Cosmin Costinas appointed as Artistic Director of Kathmandu Triennale 2020

Cosmin Costinas

Siddhartha Arts Foundation (SAF) and Kathmandu Triennale are pleased to announce the appointment of Cosmin Costinas as Artistic Director of Kathmandu Triennale in 2020. Organised by SAF and now in its second edition in this format, the Kathmandu Triennale (KT) is Nepal’s premier international platform for contemporary art, with a mission to promote Nepali arts and culture and to establish Kathmandu as a central stage for socially aware art practices, in Asia and beyond. The Triennale began as the pioneering Kathmandu International Art Festival, which set critical precedents during both editions in 2009 and 2012, exploring questions around the status of women and climate change, respectively. Building on that work, in 2017 the Festival was converted into the Triennale format, with an exhibition exploring issues of urbanization. The Triennale is committed to fostering a robust art community in Nepal, based on nurturing other institutions and initiatives, in-depth dialogue and exchange of knowledge with international artists, curators, and institutions, and a shared ownership of the triennale platform, rather than acting as a singular, temporary event. It aims to become a model for a connected trans-Asian art scene at the heart of global exchanges, with a particular attention to other non-Western voices in global conversations shaping the art and discourse of our time.

Under the artistic leadership of Cosmin Costinas, Kathmandu Triennale 2020 will be held across multiple venues of different historical and social significance. It departs from several questions debated in the Nepali contemporary art scene and around the world, related to discourses on decolonisation, pluralism of worldviews and systems, and leaving behind the Enlightenment and modern projects with their totalising claims. Nepal has undergone historic and dramatic change after 2006, including the shift from a monarchy to a federal republic, with all the progressive debates and tensions around the basis of re-establishing the nation, as well as the devastating Earthquake of 2015. These moments of reckoning have placed the country and its over a hundred ethnic, cultural, social, and caste groups, including indigenous communities and categories with a long history of marginalisation, in a pioneering position for imagining ways of living together in the world, during the uncertainties of our time.

Contemporary art has been a rather controversial category in many contexts over the past three decades. It has often been regarded as an alien body, either to be rejected or, on the contrary, to be embraced, as a consequence of its novelty. It has been nevertheless commonly seen as a separate system from what were otherwise considered local languages. These conversations have not only informed the Nepali art scene but many other contexts around the world and have brought to the fore important questions about local culture and identity as well as the politics of global circulation of ideas and art forms. Kathmandu Triennale 2020 is thus asking, as we are seriously considering the possibility of different cosmologies to inform the way we imagine the future of the twenty first century, from politics to technology, could we imagine art to remain the same coherent system, with a universal claim and a unified aesthetic? As we attempt to find solutions for the dilemmas of plurality in an increasingly interconnected world, could art as a single concept even survive? And should it?

In Kathmandu Triennale 2020, a central position will be occupied by artists working with and from within multiple aesthetic and cosmological perspectives and meanings, manifesting the multiplicities that construct our kaleidoscopic global reality, including practices that have been systematically excluded from the realm of art and designated by a colonial ethnographic gaze as craft, folklore, or at best, “traditional” art, even if these practices often perform analogous cultural and social functions in their communities as art does in the system of global society, and are also constantly evolving and embodying the traces of their contextual transformation and of this often-disobedient instability. In this line of thinking, Kathmandu Triennale 2020 is particularly interested in contemporary practices where indigenous perspectives operate in the field of technology, where bodies and traditions are queered, where masks and rituals are the field of continuously negotiated identities rather than essences, and where folklore is the battlefield of decoloniality, counter-culture, and criticality.

Kathmandu Triennale 2020 will expand the consideration of contemporary artistic practices to also include materiality and media from various communities in Nepal and from around the world, including different forms of object, image, and sound making and languages such as weaving, tattoo making, and performance understood in a broader way. This would nevertheless be more than a formal exercise and would open a wider conversation about different cosmologies and meaning in the realms of spirituality, forms of healing, memory preservation, representation of mythology, and collective celebrations. This broadening of the field of what gets counted today as art has political implications as part of an effort to decolonise our conscience, moving beyond the category of art as defined by the colonial legacy of many specific contexts as well as of our shared global culture.

Cosmin Costinas will be working with an artistic team to be announced over the next months.

Para Site, Hong Kong, will be a partner institution of the triennale, highlighting the institution’s commitment to international collaboration and solidarity in Asia and beyond, outside the established axes of power.

Cosmin Costinas (b. 1982, Romania) is the Executive Director/Curator of Para Site, Hong Kong since 2011. He was Guest Curator at the Dakar Biennale (2018), Curator at Dhaka Art Summit (2018), Co-curator of the 10th Shanghai Biennale (2014), Curator of BAK, Utrecht (2008-2011), Co-curator of the 1st Ural Industrial Biennial, Ekaterinburg (2010), and Editor of documenta 12 Magazines, Kassel (2005–2007). At Para Site, Cosmin Costinas oversaw the institution’s major expansion and relocation to a new home in 2015, and curated or co-curated exhibitions including: An Opera for Animals (2019); A beast, a god, and a line (toured at Dhaka Art Summit ‘18, TS1/The Secretariat, Yangon, and Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, 2018); Soil and Stones, Souls and Songs (toured at MCAD, Manila and Jim Thompson Art Center, Bangkok, 2016-2017); Afterwork (toured at ILHAM, Kuala Lumpur, 2016-2017); and A Journal of the Plague Year (toured at The Cube, Taipei, Arko Art Center, Seoul, and Kadist Art Foundation and The Lab, San Francisco, 2013-2015) in recent years, a.o. He co-authored the novel Philip (2007) and has edited and contributed his writing to numerous books, magazines, and exhibition catalogs and has taught and lectured at different universities and institutions around the world.

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