Feet of Clay – Taipei Biennial 2010

TB10, Installation view: New works by Hito Steyerl and Superflex

Published in TAKE on Art Magazine: Oeuvre (Issue 4, January 2011)


At some point during a public dialogue between Jacques Rancière and Oliver Davis at the ‘EYE Institute’ (Amsterdam), my mind traveled beyond the precincts of the snug auditorium, past the picnicking tourists in Vondelpark and hurtled
all the way into the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM) where I was standing some days earlier, viewing the Taipei Biennial 2010 (TB10). With reference to his seminal book on cinema, Film Fables1, Rancière mentioned, “There is a long history of scholars deciphering images; propelling the belief that spectators are victims of the spectacle of images….” he went on to elaborate that a spectator/moviegoer ought to be treated as an intermediary caught up in the re-invention of a cinematic expression rather than one ‘stupidly’ looking at shadows.

When a museum-based biennial proposes to be ‘an exhibition on the politics of art,’ critical sensors within the global creative community instantly become alert, suspicious even. The most recent edition of the Taipei Biennial, curated by Hongjohn Lin and Tirdad Zolghadr opened with precisely this premise of internal investigation. The inversion of the fundamental tenets of biennial-making is by no means a novel curatorial strategy. With over a hundred biennials and triennials operating simultaneously across the globe, each one ends up attempting to gain an authentic status by spinning a brand of newness through its thematic element, discourse production, location, public projects, artist-list, etc. However, what stirred the mental jump from an invigorating discussion led by Rancière to a biennial site was the manner in which TB10 dealt with economies of image production and circuits of visual consumption. The path of self-reflexivity can often turn into a laborious, self-obsessive exercise; but by turning in curatorial authority to embrace unsteady collaborations and participatory logics, TB10 went from exploring the conditions of ‘instrumentalization of biennials’2 to articulating where meaningful potentialities could lie.

(Complete article may be viewed in magazine copy: http://www.takeonartmagazine.com/)

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