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Breaking Binaries: How Biennials Forged a New Cartography

Event Label
Lecture by Kate Sutton
Organisational Units
Art Theory and Cultural Studies
Location Description
mumok kino
Museumsplatz 1
1070 Vienna

In the context of the Spring Curatorial Program 2022: Art Geographies.

With their roots tracing back to the colonial expositions, biennials and other large-scale, international-facing exhibitions have always aimed at reshaping geographical narratives. With the “Biennale Boom” of the 1990s, an explosion of events on both sides of the former Iron Wall both reinforced and undermined notions of East/West. More recently, biennials have turned their attention to the so-called Global South, simultaneously advocating for these regions while commodifying their perceived difference as an exportable product, available for plug-and-play at reclaimed industrial spaces everywhere.

Drawing heavily on examples from the ongoing Venice Biennale (including the Polish Pavilion and its presentation of Roma-identified artist Małgorzata Mirga-Tas; the French Pavilion and its look into Algerian cinema, via artist Zineb Sedira; and the Sámi Pavilion, which has temporarily taken over the Nordic Pavilion; as well as Cecilia Alemani’s main exhibition), "Breaking Binaries: How Biennials Forged a New Cartography" looks at how new lines have been drawn on the maps of the art world, while also noting the ways that the relevance and efficiency of the biennial model has lost currency in the process. With a post-pandemic world reinforcing national borders and increasing obstacles to travel, is there something to be gained by continuing the traditions of geopolitical posturing through cultural institutions?

Kate Sutton is a writer currently based in Zagreb, Croatia, after nearly a decade in Russia, where she helped found the non-profit art space Baibakov Art Projects. Since 2018, she has served as the international editor for Artforum. She previously wrote for magazines including Artforum, Bidoun, Frieze, Ibraaz, and LEAP, while regularly contributing to She has penned catalogue essays for artists including Nilbar Güreş, Aslı Çavuşoğlu, Monica Bonvicini, Dorian Gaudin, Basim Magdy, Stefan Sava and Martin Roth. In 2013, she was recognized with an Art Writers Grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation. In 2016 and 2017, she was responsible for the Talks Program at the Vienna Contemporary. Among her recent curatorial projects is "Nathalie Du Pasquier: Fair Game",  2018, at the International Centre for Graphic Arts in Ljubljana. For 2019-2020, she was a resident professor of the WHW Akademija, alongside David Maljković.