economic carriage, and sheer stubbornness of existence are the subject of an exciting conversation between these major writers and thinkers about biennials: Thea, Smith, and Rafal Niemojewski.

Carolee Thea has published three books of conversations with some of the world’s most important biennial curators and artists, foci: interviews with ten international curators (2001), On Curating: Interviews with Ten International Curators (2009), and On Curating 2: Paradigm Shifts (2016). Thea has been a contributing editor at Sculpture Magazine since 1996 and has written articles for many other publications. On Curating 2: Paradigm Shifts, her most recent volume of interviews, explores the lively system of art biennials thriving around the world, particularly outside of Europe and America. Spawned by their more formal Western predecessors and motivated by the forces of history and politics, the newer incarnations often occur in the post-colonial, post-soviet and emerging nations. More elastic in form, these exhibitions expand upon and influence the growing contemporary art world.

Rafal Niemojewski is a cultural producer and scholar of contemporary art and its institutions. He graduated in History of Art and Curatorial Studies from La Sorbonne and earned his doctorate degree from the Royal College of Art in London for his thesis on the proliferation of the contemporary biennial. More recently, his research interests have expanded to include history of exhibitions and institutions in relation to the changing ecology of the expanded artistic field. Niemojewski has lectured extensively on the topic of biennials and his writings appeared in numerous journals and books, including The Manifesta Decade (MIT Press, 2006), Biennial Reader (Hatje Cantz, 2010) and The New Curator (Laurence King, 2014). He worked in capacity of Assistant and Associate Professor at Central Saint Martins, Sotheby’s Institute, Royal Institute of Art (Stockholm), and Course Director at Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. Outside academia, Niemojewski has led projects for the Serpentine Gallery, Bergen Kunsthall, Manifesta and dOCUMENTA(13), and worked as Curator of Programs at the Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre and Director of Programs and Education at the Neuberger Museum of Art. In 2103, he was appointed as accredited Expert at the Education, Culture and Audiovisual Executive Agency (EACEA) at the European Commission.

Terry Smith is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh, and Professor in the Division of Philosophy, Art and Critical Theory at the European Graduate School. In 2010 he received the Franklin Jewett Mather Award for Art Criticism conferred by the College Art Association (USA) and the Australia Council Visual Arts Laureate Award (Commonwealth of Australia). From 1994-2001 he was Power Professor of Contemporary Art and Director of the Power Institute, Foundation for Art and Visual Culture, University of Sydney. He was a member of the Art & Language group (New York) and a founder of Union Media Services (Sydney). He is the author of many books, most recently Thinking Contemporary Curating (New York: ICI, 2012), Contemporary Art: World Currents (Laurence King and Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2011), and What is Contemporary Art? (University of Chicago Press, 2009). A foundation Board member of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, he is currently a Board member of the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh.