Association of Art Historians (AAH) Annual Conference: 7 – 9 April 2016
University of Edinburgh
Academic Session 29 – more information
The City in the Biennale: Architecture, geography and identity
Biennials and other large-scale recurring art expositions occur across the world in major cities and regional areas alike. This session explores the centrality of the urban to biennials and their ‘festivalisation’ of art. We are interested in the relationship between the ‘heterotopia’ of such events and the city (concrete or imaginary) to which they are attached. These ‘mega events’ are endowed – financially and otherwise – with the potential to re-image and re-make the city, changing its identity. Such mega-exhibitions are of course bound up with a politics of place-branding for financial investment, real-estate speculation, regeneration and gentrification, as well as attracting local and global tourism. Dismissing such events as a cultural arm of neoliberalism, however, may discount the new identities and opportunities that they configure.
This session aims to open the debate on ‘the city in the biennale’: the role of the city and the architectural spaces used and/or constructed in the organisation of such events, as well as the engagement with those spaces in the work of participating artists, curators and the public. To what extent have recent biennials followed on or departed from models like Venice or São Paulo? What facilities are used, adapted or newly built to accommodate displays and the circulation of visitors? What kind of architecture drives the spectacle? What dynamics of exclusivity or inclusivity are designed into the geography of such events? We welcome contributions from art historians, anthropologists, urbanists, curators and artists, and are particularly interested in case-studies from the emerging economies of Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America.
7 July 2015