Accepted Paper:

Allegations Regarding Dominant Biennials: A Cutting-Edge Perspective from the Biennale of Dakar  


Thomas Fillitz (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

My paper aims at an anthropological critique of the art historical thesis of the domination of a few biennials on the basis of their global perspectives, in connecting art historical theories and my ethnographic insights from the Biennale of Dakar.

Paper long abstract:

An encompassing, undisputed thesis among art specialists regarding the biennial format is its overall goal to exhibit artists and their artworks from the whole world. This raises, amongst others, a central question: about the knowledge of curators that is required to these ends.

An immediate anthropological critique of this thesis would highlight that it is formulated from the vantage of European/North American perspectives which allege the worldwide domination of biennial formats such as documenta, Venice, Gwangju, São Paolo.

This geopolitical globalism of biennials' art, however, encourages to consider concepts which are at its basis, how the worldwide creation of contemporary art is conceptualized. Is it embedded within a singular global art world, hence subsuming local, regional, and transcultural contemporary art within one art discourse?

Adopting, however, art historical concepts of the plurality of art worlds, and of antinomies between global contemporary art creations (e.g. Belting, Enwezor), the knowledge about these various discourses becomes paramount for realizing such a global exhibit. Following these approaches, I argue that there are limitations to the claims of globality, if biennials' exhibits should be more than mere visualizations of multitude. At stake is the knowledge that would be required of the art in the plurality of contrasting art worlds.

My paper thereafter aims at an anthropological critique of power discourses regarding the global dimension of such dominant biennials, in connecting art historical theories and my ethnographic insights from the Biennale of Dakar.

Panel P069
Confluences of Art History and Anthropology