Resisting Biennialisation: Making and Sustaining Art Platforms in the Digital Age

Biennials, and their related exhibitionary forms and models, have proliferated globally in recent decades and have arguably become standardised and homogenised, affecting the fields of curating, curatorial studies, and art production at large. This act of biennialisation urges artists, curators, cultural producers, and policy makers to continuously adapt and relate to new realities (economic, social, political, medical, and geographical), not only in regard to their own practices, but also in relation to the citizens of the [village, town, city, region] locale they operate within. How do we avoid standardisation in our practices, and how do we eschew models and systems and instead explore differentiated practices and capabilities that may already exist in the first place? Or put another way, rather than top-down curatorial planning, how can we think “bottom-up” strategies when making and sustaining perennial art events?

This course builds on the premise that the “homogenisation” of curatorial and artistic practices in the late 20th and early 21st centuries is inseparable from a reading of the malaise we witness in the political, social, and economic realm. Given this dystopian outlook, how can practitioners in the field foster multilateral dialogues with diverse stakeholders and build trustworthy and sustainable relationships that are valued by and valuable to all stakeholders? This course will revisit international examples of community-sensitive biennial-type projects, combined with reading assignments from the fields of art history, arts management, curatorial practice, sociology, economics, social practice, and postcolonial theory.

Shwetal A Patel is a writer and researcher working at the intersection of contemporary art and its production, research practice, and development theory. He is a founding member of India’s first biennial, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale and is currently completing his practice-based PhD at University of Southampton, Winchester School of Art. He has operated internationally in Europe and Asia within the arts and creative industries for over two decades and lives and works in London.