Monday, July 28, 2008

7th Shanghai Bienniale's Narrow vision

The 7th Shanghai Bienniale, which opens on September 9, has just announced its artists' list, and the best way to describe it is shameful. Usually, I don't quarrel with such things, but I could not but notice in the list (31 Chinese; 30 international) the screaming absence of any artists from the whole of Africa, and the middle east (except Israel), and Australia. Perhaps the team of curators, consisting of 3 Chinese and 2 Europeans, never got the memo: in this day and age, it is simply dumb and utterly parochial to organize a bienniale that claims an international stature and ignore two and half continents. Do the curators think they could use their show to advance the argument for China's imaginary movement into the G8? Not that there is anything wrong with that. But at least they ought to have made that clear. It is even more annoying that with a theme called "Translocalmotion," they failed to see that geopolitical movement of whatever kind, however imagined, is also happening, perhaps with more consequential rigor in the parts of the world they so resolutely ignored, and that some of the more important work by contemporary artists invested in these questions are being made by African and Middle Eastern artists. So I really don't get it. Shanghai should learn from other nearby biennials, particularly the more respected Gwangju which has consistently produced truly international biennials since its founding.

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