The Bucharest Biennale International Advisory Board for Curators Appointment met in Berlin on July 14, 2014 and awarded the curatorship for the 7th Bucharest Biennale unanimously to Niels Van Tomme (BE).
The Bucharest Biennale is interested in exploring links between creative practice and social progress, as well as correspondences between local and global contexts. Now in its tenth year, the Biennale continues to build a strong partnership between Bucharest—a geocultural space where the political is reflected in all aspects of life—and the rest of the World. In transcending specific geographical, historical, or political frameworks, it connects to a broader complexity, namely the one of “resistance” within the quotidian realm.
As a biannual cultural event, BB’s temporary structure allows a deconstruction of the systems supporting and underlying what has been called the “experience economy”. The Bucharest Biennale goes beyond merely orchestrating memorable “events” that aim for prescribed notions of customizable transformation, which are characteristic of this economic model and importantly reflected in the global biennial format as well. Instead, the Biennale offers a platform to analyse, and potentially redirect, current social, political and economic imaginaries. It intends to make visible the power structures supporting such spheres of control, addressing the ways in which they are organized and coordinated, as well as implemented across broad segments of society. The Biennale is an attempt to turn these scripted “experiences” upside down, to re-think and re-imagine processes of domination, while positioning the city of Bucharest as a field of cultural action and exchange.
With its innovative model refined throughout the previous six editions, the Bucharest Biennale is now regarded as one of the most vital biennials in Europe, holding a widely respected position within the international art scene.
For BB7, curator Niels Van Tomme is interested in exploring the unique position Romania—and more specifically: Bucharest—holds within a vastly expanding global network of standardized, economic exchanges. In exploring these structures, he aims to complicate notions of marginality and isolatedness historically assigned to Romania and the broader Eastern European region. Van Tomme states: “As our collective desire for change seems to be replaced by capitalist illusions such as individual choice and the relentless arrival of the new, what can we learn from considering such developments from the distinguishing perspective of Bucharest? Does it merely represent one of many connecting points in the ever-expanding economic infrastructures it inevitably cannot escape? Or, to the contrary, does it truly signify a site of ‘resistance’ and ‘action’, as the Biennale sets forth to explore?”
Niels Van Tomme (BE, 1977) is a New York-based curator, researcher, and critic working on the intersections of contemporary culture, politics, and aesthetics. He holds an M.A. in Cultural Studies from the University of Leuven, Belgium. Currently associated with the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture at UMBC in Baltimore, he merges academic research with accessible, and often confrontational exhibition making. His exhibitions and public programs are shown at venues such as The Kitchen (New York), Värmlands Museum (Karlstad), National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC), Contemporary Arts Center (New Orleans), Gallery 400 (Chicago), and Akademie der Künste (Berlin). His most recent exhibition project Visibility Machines: Harun Farocki and Trevor Paglen opened at the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture in late 2013 and is currently touring internationally, while an edited volume is available through D.A.P., Distributed Art Publishers. His curatorial endeavours have received grant awards from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, Lambent Foundation, and The Nathan Cummings Foundation, as well as critical press in publications such as Afterall, Artforum, Art in America, Afterimage, and The Wall Street Journal. Van Tomme is a Contributing Editor at Art Papers magazine, while his writings in a wide variety of publications explore contemporary art, literature, and music in relationship to broader societal and cultural developments. His latest book, Aesthetic Justice, Intersecting Artistic and Moral Perspectives, co-edited with Pascal Gielen, is forthcoming as part of the Antennae Series, Arts in Society by Valiz, Amsterdam.