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by Vasyl Cherepanyn

East Europe Biennial Alliance

The newly established East Europe Biennial Alliance is comprised of Biennale Matter of Art in Prague, Biennale Warszawa, Kyiv Biennial, and OFF-Biennale Budapest. As contemporary biennials have become an important vehicle placing art in new contexts and reaching new audiences, the Alliance is designed to enhance the role of biennials in shaping new forms of international solidarity, expanding socio-political imagination, and developing alternative cultural solutions. Through connecting aesthetics and politics in a partisan manner, the Biennial Alliance aims at proposing a different narrative of the East European region and redefining the way cultural institutions collaborate.

The creation of such an international inter-biennial Alliance sets an important institutional precedent as a contraposition in the realm of culture to the ideological trends that define, in particular, the political conjuncture of Europe’s East. Over the last decade, this region has become a battleground for proxy wars and an authoritarian avant-garde championing right-wing populism as a general upcoming prospect. In the political context characterized by growing nationalistic tendencies, hardening of borders, narrowed public space, and institutional weakness, the conglomerate of biennial organizations presents the generative power of a self-critical institution that enacts the biennial format as an artistic tool in the political framework.

East European biennials have emerged as a new phenomenon related to the biennalization of contemporary art. At the same time, they differ from the established biennials in Western Europe, in the U.S., or in Asia. They operate under precarious conditions with limited possibilities, oftentimes without city or state support, though speaking explicitly on the political situation in which they find themselves. They are grassroots endeavors conducted by local collectives with curatorial strategies deeply grounded in the current socio-political realm. The Biennial Alliance supports each other’s curatorial work and exchange through sharing experience and know-how related to ways of communication with city/state representatives, relationship with the audience, and strategies to reach it through socially critical and committed projects as well as experience with art projects in public space.

The Alliance is the world’s first network of its kind that brings together biennials to develop a shared vision and regional collaboration producing cross-border meetings, public events, and working on the common agenda for upcoming years. It attempts to rethink the biennial format as a curatorial platform that works with contemporary art practitioners from around the world through translating the political constellations and institutional practices of the new biennials into its foundations. The Alliance’s program will be conceived and co-produced by the respective biennial institutions. The general administration, communications, and curating will be carried out on a joint basis by the inter-biennial organization. Possible expanding of the organization’s membership through including other biennials in the region as well as similar cultural initiatives presupposes, in particular, the conception of a migrating transregional meta-biennial based on the Alliance’s structure and held in different cities.

The East Europe Biennial Alliance in its activities complies with the vision of politics, society, and culture beyond the nation-state. Through a number of artistic events, exhibitions, public programs, and the creation of a long-term, permanent collaboration mechanism, the Alliance attempts to discover the potential of cities in creating non-authoritarian cultural policies and finding ways to oppose the visions of culture based on a narrowly understood national identity. Preparing conditions and establishing infrastructure for such international cooperation, solidarity, and inter-metropolitan friendship is of crucial political importance today.

Further development of the East Europe Biennial Alliance will help structure a platform for cultural collaboration, producing common practices and discourse, providing multilateral activity in the region and beyond, and bringing urgent topics from single agency to the international level. The creation of translocal knowledge within the Alliance through interconnecting the experiences and prospects of East Europe after the disillusionment of neoliberal transformation would contribute to imagining an alternative European project for the future.

Vasyl Cherepanyn is Head of the Visual Culture Research Center (VCRC, Kyiv); he works at the Cultural Studies Department of the University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and holds a Ph.D. in philosophy (aesthetics). He has been lecturing at European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder), University of Helsinki, Free University of Berlin, Merz Akademie in Stuttgart, University of Vienna, Masaryk University in Brno, Institute for Advanced Studies of the “Political Critique” in Warsaw, and Greifswald University. He was also a visiting fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. He recently co-edited Guidebook of The Kyiv International (Medusa Books, 2018) and '68 NOW (Archive Books, 2019) and curated The European International (Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, Amsterdam) and Hybrid Peace (Stroom, The Hague) projects. VCRC is the organizer of The School of Kyiv – Kyiv Biennial 2015, The Kyiv International – Kyiv Biennial 2017, and Black Cloud – Kyiv Biennial 2019. VCRC received the European Cultural Foundation's Princess Margriet Award for Culture in 2015, and the Igor Zabel Award Grant for Culture and Theory in 2018.


[1] For more information on the Biennale, which was envisaged as part of the European Capital of Culture – Rijeka 2020, please visit http://www.industrialartbiennale.eu/home-page/.

[2] David Frayne, The Refusal of Work: The Theory and Practice of Resistance to Work (London: Zed Books, 2015), 95. An examination of the relationship between work and free time is being revisited in the so-called post-work discussions that call for a reduction in the number of working hours, division of labor among a larger number of workers, and the introduction of a guaranteed minimum wage, which in turn leads to a redefinition of work as the basis of fulfillment of human needs.

[3] Anja Grgurinović, “Devetosatno radno vrijeme?,” https://www.radnicki.org/devetosatno-radno-vrijeme.

[4] How many times a day do you check your phone? Research shows that we check our mobile phones every six and a half minutes, https://wall.hr/lifestyle/tech/mobitel-u-prosjeku-provjeravamo-150-puta-dnevno/.

[5] Many books have been written about leisure and its meanings (leisure as a necessity, leisure as a form of silent rebellion, leisure as a meaningful way of spending free time…). A praise to leisure can be seen in the works of Oscar Wilde, Henry David Thoreau, William Burroughs, Bob Black, and Emily Dickinson, among others.

[6] Nedjeljom vino pijem, Ponedjeljkom ne radim. Utorkom je prileći dobro, Srijedom ustati ponovno, Četvrtkom se oporaviti, Petkom promisliti, Hej! Subotom se zapitati, Što nam je činiti? Similar caricatural poems of Slavic origin are described in: Tea Mayhew, “Images of Work and Pastimes in South-Slavic Folk Poetry (16th-19th Centuries),” in Rhetorics of Work, eds. Yannis Yannitsiotis, Dimitra Lampropoulou, Carla Salvatera (Pisa: Edizioni Plus, Pisa University Press, 2008), 187-209.

[7] Frayne, The Refusal of Work, 21.

[8] Agnes Berecz, http://www.ladaproject.com/artists/antallakner/.

[9] Nicola Bozzi, https://silviolorusso.com/work/shouldnt-you-be-working/.

[10] Dubravka Ugrešić, Doba kože (Zaprešić: Fraktura, 2019), 33. Ugrešić also cites Rexecode’s research about working time in Europe, which showed that “lazy” Romanians, Greeks, and Bulgarians worked the longest hours. The “hard-working” Finns work least, while the “diligent” Germans are somewhere in the middle.

[11] From Vanishing Points series, 2008.

[12] Amelia Groom, ed., Time – Documents of Contemporary Art (London: Whitechapel Gallery and Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2013), 12.

[13] Frayne, The Refusal of Work, 41.

[14] Sonja Briski Uzelac, “Mladen Stilinović : Kako manipulirati onim što te manipulira ili o strategiji konceptualne umjetnosti,” http://sveske.ba/en/content/mladen-stilinovic-kako-manipulirati-onim-sto-te-manipulira-ili-o-strategiji-konceptualne-umj.

[15] Mladen Stilinović, “Praise of Laziness,” in The Misfits, Conceptualist Strategies in Croatian Contemporary Art, ed. Tihomir Milovac (Zagreb: MSU, 2002), 93. https://monoskop.org/images/8/89/The_Misfits_Neprilagodeni_2002.pdf.

[16] See: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/128473.

[17] In the factory's newspaper Zbivanja, ed. Vlasta Hrvatin (Rijeka: The Trade Union of Rikard Benčić factory, 1981), 33.

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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