The biennial conference’s headline and problem to be addressed, “”To biennial or not to biennial”, has in the advisory board’s discussions been continued as a question of how “to biennial”, rather than whether or not one should “biennial” at all. It is the ambition of Bergen Assembly to pick up the thread and to answer this topic at hand.
Bergen Assembly is established in the wake of the international biennial boom; with more than 200 biennials worldwide, why venture into another one at all? What can the Bergen Assembly do that hasn’t been done many times before?
Bergen Assembly wishes to be an active memberof society and a real impulse in the international art field. Where both biennials and contemporary art have a tendency to take a reactive position in relation to recent events, or a retrospective one towards a cultural and political past, Bergen Assembly has the ambition of finding methods to work prognostically, allowing newly emerging narratives to be investigated in the light of their future potential. The aim is to look at possible futures rather than to just sum up contemporary times. This choice also involves a constructive criticism of the roles of curator and advisory board; rather than searching for a curator in the traditional sense, the Bergen Assembly has chosen to invite a convener to create a project with a stretched-out event structure; a process that will commence in the beginning of 2012, and will be manifested in a conference and exhibition/art projects in Bergen the fall of 2013, in addition to a publication. The convener will not conduct curatorial work in the traditional sense, but rather take its point of departure in creative thinking and a research-based methodology, establishing an assembly to examine research methods with a basis in art and with art as a result.
Ekaterina Degot and David Riff were appointed as conveners for the first edition for Bergen Assembly in 2013. Ekaterina Degot is an art historian, critic, and curator based in Moscow. She has curated research-intensive exhibitions including “Body Memory: Underwear of the Soviet Era” (2000), Struggling for the Banner: Soviet Art Between Trotsky and Stalin (2008); Citizens, Mind Yourselves: Dimitri Prigov (2008); Kudymkar – Engine for the Future (2009). David Riff is a writer, artist, and curator based in Moscow and Berlin. A member of the group Chto Delat, he was co-editor of the group’s newspaper from 2003 to 2008. He has contributed as an artist to collaborations shown in projects such as 52nd Venice Biennial. Think with the Senses/Feel with Mind (2007), the international exhibition Principio Potosi (Madrid, Berlin, La Paz 2010-11) and the 4th Moscow Biennial (2011). Both Degot and Riff teach at the Rodchenko School for Photography and Media Art in Moscow, and have worked together in earlier curatorial efforts, such as the 1st Ural Industrial Biennial in Ekaterinburg, entitled Shockworkers of the Mobile Image in 2010. Their latest collaboration is the recently completed international exhibition and discussion platform Auditorium Moscow, realized as a project of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw.
In the first edition of Bergen Assembly, Degot and Riff will depart from what they see as a core problem of the present: the absence of an optics for the future. “At a time of momentous change, the present holds us hostage, and this is especially the case in contemporary art.” they write. “The future only appears in by-now traditional guises, in flashes, fears, and illuminations; these accumulate in a design of the present which still looks futuristic even when it is hopelessly antiquated. Actually, what we need is the kind of extenuated, politically responsible gaze into the world to come usually associated with the optics of historical research. Precisely because things are changing so quickly every day, we have to insist upon the need to take a long, careful, critical, engaged look at the conditions that will make up our lives.” To find such a view, they propose to initiate a collective process with correspondents in different locations, artists, philosophers, and researchers, who will be asked to form “conclaves” with further participants to contribute and show in-depth research undertakings. This open-ended process will culminate in fall 2013. Information on the project will be forthcoming.
Bergen Assembly is owned by Bergenstriennalen AS, a non-profit company owned by the Municipality of Bergen.
Board: Petter Snare (chairman), Stein-Olaf Onarheim, Bodil Friele, Marieke Van Hal, Arne Magnar Rygg.
Director: Evelyn Holm
Advisory board: Ute Meta Bauer, Ina Blom, Ingar Dragset, Bruce W. Ferguson, Maria Hlavajova, Ranjit Hoskote og Solveig Øvstebø.
Sponsors: Municipality of Bergen, Hordaland County