The 29th Biennial of Graphic Arts
Ljubljana, 23 September–20 November 2011

THE ART EVENT – the central theme of the 29th Biennial of Graphic Arts inLjubljana – underwent a remarkable development in the twentieth century and today appears as a privileged medium. The art event is employed as a medium by a broad range of various figures from the contemporary art world in a broad spectrum of different forms. Art institutions enthusiastically support and present the production of events, which enjoy extraordinary attention and popularity among the public and the mass media, while the best-known authors in this field benefit from strong auratization and high market prices. The 29th Biennial of Graphic Arts will examine the following questions:

— Why and how has the event become a suitable vehicle for a variety of artistic purposes, poetics, and content? Why have there been so many such events in recent decades? What is the allure of these events, allowing them to attract artists, curators, institutions, and the public?

— How do we define the art event as an artistic medium in concrete terms, marking out its boundaries in a meaningful way and distinguishing it from other events in the field of visual art?

— What, in fact, is the significance of the multitude of events in contemporary art institutions, which as a rule, at least in terms of their definition and tradition, are intended for the presentation of “static” artworks?

The Biennial will develop a complex THEORETICAL AND INTERPRETIVE APPARATUS to address these issues, one that does not ignore the general trend in modern society to “eventify” whatever is possible; in the field of visual art, however, we will try to reach a deeper understanding of events through an analysis of the interaction and interdependence between phenomena and planes that are not necessarily viewed as connected. What, for instance, are the connections between the ever more strident demand for events coming from the management of museums and galleries and the growing number of ever “crazier” and more complex art events? And what is the relationship between the art event and non-art event, both of which are increasingly being produced in the visual art field on one and the same “conveyor belt”, which are announced and covered by the media in increasingly similar ways, and which, most importantly, are conceived, produced, and combined in programmes by the same people at art institutions.

In this context, explicit emphasis will be placed on the fact that in recent decades art institutions have not merely been housing and exhibiting contemporary art, but – along with other kinds of events – also commissioning and producing it. Thus they have become commissioners of contemporary art of a similar type and scope as were once the aristocracy and the church. Reflections are sure to develop in the direction of discussing the ideological impact; in this regard, we will try to direct the discussion towards an interrogation of the possibility that the art platform acquires the features of a religious structure or that the sacred “accumulates” around it. Among other things, this is a consequence of the contraction of spaces for the sacred elsewhere and contemporary art’s disposition to address numerous aspects of society that were traditionally in the domain of religion. Contemporary art institutions have made it one of their core offerings and activities to address the discomfort that inevitably results from the socio-political norms that organize relations within social groups, and to provide a means for processing the positive and negative feelings caused by life in society. There was once a great deal of discussion about how migration from the original environment to the museum meant death for the work of art. Today, it seems, we must consider different questions: Will the museum come to life if we create enough structures, content, and rituals that, on many levels, resemble those of a religion? And by doing so, what, in fact, will we summon to life?

The EXHIBITION, whose first priority is to present as best as possible the energy and vitality of the current trend of art events, will address these issues in its own way. A selection of art events will be presented in four different groups based on topics that are typical for contemporary art: violence, generosity, emptiness, and the search for the sacred and ritualistic. These topics were explicitly selected, among other reasons, because the events that thematize them also meet the requirement that they are not something new, neither in terms of their artistic iconographic motifs nor in terms of actual human or social practice. Events in which we can partake with impunity in violence, in “shamanistic” violence to oneself, in Dionysian or absurdist ritual, or in the establishment of an idyllic communitas that shares a common meal are, indeed, activities that, one might say, have been practiced and even depicted for millennia. The cross-section of contemporary art events presented at the exhibition will thus be able to serve as a comparison with similar topoi, practices, and phenomena in other fields, as well as from human history. And this comparison, in particular, could help us as we attempt to summarize and differentiate the specific features of a type of event that today is mass-produced and celebrated (consumed) in institutions of contemporary art.

Beti Žerovc, Curator of the 29th Biennial of Graphic Arts