Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art
A story within a story…
12 September – 22 November 2015
Curator: Elvira Dyangani Ose
Titled A story within a story… the biennial raises questions about the meaning of history and how it is created. The biennial consists of exhibitions, programs and activities at Röda Sten Konsthall, Hasselblad center, Göteborgs Konsthall and additional venues in Gothenburg.
This is a story within a story—so slippery at the edges that one wonders when and where it started and whether it will ever end.
– Michel-Rolph Trouillot
Imagine history as an open work – a network of limitless interrelations in which uncertainty is a positive feature. Imagine its openness, its incompleteness. Imagine history as a work in motion, displaying an intense mobility and a kaleidoscopic capacity to suggest itself in constantly renewed aspects to its consumers. In 1962, Italian philosopher Umberto Eco coined the term open work to describe aesthetic practices where authors, composers and artists arrange their work so that the audience is exposed not to a single definitive order, but to a myriad of possibilities – an “unfinished” work which they are invited to complete. The open work thus has a halo of infiniteness, always promising future perceptions and demanding a higher degree of collaboration from the public throughout the creative process.
If openness and indeterminacy are true possibilities for the production of history, how then does history make its subjects? If the search for historical truth leads to “dizzying” ambiguity, then why don’t we simply make up the past according to one’s own convenience? Given the opportunity to be a history-teller, how does one make relevant the collective memories, personal narratives and inner worlds located within the margins of history? Furthermore, would this critical reconstruction of the past ever challenge current historiography, its methods of inclusion and omission?
It is from the desire of imagining history as an open work, as a participatory experience, that A story within a story… explores and challenges history-making. Furthermore, it echoes the Haitian anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot, who claims that there are other participants alongside professional historians that, even though they might not destabilize systems of power, call into question the narrative that excludes communities from history in the first place; in sum, the production of history itself.
The Biennial will examine ways in which systems of power have used tactics of amnesic oblivion and silence as a political strategy. The project will look at work by artists who interfere with history-making by rescuing events and their protagonists from historical oblivion and seek to open up and expand the readings of contemporary history. Moreover, A story within a story… will explore history as a radical act by focusing on socially engaged projects, which interrogate notions of collective memory and publicness from transnational and transhistorical perspectives. Taking Eco’s notion of the open work as both a conceptual backdrop and curatorial methodology, A story within a story… will question the structure of biennials themselves as meta-narrative and propose instead to engage with a “series of acts of conscious freedom.” This project invites artists, thinkers and cultural producers, together with members of civil society and public authority – from Scandinavia and across the globe – to partake in various initiatives enquiring the meaning and production of history.
Read the curatorial theme in full at www.gibca.se