Biennalisation

Dr Charles Green

Wednesday 12 October 6.00pm
The University of Queensland Art Museum

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Contemporary art has boomed since the late 1980s. The period’s key art productions have clustered around spectacular, expensive new art such as video installation and large colour photography, implying venues able to provide the resources, scale and public prominence required by these works. Biennales, triennales and Documentas met these demands, offering newcomers to the global scene a stage on which to participate in the contemporary art industry, while enabling a dramatically expanded audience the chance to see recent art. So much so that, now, contemporary art is almost indistinguishable from its exhibitions, especially at spectacular mega-exhibitions. These, the topic of this lecture, are taken to be indexical of the situation of art production, and also revelatory of new developments and trends. Many of the world’s metropolises—Brisbane, Sydney and others outside major Western centres such as Bucharest and São Paulo—stage at least one mega-exhibition biennially, with the announcements for new mega-exhibitions growing exponentially in promotional e-alerts such as eFlux. Many exhibitions are beginning to work together as well, co-ordinating schedules and openings so that international visitors travel from one biennale to another in a 21st century version of the Grand Tour. The transformations within biennialisation offer a powerful new impetus to address that need and to reflect back on the history of biennialisation, with the shifts in Brisbane’s Asia Pacific Triennial (or APT) central to that analysis. The APT had been conceived in a spirit of regional boosterism by a major state art museum. It was amongst a small group of Asian biennales inaugurated in the early to mid 1990s, and was quite different in its focus to the much older Biennale of Sydney, which had been established back in 1973 and which, with its 1979 edition, had set its course towards the European and American art world audiences. APT 1, in 1993, had been designed to discard divisions between artists’ nationalities and to showcase the diversity, correlations and tensions between art practices across Asia and the Pacific, but its achievement was to legitimate this art as globally contemporary rather than national—and thus to extrapolate regional definitions of the contemporary.

Dr Charles Green is Associate Professor of Contemporary Art at the University of Melbourne and has a PhD from the University of Melbourne. He is also an artist, working collaboratively with Lyndell Brown. He has written 2 major books (Peripheral Vision: Contemporary Australian Art 1970-94, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1995); The Third Hand: Artist Collaborations from Conceptualism to Postmodernism, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2001), and has been Australian correspondent for Artforum for many years. As Adjunct Senior Curator, Contemporary Art, National Gallery of Victoria, he worked as a senior curator on Fieldwork: Australian Art 1968-2002 (2002), world rush_4 artists (2003), “2004: Australian Visual Culture” (ACMI/NGVA, 2004), and “2006 Contemporary Commonwealth” (ACMI/NGVA, 2006). With Anthony Gardner, he is currently writing a history of recent biennales supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant. 
 

The Mayne Centre Lecture is sponsored by Philip Bacon Galleries. 

 

 

Dr Charles Green