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by Brandon Farnsworth

Biennials and their Siblings: Towards an Interdisciplinary Discourse on Curating Performance

Sixteen people stand in a group in Birkelunden Public Park, looking forward. In front of the group has been placed a small blue sign reading “Carole Douillard / The Viewers, 2019– / An artwork of the osloBIENNALEN / For more information, visit www.oslobiennalen.no.” Some people coming from the nearby flea market stop and look at the group, many take photos. Other people out on a Sunday meeting friends sit on a nearby bench and chat, facing the group instead of the public fountain behind them. In this park on this day, the group becomes a sculpture to observe, though one that also returns your gaze. Later, the group stands in front of the Nobel Peace Center, and the new context changes the meaning of their collective action: they seem to be staring back at the building, questioning it.

As the label indicated, the work was part of the osloBIENNALEN, a new biennale for art in public space in Oslo, Norway begun in 2019, and which will spread its activities out over a five-year period ending in 2024. The Viewers, and by extension the format of the osloBIENNALEN itself, are the most recent manifestations of contemporary arts biennials’ ever-increasing interest in programming performance, and in trying to reach an audience beyond a perceived art world bubble. While august events like the Venice Biennale (e.g., with Anne Imhof’s Faust at the 2017 German Pavilion) or Documenta 14 are themselves now intimately familiar with programming performance, more recently conceived biennials focus solely on presenting performative practices.[1] This is producing unique new biennial formats tailored to programming interdisciplinary performing arts, such as Public Art Munich, Bergen Assembly, or the aforementioned osloBIENNALEN.

This article argues that these new formats being created in in Oslo, Munich, or even Venice, are programming new forms of artistic practice that are reformulating their approaches to creating a cultural public sphere. This shift in production will be approached via a corresponding shift in the biennial discourse that re-examines perennial arts exhibitions alongside music and theatre festivals—siblings with whom they share both a common history and now an emphasis on the event of artistic production itself. It will argue that these arts events share common historical precedents, and that aspects from both their divergent histories must be combined together in order to adequately understand them.

osloBIENNALEN is a newly conceived biennial currently in its first edition, which began in 2019 and will span until 2024. Curated by Eva González-Sancho Bodero and Per Gunnar Eeg-Tverbakk, it is the result of a pilot project researching potential formats for a biennial of public art in Oslo by the same curators called OSLO PILOT, which took place between 2015–2017. osloBIENNALEN is using its drawn-out running time to emphasize longer-term processes of creation for the artists it invites to participate.

Carole Douillard, The Viewers, 2019–. Photograph by the author.

The primary goal is for artists’ projects for public space to be informed by in-depth knowledge of the spaces and contexts for which they are producing. As the curators write, “The artist who sets out to produce work destined for public space or the public sphere must embark on a process of analysis and reading of the specific contexts he [sic] wishes to address.”[2] A second outcome of this curatorial decision is the ability for projects to exist and develop over the entirety of the five-year period. This can be seen in Knut Åsman’s Oslo, an ongoing film project (using studios provided by the biennial) that will attempt to portray the city in new and unconventional ways over the course of several episodes until its final release in 2024.

It is conceived of as a biennial of art in the public space, emphasizing that its goal is to address the public sphere, understood as a wider and more diverse population group than those who visit the “controlled environments” of traditional biennials in the museum or gallery.[3] To this end, the biennial is striving both to present works in public space (such as The Viewers), but also to create what it calls “new institutional ecologies,” partnering with a wide range of institutions both in Norway and abroad.[4] The list includes both universities and institutions like the public library, but also other arts festivals, including the city’s own Ultima Festival for contemporary music.

Taken together, the osloBIENNALEN represents a new approach to the biennial format, one that seems to be explicitly formulated as a response to criticisms around ‘biennial fatigue’ and biennials’ questionable benefits to their local communities.[5] This has been done through a decided focus on working with the existing people and resources that already exist in the city, rather than creating a biennial consisting mainly of works and artists flown in from around the world, often with only tenuous relationships to site, as is often the norm with biennials.

A further “localist” ambition can be seen in the opening curatorial statement to its Oslo Pilot project: But the motivations behind this new biennial are not the usual ones of a desire to attract attention or the need to resolve some problem. Instead, the biennial represents another step in Oslo’s long tradition of major art projects in the public sphere.[6]

Going on to cite the example of the city’s Vigeland Park, as well as other egalitarian-minded examples, the curators’ unwillingness to “solve some problem” can be interpreted as an unwillingness to position the biennial in relation to others worldwide; the emphasis lies instead on producing what it contends are specific benefits for local communities. This interpretation is further strengthened by examining the publication further, consisting of an initial collection of texts and interviews by artists and writers around the issues concerning the biennial. The book focuses on presenting the voices of artists, in particular those working in socially engaged art: authors and articles that analyze biennials worldwide are conspicuously absent.

Can the osloBIENNALEN thus be seen as a biennial format that, responding to criticisms about lack of relation to site, has developed a unique new biennial format for the 21st century? If so, how can its principles of operation be understood?

In the essay “One Biennale, Many Biennials,” Federica Martini details how since the 19th century and the format of the first Biennale in Venice, perennial arts events can be described as symptomatic of their specific national and international contexts, stakeholder constellations, and the image that they wish to project into the world.[7] She rejects such a view, however, as only holding true on a superficial level, and argues instead that they function “just as their nineteenth-century counterparts, according to the presence of international artists and the promotion of the local scene,” and that they continue to create “images and representations of the outside world” in precisely the same way as their predecessors.[8] Martini’s argument centers on the historical view that biennials since Venice exist in the shadow of their larger 19th-century predecessors, the universal exhibitions, and specifically the Crystal Palace exhibition in London in 1851.

She ends the essay by underscoring that it is the format of the biennial exhibition itself that must be intervened in in order to find an escape from the criticisms that plague biennial formats around the world.[9] The osloBIENNALEN, with its emphasis on art addressing a ‘larger’ public sphere outside of the exhibition site, on socially engaged practices, and on performative practices, fits seemingly well to this call for new formats. Such developments do not, however, exist in isolation, and themselves must be traced back historically to a different line of development from the universal exhibitions of the 19th century.

The Crystal Palace Exhibition
Never before in the history of the world was there so large a collection of valuable gems and exquisite specimens of the lapidary’s art collected in one building. […] Never was there such a display of these gems as in our Crystal Palace. The Exhibition contains the finest diamonds, the finest ruby, and the finest emerald known to the world.[10]

The Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851 is seen as one of the earliest precursors of the biennial format, serving as an important cardinal point for mapping the origination of biennials since the mid-19th century. It was an early instance of a large planned event on the scale of current world expos or Olympic games: over the 141 days the exposition was open, it attracted over six million visitors and featured 17,062 exhibitors.[11] The exposition’s four sections, of which visual art was only one, were meant as a display of innovation and progress typical of early modernism. It emerged out of a desire to present a showcase of all of human production from around the globe within a carefully organized system of spatial classification, compressing it down into an exhibition suitable for consumption by local audiences.[12] This approach creates a positioning of the local in relation to a global, assembled by an imperial British gaze.

This act of self-definition in relief, of ‘putting our city on the map’ in relation to global developments, would prove to be a viral meme for industrializing Western nations. Following closely after London, in a bid to stake its claim to superiority over other American cities, New York initiated its own universal exposition in 1853, complete with a Crystal Palace replica. An exposition in 1855 in Paris would quickly follow, succeeded by the end-of-the-century expositions across both Europe, the USA, and Australia with the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition.[13]

Contemporary biennial discourse understands these large-scale events as the conceptual basis for later perennial arts events and biennials over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries. The new relationships between capitalist ideology, nationalist sentiment, the leisure needs of a growing, educated middle class, and cultural production that were established in these earlier forms are understood as pre-empting the biennale formats that would come after: Laurence Alloway would already make the link to the cosmopolitanism of the Crystal Palace Exhibition in his 1968 account of the Venice biennale.[14] More recently, Martini argues that biennials form a continuation of the processes of globalization initiated by universal exhibitions, whereas Caroline A. Jones views them as miniaturizations of those larger early formats, brokering internationality solely via art.[15] Donald Preziosi argues that the scopic regime the Crystal Palace deployed understood the displayed objects as indexical of their circumstances of production, and the exhibition itself as responsible for establishing these indexical relationships. This understanding of the exhibition focuses on it as a site for presenting, negotiating, and brokering these symbolic relationships. [16]

What these approaches have in common is their understanding of the Crystal Palace, and by extension also contemporary arts events and biennials, as primarily sites for the production and exchange of various forms of capital. This can be the brokering of various forms of cultural capital, negotiating international reputations of countries or artists via the exhibition practices or curatorial concepts mentioned above, but also through prizes (Venice’s Golden Lion, the Berlinale’s Golden Bear). As is obvious with the Crystal Palace, but sometimes forgotten when discussing biennials themselves, capital also plays a direct role, such as via income from tourism, hotel reservations, or directly through ticket sales, or sales of artworks.[17] Such an approach produces readings such as that of curator Marian Pastor Roces, who argues that the true subject of the universal exhibitions was the concept of capital in all its facets: the capital city, capitalist conquest, even the capitals of letters and columns.[18] This perspective functions well for understanding the role of biennials in processes of nation-building and fostering cosmopolitan identities, be they in Victorian England, the 19th-century Kingdom of Italy, or more recently in China or the U.A.E.

It has also played an important role in promoting critical perspectives on such societal-level definitional processes, in particular since the relational and educational turns of the late 1990s/early 2000s: After the rapid expansion in the number and size of biennials around the globe during the 1990s, curator Okwui Enwezor formulated Documenta 11 (2002) as a site for reinvestigating the relationship between the artistic practices of Europe and North America to the rest of the world. Rather than promote the further propagation of the Orientalist gaze on non-Western work, Documenta 11 was intended to challenge the hegemony of the West and its ability to define the practices and discourses of contemporary art.[19] This meant using documenta to propose a worldview based on the fundamental entanglement between places across the globe brought together by the flows of globalization. Just as earlier biennials were intended to ‘put a city on the map,’ Documenta 11’s intention was to redraw such maps by intervening in those entangled networks, but now from a critical, anti-hegemonic perspective. What was understood to be “international” was really just a focus on the “milieu of the artistic industry clustered in a limited art market in the Western Europe [sic] and North America.”[20]

Part of the solution was to disrupt Kassel as the sole site of Documenta 11, creating instead a series of five platforms beginning a year before the quinquennial, four of which took place in various locations worldwide—and outside of Kassel itself. The first four platforms (in Vienna/Berlin, New Delhi, St. Lucia, and Lagos, respectively) consisted of debates, panel discussions, and lectures before the fifth and final platform in Kassel itself, the traditional 100-day exhibition. This format disrupted Kassel as a locality that was positioned in relation to an assembled vision of its global connections, and produced instead an obscurity or incomprehensibility that disrupted the ability for a visitor to achieve an ‘overview’ of the exhibition and its interpretation of the assembled artifacts, a cornerstone of the scopic regime of modernism first deployed with the Crystal Palace Exhibtion.

Documenta 11 can be seen as a programmatic unwillingness to cater to the local cosmopolitan visitor looking to survey “the finest … of the world,” as the promotional text for the Crystal Palace exhibition proclaimed. The debates and discussions of its first four platforms would pre-empt many further biennials’ similar turn to relational formats that critically engage structurally with the biennial format. Such approaches focus on the performativity of the encounter, and the immanence of eventgoers’ experience, precepts that would be heavily emphasized two decades later at the osloBIENNALEN described in the beginning of this article.

Understanding Oslo’s Relation to Performing Arts Festivals
The relationality and performativity of the biennial would be so heavily emphasized in Oslo’s format that it was arguably no longer best viewed via this same relationship between infrastructure and processes of knowledge creation. It is understood better as a place for the negotiation of societal values, and as attempting to form a cultural public sphere. While this emphasis can be seen as a culmination of various art world ‘turns,’ a problematically teleological concept in itself, it is also a reconnection to performing arts festivals and their strategies for addressing publics. This means taking an interdisciplinary scholarly approach to biennial studies, putting established accounts by Jones, Roces, Filipovic, and others in relation to the strategies of performing arts administrators.

This link to performing arts festivals is not as far-fetched as it may seem, as they share a great deal of common history with visual arts biennials: performing arts festivals in Europe emerged under the same conditions as visual arts festivals after the universal exhibition boom. The Bayreuth Festspiele (1876), dedicated to realizing Wagner’s operas, even predates the Venice Biennale (1895) as the earliest purely artistic festival in Europe.[21] Also notable during this time were the Salzburger Festspiele (1920), and Donaueschinger Kammermusiktage (1921), which were both founded under similar conditions as Venice and other biennials, and also similarly continue to have a major impact on European cultural life.[22]

The discourse on performing arts festivals distinguishes itself from that on biennials in that it is less focused on issues of capital, its exchange, and its subversion. Rather, the focus is on understanding the relationship between these festivals and their production of, or contribution to, a cultural public sphere.[23] This approach focuses on festivals’ function of (re)affirming community bonds and identity through local co-presence, and is often implicitly based on anthropologist Victor Turner’s work on the liminality of festivals, and the concept of communitas.[24] In this understanding, the emphasis of the festival event thus lies in creating a temporary context that functionally suspends social structures—a kind of Foucauldian heterotopia—dissolving norms in order to create a structure where processes of individual transformation can take place. Festivals are moments that suspend the everyday, and create a temporary state of exceptionality, using this as a moment to either reaffirm community values, or otherwise question and transform them, thus ensuring their stability and continuity.

Such a perspective focusing on creating a situated cultural public sphere are relevant for visual arts biennials that are increasingly programming performative practices and socially engaged art. The problem that emerges with this knowledge transfer is that because of the different history of performing arts festivals, there is not a comprehensive parallel discourse to draw on.

Paul O’Neill argues that much of the discourse around curatorial strategies emerged in the 1990s as curators were required to articulate and demystify their positions, in doing so becoming a nexus of critique and debate. This combined with the first curatorial programs, histories, and the worldwide spread of the profession would result in the discourse of curating as it is being formed today.[25] Though there is a lack of analogous discourse in the performing arts during the same period, a curatorial discourse in the performing arts has been forming over the past decade, at the latest since the rise of interdisciplinary performing arts, and performing arts intersecting with visual arts institutions. The example of Florian Malzacher’s Truth is Concrete project will help articulate this shift in references we are pursuing with the osloBIENNALEN.[26]

Curating in the Performing Arts
As part of the 2012 Steirischer Herbst festival in Graz, Austria, chief dramaturg Florian Malzacher initiated a seven-day/24-hour “marathon camp” called Truth is Concrete. The project occupied a black-box theatre and neighboring gallery, in spaces designed by raumlaborberlin. Activities continued through the night, with participants invited to also sleep, live, and eat at the camp for the event’s duration. Its goal was to rediscover the link between the arts and politics against a background of intense geopolitical upheaval: Malzacher recounts the watershed events transpiring as the team was conceiving the project: the Arab Spring was spreading across the Middle East, the Occupy Wall Street movement had started, the European debt crisis was taking place, and the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe had begun, to name just a few.

The question for the organizers became whether art could have a role to play in these global crises, or would only ever be a ‘leftist hobby,’ as one populist extremist politician put it. Among those involved in the event and its subsequent documentation were many names that have today well-established practices operating between art and activism, including The Silent University/Ahmet Öğüt, Slavoj Žižek, Rabih Mroué, Center for Political Beauty, The Yes Men, raumlaborberlin, International Institute of Political Murder, Ultra-red, Forensic Architecture, and Pussy Riot.[27]

The marathon presented these artistic projects engaged in social and political change through talks and presentations, as well as through performances, concerts, and workshops that engaged participants directly. Events included: daily general assemblies, short presentations of concrete artistic practices called tactic talks, thematic blocks and panels hosted by guest curators, a series of recurring events such as yoga and screenings, an open marathon of “non-curated” contributions where anyone could sign up for a slot, and a series of durational projects (hair salon, media archive). The central program points adhered to a strict timeline, with a so-called “continuing room” existing as a space where conversations could spill over the allotted time limits.[28]

The dissolution of the spectator/actor divide allowed for Truth is Concrete to take on a permeable relationship to the external world, becoming a place for the exchange and application of knowledges for all involved. It became a mirror of society and its problems, but also a place to discuss these problems and develop responses. This corresponds with Malzacher’s view on the theatre’s historical function, as a space “in which societies have long explored their own means, procedures, ideals, and limits”[29]: the theatre as a public sphere in which to develop answers to society’s challenges.

Suspending hierarchies between participants, using the theatre to address and transform societal issues, and the overall question of art’s societal function are established characteristics of performing arts festivals. Malzacher’s curatorial method uses these practices and tacit knowledges to organize an arena for debating the role of art in activism. As he says:

When you invite people to stay for [170 hours, the duration of Truth is Concrete –Ed.] you have to think about what time means. What does it mean when people spend time together, when they become a collective? When they get annoyed with each other what group dynamics kick in? What’s what I think is specific for the field of theatre in the practice of curation… Thinking from the specificities of theater itself—that’s the interesting part.[30]

While at first glance Malzacher’s questions and concerns seem banal, they offer a glimpse of the less-codified but still very existent tactics of the performing arts for creating and shaping events. The intersection with the visual arts, and the curatorial discourse in particular, over the past decade is, however, beginning to enunciate these practices in greater detail.

A Hybrid Approach
It is finally at this junction between visual arts biennials’ desire to subvert their perceived subservience to global capitalism and reach out to alternative publics, and performing arts festivals’ experimentation with and reflection on producing cultural public spheres that a project such as the osloBIENNALEN can be situated. This is because it constitutes a new form of arts event that is best understood by combining these two separate histories together.

It first must be contextualized as part of visual arts biennials’ focus on experimentations with form in order to create counterhegemonic knowledge production and subvert their entanglement with the art market and global capital. This comes from seeing themselves in lineage to universal expositions, Western networks of power, and the scopic regimes of modernist imperialism. These considerations are what have led osloBIENNALEN to subvert the festival logic of a shorter-duration biennial event, instead spreading activities over a five-year-period, and focusing on local production for local publics rather than the exoticism of an international survey, while still maintaining the title of biennial in its name.[31] Desires to subvert market logics, and to create art out of the interaction with individuals and disadvantaged communities lead the biennial to focus on singular, unrepeatable performances sometimes in public space—like Carole Douillard’s The Viewers.

At the same time, this move ‘into’ performance of an event from the visual arts tradition is also a reterritorialization of performing arts practices, and their history of gathering audiences into cultural public spheres in which to debate societal issues and reaffirm values. This biennial would also be unthinkable without the rise of the interdisciplinary performing arts, which are mixing disciplinary references, and are site-specific, participatory, and global in scope. This is embodied by artists like the biennial’s Mette Edvardsen, whose practice is part of a recent generation of ‘conceptual dance’ practitioners.[32]

These shifts mean that curatorial discourse, as it has developed since the 1990s, must also shift how it creates knowledge about performative arts events. This does not mean describing new practices using existing curatorial theories and references (though it does not exclude this per se), but rather effecting a shift in its methods that allows new space for the knowledges of performing arts curation to be brought to light. Because of the nature of performance, this must involve finding ways to document and share these situated practices, without them losing their unique identity.

Just as there existed a need in the 1980s and 1990s for the curators who had amassed a great deal of power in the art world to provide transparency and explain their decision-making, so too must there today be calls for transparency on this new register. While the osloBIENNALEN readily puts out publications and brochures justifying its relationship to the city and the performative, operationally how it produces the cultural public sphere that it contends remains completely opaque, unchallenged, and therefore almost certainly under-reflected. As shown with Malzacher’s Truth is Concrete, this ‘operative how’ is the decisive factor in performative events. It is exactly the energy, the atmosphere that is created in the moment, and which can only ever be partially documented via photos, videos, etc., that is the very motivation for organizing such a performance in the first place. It also comes back to modes of working, communicating with artists and organizers that, in unseen ways, contribute in turn to the establishing of this mood.

A second important aspect that must come along with this shift to a more nuanced, historically informed understanding of performative curatorial practices is to evaluate their stated impacts. It is understandable that curators be skeptical of measuring and (worse) quantifying the outcomes or impacts of their festivals, as it represents an additional potential infringement on artistic autonomy, in addition to the requirements of funders and other stakeholders. However, biennials like osloBIENNALEN make considerable claims to contributing to and expanding (through addressing disadvantaged groups) a city’s cultural public sphere. Accountability must therefore be developed that goes beyond opening curatorial statements. To borrow from event studies, evaluating stated claims about biennials “must interrogate the extent to which the interests of those who are claimed to be the beneficiaries of event outcomes are truly being served by the political and social elites that are most often the drivers of event management and strategy.”[33] Such a model has the advantage of corresponding to the same desire to foster counterhegemonies as has already been shown to exist in the curatorial discourse itself. Developing adequate means of evaluation must therefore be seen as an additional curatorial challenge that can be pursued with the same level of ingenuity as devising the curatorial concept itself.

As many biennials turn to programming performance as a means of redefining their relationship to their constituent communities, the historical precedents against which the biennial itself is measured must be re-examined, and calls for their transparency must be reformulated. The newly conceived osloBIENNALEN is one such arts event making major claims about its relevancy to a more diverse and more local public sphere than the international contemporary art community. In order to contextualize this distinction between local and international interests being served by an arts event, the 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition was shown to be a decisive historical point that the curatorial discourse views as having established this gesture of positioning localities in relation to a survey of their international counterparts, assembled by an imperialist gaze. It must be remembered that the universal exhibition phenomenon also spurred the development of modern performing arts festivals as well, in a history that would run largely in parallel to that of biennials. Comparatively underdiscursivized in relation to biennials, performing arts festivals nevertheless form a history of creating cultural public spheres that question, reaffirm, or transform community values. The example of Malzacher’s Truth is Concrete shows that this history manifests itself in practitioners’ knowledge of the specific, situated how to create such outcomes.

While curatorial discourse has focused on creating a transparency of intentions, the specificities of how these goals are realized are still undertheorized. Because the turn to performative formats at biennials like Oslo brings them by definition into the territory of the performing arts, and because it is precisely the performative event onto which they stake their claim to criticality, the ‘operative how’ becomes both central and yet still unacceptably invisible according to the standards of transparency that spurred the curatorial discourse in the first place. Having framed this problem, two suggestions are made to address this gap. The first is the call for the curatorial discourse to examine also the ‘operative how’ of situated practices, despite the material resistances against generalizing a ‘theory’ of practice. The second is that claims regarding the outcomes of performance-focused biennials must be evaluated to ensure they are plausibly serving the intended beneficiaries, and that solutions must be found that do not a priori cater to capitalist logics of the event.

The aim has been to establish a basis for understanding the new kinds of performing arts events that are being produced by biennials that acknowledges the interplay of their double histories between desires to subvert their own instrumentalization by capital, and as sites for collective gathering and collective transformation. It is hoped that this preliminary attempt at framing these issues can foster debate and knowledge creation focused on how all aspects of their execution and management must be considered in order to properly analyze their curatorial practices, and how these practices shape aesthetic perception and production.

Brandon Farnsworth, born in 1991, works as an independent music curator, and as a research associate at the Zurich University of the Arts, where he also studied classical music performance and transdisciplinary studies. He pursued his doctoral degree in historical musicology at the University of Music Carl Maria von Weber Dresden, and was an affiliated researcher with the joint Epistemologies of Aesthetic Practice doctoral program at the Collegium Helveticum. His dissertation, “Curating Contemporary Music Festivals,” has recently been published with Transcript Verlag. Brandon’s research focuses on the intersection of performance and curatorial studies, and strives for a global perspective.


[1] On the incorporation of performance in visual arts institutions more generally, see  Claire Bishop, “The Perils and Possibilities of Dance in the Museum: Tate, MoMA, and Whitney,” Dance Research Journal 46, no. 3 (December 2014): 63–76, and Claire Bishop, “Black Box, White Cube, Gray Zone: Dance Exhibitions and Audience Attention,” TDR: The Drama Review 62, no. 2 (Summer 2018): 22–42.

[2] Eva González-Sancho and Per Gunnar Eeg-Tverbakk, eds., Oslo Pilot (2015–17): A Project Investigating the Role of Art in and for the Public Space: Laying the Groundwork for Oslo Biennial First Edition (Milan: Mousse Publishing, 2018), 13.

[3] González-Sancho and Eeg-Tverbakk, Oslo Pilot, 9.

[4] osloBIENNALEN, October 2019 (Oslo: 07 Media, 2019), 9, accessed March 20, 2020, https://issuu.com/kul43/docs/oboctober.

[5] On biennale fatigue, see Bruce W. Ferguson and Milena M. Hoegsberg, “Talking and Thinking about Biennials: The Potential of Discursivity,” in The Biennale Reader, eds. Elena Filipovic, Marieke van Hal, and Solveig Øvstebø (Bergen: Bergen Kunsthall, 2010), 360–277.

[6] González-Sancho and Per Gunnar Eeg-Tverbakk, 7.

[7] Federica Martini, “One Biennale, Many Biennials,” in Just Another Exhibition: Histories and Politics of Biennials, eds. Federica Martini, Vittoria Martini (Milan: Postmedia Books, 2011), 109.

[8] Ibid., 110.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Great Exhibition, “Precious Stones in the Crystal Palace,” The Illustrated Exhibitor: Guide to the Great Exhibition (12 July 1851), (London: Cassell, 1851), 1, accessed March 20, 2020, https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/the-illustrated-exhibitor-guide-to-the-great-exhibition.

[11] Verena Teissl, Kulturveranstaltung Festival: Formate, Entstehung und Potenziale (Festival as cultural event: formats, emergence, and potentials) (Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2013), 28.

[12] Donald Preziosi, “The Crystalline Veil and the Phallomorphic Imaginary,” in The Biennale Reader, eds. Elena Filipovic, Marieke van Hal, and Solveig Øvstebø (Bergen: Bergen Kunsthall, 2010), 34.; Martini, “One Biennale, Many Biennials,” 100.

[13] The Paris Treaty of 1928 would later come to regulate the frequency and list of responsibilities of these universal exhibitions. Enforcement of the treaty is managed by Bureau International des Expositions, also based in Paris. The bureau includes a list of “historically important” universal expositions that predate its founding on its website. See Bureau International des Expositions, Protocol: To Amend the Convention Signed at Paris on the 22nd of November 1928 Relating to International Exhibitions, accessed March 20, 2020, https://www.bie-paris.org/site/images/stories/files/BIE_Convention_eng.pdf.

[14] Lawrence Alloway, The Venice Biennale 1895-1968: From Salon to Goldfish Bowl (Greenwich CT: New York Graphic Society LTD, 1968).

[15] Caroline A. Jones, “Biennale Culture: A Longer History,” in The Biennale Reader, 81.

[16] Preziosi, “The Crystalline Veil,” 38–45.

[17] As was the early concept behind the Venice Biennale, and is currently the case with art fairs like Art Basel or Frieze, which, while having a different status in the visual arts community, nevertheless function in almost precisely the same way.

[18] Marian Pastor Roces, “Crystal Palace Exhibitions,” in The Biennale Reader, 57.

[19] Anthony Gardner and Charles Green, “Post-North? Documenta11 and the Challenges of the ‘Global’ Exhibition,” in “The documenta Issue,” special issue, OnCurating Journal, no. 33 (June 2017): 111, accessed March 20, 2020, http://www.on-curating.org/issue-33-reader/post-north-documenta11-and-the-challenges-of-the-global-exhibition.html.

[20] Okwui Enwezor, “Curating Beyond the Canon: Okwui Enwezor Interviewed by Paul O’Neill,” in Curating Subjects, ed. Paul O’Neill (London: Open Editions, 2007), 111.

[21] Teissl, Kulturveranstaltung Festival, 35.

[22] After the end of WWII, the number of festivals in Europe would rapidly continue to rise until the 1970s, due in part to the advent of the counterculture and the consequences of the 1968 revolution. See Jennifer Elfert, Theaterfestivals: Geschichte und Kritik eines kulturellen Organisationsmodells (Theater festivals: history and criticism of a form of cultural organization) (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2009), 27–28.

[23] This mirrors also the findings of Getz’s literature review on festival studies in general. See Donald Getz, “The Nature and Scope of Festival Studies,” International Journal of Event Management Research 5, no. 1 (2010): 4.

[24] See for instance Victor Turner, “Liminality and Communitas,” in The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (Chicago: Aldine Publishing, 1969), 94–130.

[25] Paul O’Neill, The Culture of Curating and the Curating of Culture(s) (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012), 42–49.

[26] Florian Malzacher, along with Johana Warsza and Tom Sellar, has been a major force in publishing much early writing on curating performance. In addition to Malzacher’s Truth is Concrete publication, he has published, together with Warsza, a four-part “Performing Urgency” series with Alexander Verlag. Warsza’s catalogue for Public Art Munich 2018 (with Patricia Reed, A City Curating Reader [Berlin: Motto Books, 2019]) is also worth mentioning here. Sellar, though American, mainly drawing on European practitioners, dedicated two special issues of his journal Theater to curatorial practices within the field of theatre; see Tom Sellar and Bertie Ferdman, eds., “Performance Curators,” special issue, Theatre 44, no. 2 (2014); Tom Sellar, ed., “Curating Crisis,” special issue, Theatre 47, no. 1 (2017). Most recently, the anthology Curating Live Arts has enriched the field with a number of new perspectives, including ones from outside of Europe. See Dena Davida, Marc Pronovost, Véronique Hudon, and Jane Gabriels, eds., Curating Live Arts: Critical Perspectives, Essays, and Conversations on Theory and Practice (New York: Berghahn Books, 2018).

[27] Steirischer Herbst, “Participants,” Steirischer Herbst webpage for Truth is Concrete, accessed March 20, 2020, http://www.truthisconcrete.org/participants/.

[28] Steirischer Herbst, “Timeline,” Steirischer Herbst webpage for Truth is Concrete, accessed March 20, 2020, http://truthisconcrete.org/programme/PDFs/sh12_TIC-Timeline-Web.pdf.

[29] Florian Malzacher, “Feeling Alive: The Performative Potential of Curating,” in Empty Stages, Crowded Flats: Performativity as a Curatorial Strategy, eds. Florian Malzacher and Joanna Warsza (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2014), 38.

[30] Florian Malzacher, “Agonism and the Next Word. Florian Malzacher interviewed by Tom Sellar,” Theater 47, no. 1 (2017): 18.

[31] The curators refer to this as a “new biennial model.” See osloBIENNALEN, October 2019, 7.

[32] Others include Xavier LeRoy, Boris Charmatz, Tino Sehgal, Jérôme Bel, and Mårten Spångberg.

[33] Mike Weed, “Towards an interdisciplinary events research agenda across sport, tourism, leisure and health,” in The Routledge Handbook of Events, eds. Stephen J. Page and Joanne Connell (London: Routledge, 2012), 66–67.

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Issue 46 / June 2020

Contemporary Art Biennales – Our Hegemonic Machines in Times of Emergency

by Ronald Kolb, Shwetal A. Patel, Dorothee Richter

by Daniel Knorr

by Roma Jam Session art Kollektiv

by Delia Popa

by Diana Dulgheru

by Daniel Knorr

by Farid Rakun

by Raqs Media Collective

by Defne Ayas and Natasha Ginwala

by Ekaterina Degot

by Yung Ma

by Eva González-Sancho Bodero and Per Gunnar Eeg-Tverbakk

by Raluca Voinea

by Răzvan Ion

by Daniel Knorr

by Lara van Meeteren and Bart Wissink

by Raqs Media Collective

by Robert E. D’Souza

By Manifesta 12 Creative Mediators: Bregtje van der Haak, Andrés Jaque, Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, Mirjam Varadinis

WHW in conversation with Omar Kholeif

by Henk Slager

by Vasyl Cherepanyn

by Ksenija Orelj

by Catherine David

by Okwui Enwezor

by Sabeth Buchmann and Ilse Lafer

by Julia Bethwaite and Anni Kangas

by Federica Martini

by Vittoria Martini