For the third event in our Biennale Archive Stories series, renowned Australian contemporary art historians and biennial commentators Charles Green and Terry Smith discuss the Biennale of Sydney in light of its history, global biennial culture and the challenges and opportunities it faces. Two twenty-minute talks will be followed by a conversation with Mami Kataoka, Artistic Director of the 21st Biennale of Sydney.
Saturday, 26 August 2017, 2-3.30pm Art Gallery of NSW
Art Gallery Road, The Domain
Sydney NSW 2000
Free with RSVP
Charles Green speaks on ‘Post-North? Sydney and the Challenges of the “Global” Exhibition’
The Biennale of Sydney has been at different points widely considered one of the most important biennials in the world. At the same time, Australia as a site is a particularly complex reflection of the contemporary postcolonial, geographic dispersion of art. Two key factors underpin the overriding priority of the latter, for not only has the idea of an avant-garde never belonged to the North Atlantic alone, but contemporary curatorial enterprises often hinge on several radical (though not entirely unprecedented) curatorial methods, including that, first, of diffused curatorship in which the exhibition’s director might work closely with a team of collaborators and, second, of the inclusion of art that is not strictly speaking contemporary, by which I simply mean that it was made in the past. My contribution will concentrate equally on both of these challenges that Sydney faces. I will also point to the significant tension that has emerged between the self-conscious destabilisation of centralised intellectual and artistic authority across what Okwui Enwezor once famously described as postcolonial ‘constellations of discursive domains, circuits of artistic and knowledge production, and research modules,’ on the one hand, and the expectations behind biennials on the other.
Terry Smith speaks on ‘Biennials in the World Picture: Sydney in Particular’
Given the current world-wide proliferation of biennials, triennials and other recurrent mega-exhibitions such as documenta, can we still identify certain characteristics as fundamental to visual arts biennials? What roles do biennials play within the larger visual arts exhibitionary complexes of major cities, and in their associated regions, around the world? Do biennials have impacts beyond artworlds? Having attended every Sydney Biennale since 1973, I will also offer some reflections on its evolution, and the challenges and opportunities currently facing our biennial.
Charles Green is one of Australia’s foremost art historians in the area of contemporary international and Australian art. An authority on biennials, artist collaborations and artist teamwork, he is also a well-known artist working in collaboration with Lyndell Brown since 1989. Professor of Contemporary Art in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne, he is the author of Peripheral Vision: Contemporary Australian Art 1970-94(Craftsman House, 1995); The Third Hand: Artist Collaborations from Conceptualism to Postmodernism (University of Minnesota Press, 2001) and the recent history of biennials in contemporary art, Biennials, Triennials and Documenta: The Exhibitions that Created Contemporary Art (Wiley Blackwell, 2016), with Associate Professor Anthony Gardner (Oxford University), assisted by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant.
Terry Smith is an art historian and critic whose main research interests are contemporary art and its position in wider institutional and social contexts together with the examination of the notion of ‘contemporaneity’. Founder in 1970 (together with Paul McGillick) of a new journal of art criticism Other Voices, Smith was active as an art critic in Australia in that decade, foregrounding the politics of an art scene positioned on the margins of the art world and publishing his influential essay “The Provincial Problem” in Artforum in 1974. A member of the New-York based Art & Language group, he also served as lecturer at Power Institute of Fine Arts, University of Sydney from 1976, and its director from 1995 to 2001. Smith is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh, and Professor in the Division of Philosophy, Art and Critical Thought at the European Graduate School. Author of a number of books, his most recent are Talking Contemporary Curating (Independent Curators International, 2015), The Contemporary Composition (Sternberg Press, 2016) and One and Five Ideas: On Conceptual Art and Conceptualism (2017). A Board member of the Carnegie Museum of art, Pittsburgh, he is also a member of the Advisory Board of the Biennial Foundation, New York.
Biennale Archive Stories is a series of talks and interviews investigating the Biennale of Sydney’s 40-plus-year history with witnesses and protagonists. Approaching its 21st edition and 45th year, the Biennale considers its role over time, both in Sydney and in the world. What can we learn from its achievements and controversies? What is its relevance today?