1 May 2012

Ana Teixeira Pinto on the 7th Berlin Biennale

I've had a lot of conversations recently about 'art writing' (née 'art criticism'): what it's use is, who reads it, why write it, what role it plays in the art world, etc., etc. General conclusions have been essentially: it's PR for artists, no-one reads it except artists and their galleries (and maybe some collectors if it's in a big enough publication), there's really not much reason to write it if you see yourself as a writer (unless you're doing a favour to an artist friend or the publication name will look good on your CV), 'art writers' play a strange role in the art world - no one wants them off-side (if they're good), everyone wants to be their friend (if they're good), but no one really cares about their writing in itself ...

These were some very cynical conclusions drawn from said conversations. I still stand by them at some level. But I came across this great review by Ana Teixeira Pinto recently, and frankly she did change my mind a bit about what art writing/criticism can do these days, and so perhaps I will need to revise my conclusions.

Pinto's review of the 7th Berlin Biennale is not only critically very interesting (i.e. in terms of the Portuguese writer's analysis of Artur Żmijewski's biennale) but feels exciting as a text, as writing in itself. It seems to gallop along, taking us with it, making unexpected but pertinent references, and throwing some bite (crucial to avoid falling into the abyss) - all without taking itself too seriously.

Perhaps it is my already-interest in such questions of staging political interventions via intrinsically compromised frameworks such as biennials (the compromised position itself being a very interesting and fruitful one for discussion) that held my attention, but I sense something more. Pinto has managed to subtly identify something highly pertinent about the way art treats politics and in so doing uncover something valid not solely regards BB7 (not Big Brother 7, FYI) but also crucial to the consideration of art/politics and their (inter)relation and production in general. My questions: Is it possible to 'curate' something (anything) without (somehow) yourself becoming (inadvertently or not) the centre-stage? What kind of 'politics' do the contemporary notions of curating and biennales come from, anyway?
Excerpt:

'The political is not synonymous with politics. Critique is the acknowledgment of this split, or, as Bertolt Brecht put it, an awakening of a sense of strangeness that forces one to reshuffle the “order of things.” From the 7th Berlin Biennial however ... critique is altogether absent. The exhibition leaves everything in its proper place: speech and noise, power and protest, cruelty and kitsch. Like a deer caught in the headlights, the viewers become “bewildered recipients ineffectually looking for answers” (Żmijewski), yet this bewilderment is incapable of begetting political articulation, and, if anything, it reinforces the established order, or what Rancière called the order of the “police”. No wonder the show is gathering positive press, there’s nothing like copious amounts of discussion to mask the absence of discourse.'

Hazar!

The article also dovetails very nicely with recent thoughts around the whole curator-as-artist/artist-as-curator schtick (without explicitly referencing it as tackily as I just did) and the analogy Pinto makes to John Malkovich in this respect is quite perfect.

Read the review on Art-Agenda: http://www.art-agenda.com/reviews/7th-berlin-biennale/


(Miroslav Patecki, Christ the King, 2012)

4 Comments:

Blogger Deborah Birch said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

01 May, 2012 13:22  
Blogger Deborah Birch said...

“We were interested in finding answers, not asking questions, motherf*cker!”

Ha! Magic.

I like her distinction between the political and the ethical, the soothing piety of the ritual and its inability to really act; it takes political action, which is necessarily spontaneous, unpredictable, and capable of transforming the future (Arendt), and relocates it in the idylls of human existence, cyclical, bound, unchanging. The ritual is a salve, it venerates, but it doesn't act.

01 May, 2012 13:35  
Blogger Iakovos Amperidis said...

thanks for sharing

02 May, 2012 16:06  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In case you were interested in more radical assessment of the named show, and the broader context in which it happens historically, please visit our project weblog for a show/related events which is on in Berlin till 13 May... Updated daily in order to represent the differing voices of anti-establishment resistance... http://2012istheseasonfortreason.wordpress.com/

03 May, 2012 13:33  

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