In the art world, the most evident consequence of the public health crisis has been a geographical turning inwards.
Sao Paulo Biennal
While in the past, and for some time now, the flourishing of biennials has resulted in intercontinental trips that give rise to a global cultural intermingling, complete with all the benefits that come from discovering differences, this movement was brought to an abrupt halt. Now the Sao Paulo Biennial, which ran until 5 December, was practically only addressing Brazilians, and that of Cheng Du in the Chinese province of Sichuan, until April 2022, will most likely only be open to the Chinese population.
Only 5 foreigners
Similarly, the Taipei Biennial took place last year and attracted 150,000 visitors, only five of whom – it would seem – were not Taiwanese.
Taste for alterity
Although we may rejoice in the reduction in air traffic linked to this phenomenon, we must absolutely deplore the idea of abandoning the taste for alterity, which drives us to discover, understand and love people who are very different and geographically distant.
China and Hong Kong
China and even Hong Kong, which has for a long time been a forward base of the West in this part of the world, will never have been as distant as it is today.
Made in Taiwan
To dispel this sense of isolationism, the new director of the Centre Pompidou Metz, Chiara Parisi, has “imported” part of the Biennial “made in Taiwan” into the capital of Lorraine in France (See here the last report about Centre Pompidou Metz).
The result is an exhibition of 22 artists out of 57, “concentrating on the major commissions”, as one of the French curators, Martin Guinard, explains. His colleagues are the famous French philosopher Bruno Latour and the Taiwanese Eva Lin.
Bruno Latour has already given shape to his ideas through the medium of contemporary art several times, notably in Karlsruhe at the ZKM. Martin Guinard explains, “our mental image of the world has changed”. So has the contemporary art displayed in Metz.
While certain offerings by “stars” of the discipline such as Pierre Huyghe have not made the journey, the majority of what is on view is what we might call “technological art” and is documentary in nature, a style that is taking up more and more space on the international scene, as also shown at 104, the digital arts biennial which is exhibiting, for example, the work of Forensic Architecture, a London-based collective nominated for the Turner Prize, directed by Eyal Weizman, which uses architecture to denounce human rights violations.
Artists like whistleblowers
An entire universe opens up in which artists are like whistleblowers within their genre. From this comes the title of the exhibition in Taipei and Metz: “You and I do not live on the same planet”.
Fernando Palma Rodriguez
The Mexican Fernando Palma Rodriguez (born in 1957), who trained as an engineer, creates moving machines that draw on the mythologies of the Nahua people, of which he is a native. “In our language the word ‘waste’ does not exist. Recycling is an ancestral tradition.”
A common world
The series of screens installed by the Dutch artist Jonas Staal (born in 1981) takes as raw material propaganda films by the American far right that have been made to stir up anxiety while celebrating a mythology of the country.
The Mexican artist Antonio Vega Macotela (born in 1980) creates XXL tapestries depicting giant fires which, when seen from up close, are made up of an infinite number of codes storing data about tax evaders.
“Everything is running as though there isn’t a common world to defend any more (…) To the extent that there is no more common world, it is imperative to imagine different approaches that would allow us to at least explain why it is impossible to ‘sit at the same table’,” conclude the curators of the Taipei Biennial.
Until 4 April 2022. www.centrepompidou-metz.fr
(1) Biennale Nemo, Le 104. Paris. /www.biennalenemo.fr/
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