Monday, June 22, 2009

BeijingeiBeijing 798 Biennale

Constellations* will inaugurate the Beijing 798 Biennale, and will bring together over 70 Chinese and international artists for exhibitions in the 798 art complex in Beijing. Artworks to be exhibited include painting, sculpture, works-on-paper, photography, video, installation, performance, sound works, media art, and site-specific public art. Constellations will be exhibited in 706 exhibition space as well as other venues located in proximity.

Constellations uses as foil the notion that stars in a constellation are often vastly distant from each other, but they appear close to each other from the perspective of Earth. Nearness and farness, inside and outside, global and local are some of the tropes that Constellationsuses as touchstone but situates them as relative to each other or in states of parallax. In other words, shifting demographics engendered by migration and the circulation of information foment heterogeneous, cross-cultural polyphonic articulations that make binary rubrics, such as those previously mentioned, limited. Beijing is ideal for this unique biennial in that it is a megalopolis located between the future and the past in a confluence of the pre-modern, modern and postmodern which, in turn, reconfigures globalization as more complicated and multidimensional than how it manifests in other areas of the world. Some of the exhibiting foreign artists, for example, live in Beijing and the artworks made there absorb their locality yet are concomitantly refracted through peripatetic biographies thus creating a more fluid exchange between artistic practices within and outside of Beijing. Apart from non-Chinese artists who work and live in Beijing, other invited foreign artists will be involved in site-specific projects or will present works made outside of China yet modified via their interfacing with wholly different contexts. On the other hand, many of the native Beijing artists that will exhibit have not only traveled extensively outside of China for exhibitions or residencies, but the work selected or made specifically for Constellations will also foreground the global nature of their work all the while maintaining the specificity of their geo-cultural location. Ultimately, Constellations raises more questions than it proposes to answer, particularly in a city where cultural tectonics on an international scale perpetually shift and reshape the local social landscape in altogether unimaginable ways.

The artistic director and the five curators will select artists to include in both the main venue and auxiliary exhibition spaces. The curators will individually approach their selections as both independent projects that are linked to the biennale thus creating a coherent and unified thematic exhibition. For example, one curator will present a project consisting of visual and sound artists entitled 
The Man Who Fell to Earth. While this presentation can be appreciated autonomously from the biennale, it weaves itself into Constellationsvia its thematic as well as its structural nature in which artworks will be simultaneously exhibited in both 706 and other venues. In one sense, the biennial’s exhibition design and structure is meshed with its thematic concept, and reflects well the notion of a constellation; that is, where artworks, individual exhibitions and their attendant curatorial frameworks are vastly different from each other yet innately dialogical though appearing clustered depending on perspective from within Beijing and without.

The publication that will accompany 
Constellations will deviate from the standard format of exhibition catalog. Instead, the biennial publication will appear as a special issue of the Beijing magazine titled Art Map, and will be bilingual in Mandarin and English. The catalog will include curators’ essays, artist pages and bios and other textual and pictorial inserts as well as a CD with sound works. In using this mode of information dissemination, Constellations seeks to extend itself beyond standard distribution systems of libraries and bookstores. In formatting the catalog as a magazine, the biennial publication has broader accessibility by ostensibly infiltrating commercial venues including newsstands located in train stations, bus depots, airports, as well as hotel lobbies, restaurants, tourist kiosks, and so forth.

Main exhibition space:

Auxiliary spaces:
Asia Art Contemporary
BTAP (Beijing Tokyo Arts Project)
Continua Gallery, Beijing
Iberia Art Center, Beijing
Michael Schulz Gallery, Beijing
Platform China
SZ Art Space
T-Space Gallery

Curatorial Team
Zhu Qi, China

Marc Hungerbuhler, U.S./Switzerland
Director, The Artist Network, Beijing/New York

Alexandra Lowenstein, U.S./Germany

Nicoykatiushka, Chile
Independent curators and artists

Martin Wehmer, Germany
Independent curator and artist

Raúl Zamudio, U.S./Mexico
New York-based independent curator and art critic
Artist list and other information to follow.