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(Royal College of Art)
Julie Ren (University of Zürich)
Paper short abstract:
Biennials have proliferated in art, architecture and design - particularly in the majority world. Moving beyond the politics of representation, the biennial demands a reckoning with affect. This paper considers the ways that the spatiality and temporality of the biennial is rife with emotion.
Paper long abstract:
Biennials have proliferated in art, architecture and design, particularly in cities outside of North America and Europe. As a distinctively urban event, the biennial signifies a stage, spectacle, and symbol of a participation in a specific kind of cosmopolitanism, one coupled with a fixation on contemporaneity. Particularly in settings of growing inequality, and political and institutional instability, the provenance and resilience of the biennial defies its circumscription to the ornamental. The aim of this paper is to set out the ways that the biennial relates to the city in fraught, emotional ways in cities around the world from Dakar to Gwangju, from Istanbul to Sao Paulo. With the aim to push boundaries using politically charged, and intellectually engaged themes, the biennial perennially breeds anticipation. The events, the art exhibited, the artists, curators, and various stakeholders involved evoke a whirlwind circuit of admiration and disdain. The historical, political, social contextualization of these events in their post-colonial or neoliberal contexts incites contempt, or at times the desire for redemption. Instead of studying the biennial purely from a political economic point of view, as city branding instrument, for instance, this paper considers the ways that the spatiality and temporality of the biennial is rife with emotion. Moving beyond the traditional politics of representation, the biennial demands a reckoning with affect. The passions and resentments that the biennial encapsulates ranges from amusement to disdain or even revulsion, and is deeply intertwined with the powerful position this event holds for cities that they inhabit.
The Politics of Emotion across Anthropology and Geography