Birth as Criterion – the 32nd Biennial of Graphic Arts in Ljubljana

Birth as Criterion

ASUKA OHSAWA Forest Council, 2012

The International Centre of Graphic Arts in Ljubljana is delighted to announce Birth As Criterion, the 32nd edition of the Biennial of Graphic Arts, one of world’s oldest biennials dedicated solely to printmaking. Founded in 1955 in the midst of the Cold War, the Biennial strived from the very beginning to transgress the geopolitical polarities and so reflect Yugoslavia’s determination to choose its own path. In the more than sixty years of its existence, the Ljubljana Biennial has relentlessly responded to the ever-changing sociopolitical context, simultaneously rearticulating its own identity and strategies.

The 32nd edition takes as its starting point the transgressive moment that served as the initial catalyst of the Biennial and applies it to the present moment, radically reformulating not only the content of the event, but its very structure. This is implied in its title, Birth as Criterion, which alludes to a poem by the twentieth-century Slovene poet Jure Detela – a poem that provides the impulse for the self-reflection the Biennial is undertaking. In other words, even as it discards the framework of a themed show, the 32nd Biennial of Graphic Arts springs from a poem, one that does not offer the exhibition a guiding theme but rather, in its radical questioning of all polarizations, calls for rupture. The disruption introduced in Detela’s poem is echoed in the centreless structure of this year’s Biennial, which, stripped of the figure of the curator, operates instead as a self-generating entity. It employs a simple mechanism: the recipients of the Grand Prize from the last five Biennials – Jeon Joonho (2007), Justseeds (2009), Regina José Galindo (2011), María Elena Gonzáles (2013), and Ištvan Išt Huzjan (2015) – are each invited to propose one artist to take part in the upcoming event; these prospective participants are then asked to name the next five. The process then continues in five rounds, ultimately providing the 32nd Biennial with thirty participating artists.

The organic rhizomatic structure of the exhibition Birth as Criterion thus resists the hierarchical logic of the central persona of the curator and the narrativizing nature of the curatorial concept, instead proposing a myriad of potential connections and interactions between the artworks. By finding its impetus within itself, in its own history, the Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts, with this new edition, seeks to radically reflect and re-evaluate its own position. Renouncing potential comfort zones in terms of both the Biennial’s own tradition and the established protocols of contemporary art exhibition-making, Birth as Criterion sets forth manifold relations – a multiplicity that, lacking a single unifying concept, exists instead in a ceaseless flux of meanings.

Along with the main show, the Biennial is also presenting its traditional exhibition by the Grand Prize winner of the previous Biennial, in this case, Ištvan Išt Huzjan, as well as a presentation of the work of Peter Gidal, the winner of the Life Achievement Award at the 31st Biennial, and a survey exhibition by Maria Bonomi. Other projects include a book featuring the work of the Argentinian poet Alejandra Pizarnik and a kinetic installation and performance by Meta Grgurevič in collaboration with the Slovenian National Theatre Opera and Ballet Ljubljana and City of Women International Festival of Contemporary Art.

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