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The University of Southampton
Critical Practices Research Group

Imagined Biennales – Open Forum at Tate Exchange Event

14:00 - 17:00
13 May 2018
Tate Modern, Blavatnik Building, Level 5 Bankside, London SE1 9TG

Event details

The proliferation of biennales and other perennial art events around the world reveal huge energy, creativity and social engagement within the sphere of contemporary art. Whether operating at hyper-local, local, national or international levels, these events are always more than the art they represent. They are about people, places, histories, social enterprise and the political aesthetic. But equally, they can be homogenizing forces and complacent about the ‘value’ of art. What do we want from our biennales and how do we get it?

Open Call for Participation at Tate Exchange


Imagined Biennales invites as wide a range of voices as possible to share in current practice and to pitch new ideas. What does a biennale look like and what do we want it to look like? Echoing the format of TED, noted for short, well-informed talks, we welcome presentations in person or short videos as part of an afternoon at Tate Exchange. The best ideas and presentations will be invited for inclusion in a forthcoming publication How to Biennale! The Manual (to be published later this year).

Application Process: We expect a high level of interest. In order to accommodate a variety of perspectives and ideas we ask all prospective participants to submit a one-page expression of interest to Professor Sunil Manghani ( Deadline: 27 April 2018. This should outline the main context and key ideas as envisaged for a 5, 10 or 15-minute presentation (NB. recorded presentations should be limited to 5 minutes). All presentations should aim to prompt wide-ranging dialogue as part of the event.

There are no specific criteria for the presentation topics. We are open to surprise and experimentation. We welcome views on current practice. If you are involved in running or developing an art biennale, festival or recurring event, come to Tate Exchange to share your vision. Equally, we are interested in counter-views, whether articulations against biennales or considerations of alternative situations, new models and different contexts. Furthermore, we welcome ideas about the fostering of community. The title of this event plays on the title of Benedict Anderson’s well-known book Imagined Communities, in which he argues nations are socially constructed; they are ‘an imagined political community’. We can never know all fellow-members of society and yet we typically hold a collective image. Imagined communities come together in large-scale events such as sporting tournaments, and indeed large-scale arts events. Like Anderson’s account of nations, we might suggest biennales and other perennial art events are finite, they have ‘elastic boundaries’, beyond which lie other events and communities. They are also ‘sovereign’ in that no singular hierarchy claims authority. Even though we may never tangibly grasp our imagined community, we still know it is there (or imagine it is!). How might we characterize the biennale fraternity and its future?

Imagined Biennales is part of a week-long event, Building an Art Biennale at Tate Exchange, organized by Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton


Imagined Biennales is curated in collaboration with the Gujral Foundation.


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