Within the current context of the shifting nature of politics, economics, and culture—conditions that are increasingly referred to as precarious times—artists often have to negotiate risky positions, contested territories, or situations in which cultural activity interacts with, or provides a counterpoint to, conditions of flux. Bucharest Biennale 5 profiles the work of artists whose agency lies less in overt statements, but rather in investigative or indirect strategies that possess their own kind of power.
By its very nature, work that is investigative expresses a kind of resistance to both the speed and changing nature of things and the increasing sense of instability that pervades everyday life. Several projects in the Biennale involve a reworking of specific histories from the civic to the personal, producing a different kind of “knowledge” that is not always about nostalgia or narrative, but is rather a deliberately constructed perspective on the contemporary. For some, the act of researching, uncovering, and presenting things that are below the surface has been aided by the Internet, whereby obscure or otherwise concealed data may be sought out, enabling new combinations of imagery and meaning that are open-ended or associative in nature. Whether relating to symbols of former eras, or personal or collective memories, these images are complex representations of past and present—imaginative “spaces” that are characterized by a degree of uncertainty that make them more challenging to decipher.
For other artists in the Biennale, tactics of subterfuge or infiltration are intrinsic to their practice, allowing them to circumvent or negotiate existing systems that they find questionable or challenging. Their methodology reflects a practice that is evolving, dynamic, and responsive, something that is essential for situations that change quickly or are not yet fully understood. Often using techniques that rely on the art of seduction or manipulation, these works can still contain sharp social or political critique, merging aesthetics and political and cultural commentary in ways that initially mask underlying meanings.
The deployment of such informal approaches is particularly resonant in a city such as Bucharest, where the infrastructure and contexts for artistic practice are in the process of evolution. BB5’s projects take place in non-profit spaces and public venues and sites in the city, and act as statements and overtures of various kinds, from the critically engaged to the playful in nature. While many projects are situated within these venues—which include Pavilion, the Political Research Institute, artist-run space Alert Studio, former factory space Make A Point, the local restaurant Nana, the cinema Union, some magazines and the House of the Free Press—some exist only in the public domain, using existing forms of distribution or presentation outside artistic venues to offer audiences different ways of engaging both with these works and the ideas within the Biennale.
–excerpt from “Tactics for the Here and Now” by Anne Barlow, published in PAVILION #16 – journal for politics and culture, edited for Bucharest Biennale 5
Abbas Akhavan (IR/CA), Marina Albu (RO), Haris Epaminonda (CY/DE), Klas Eriksson (SE), Ruth Ewan (UK), Aurelien Froment (FR/IE), Ciprian Homorodean (RO/B), Iman Issa (EG/USA), Janice Kerbel (CA/UK), Jill Magid (USA), David Maljkovic (HR), Marina Naprushkina (BY/DE), Ahmet Ogut (TR/NL), Vesna Pavlovic (RS), Anahita Razmi (DE), Wael Shawky (EG/FR), Alexandre Singh (FR/USA), Mounira Al Solh (NL/LB) and Bassam Ramlawi (LB), Rinus van de Velde (BE)
Anne Barlow (born in Glasgow, Scotland) is Executive Director of Art in General, New York, a non-profit organization that supports artists through the commissioning of new work and an international residency exchange program. From 1999 to 2006, Barlow was Curator of Education and Media Programs at the New Museum, New York, where she oversaw its educational and public programs; conceived of and developed Museum as Hub (a global network initiative that connected the museum with art partners in Cairo, Eindhoven, Mexico City and Seoul); organized inter-disciplinary roundtables with leaders in the fields of the visual arts, architecture, and design; developed the museum’s Digital Culture Programs; and curated numerous exhibitions and performances.
Barlow received her MA in the History of Art from the University of Glasgow, Scotland. Prior to moving to New York, Barlow was Curator of Contemporary Art and Design at Glasgow Museums, where she managed the contemporary art collection, exhibitions, residencies, and commissions programs. Independently, she collaborated on the exhibition Copy It, Steal It, Share It at Borusan Art Gallery, Istanbul, and guest-curated film and media projects for the International Film Festival Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and Threshold Artspace, Scotland. Barlow has published for organizations including: Liverpool University Press/Tate Gallery Liverpool; the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, United Kingdom; the Edith Russ House for Media Art, Oldenburg; the New Museum; and Art in General. She recently co-organized Art in General’s international residency/exchange symposium “What Now?”, and has participated in lectures and discussions at organizations including the Royal College of Art, London; Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw; MUMOK, Vienna; The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, New York; New York University; ARCOmadrid, for Latitudes’ Professional Encounters; Tate Modern, London; and the Sharjah Art Foundation. Barlow lives and works in New York.
Each of the locations chosen for the BB5 are justified by their history and socio-political involvement, but also by the topographical location (details on www.bucharestbiennale.org):
PAVILION, Institute for Political Research, Make a Point, Alert Studio, Casa Presei Libere, Cinema Union, Nana, Tabu, Zeppelin, Vice
PAVILION – journal for politics and culture will dedicate #16 to the biennale. PAVILION #16 will contain contributions by all the artists and texts by Anne Barlow, Eugen Radescu, Stephen Duncombe, Razvan Ion, Suzana Milevska, Sotirios Bahtsetzis, Tom Holert, Olive McKeon, Simon Sheikh, Stefan Voicu, and Marius Stan.
A map/guide will be published to be a handy instrument for navigation through the biennale.
The journal and the guide can be ordered as a hard copy or downloaded for free as a PDF, soon, from pavilionjournal.org or bucharestbiennale.org. This can also can be directly purchased from the info-point of Bucharest Biennale 5.
The Parallel Events are collateral events taking place in the same period as BB5. Our program aims to present a broader view of different aspects of the local cultural scene to the regional, national and international public.
Parallel Events program offers a communication platform for individual artists and interdisciplinary cultural producers who live and work in the region, as well as for local institutions, art organisations, and other cultural events. For details please see our website or Facebook page.
Education and mediation
Whatever your background or experience level with regard to contemporary art, heritage, or art history, BB5 educational programs allow you to engage, participate in the dialogue, and broaden your outlook. Join us, together with your friends, family, or students for one of our conversational tours and more.
If you are planning a visit to BB5 with your school, university, community organisation, company, museum association, or any other group over 10 persons, then this is the place to be. Be sure to let us know in advance to organize for you a free guided tour. Based on your interests, age, and background we will create a personalized program to fit your group.
If you are visiting BB5 by yourself or with a small group, please note that we have volunteers prepared to guide you in every venue. So just ask them for details.