December 15, 2011
Following an extensive discussion of the format itself through the Bergen Biennial Conference 2009 (BBC2009) and the following anthology The Biennial Reader (Hatje Cantz / Bergen Kunsthall 2010), the triennial’s international advisory board has moved from the question “to biennial or not to biennial” to ask: “how to biennial.” With more than 200 biennials worldwide, what can Bergen Assembly do that hasn’t been done many times before? Where both biennials and contemporary art have a tendency to take a reactive position in relation to recent events, or a retrospective one towards a cultural and political past, Bergen Assembly has the ambition of working prognostically, allowing newly emerging narratives to be investigated in light of their future potential.
This focus also involves a constructive criticism of the roles of curator and advisory board; with no curator in the traditional sense, Bergen Assembly has invited Ekaterina Degot and David Riff as conveners of its first edition. The conveners will establish an assembly with a research-based methodology, with art as a basis and with art as a result. Accordingly, they propose to initiate a collective process with correspondents in different locations, artists, philosophers, and researchers, who will be asked to form “conclaves” with further participants to contribute and show in-depth research undertakings. The process will commence in the beginning of 2012 and manifest itself in as a stretched-out event including a conference and exhibition/art projects in Bergen during the fall of 2013. It will also result in a publication.
Degot is an art historian, critic, and curator based in Moscow. She has curated research-intensive exhibitions including Body Memory: Underwear of the Soviet Era (2000), Struggling for the Banner: SovietArt Between Trotsky and Stalin (2008); Citizens, Mind Yourselves: Dimitri Prigov (2008); Kudymkar – Engine for the Future (2009).
Riff is a writer, artist, and curator based in Moscow and Berlin. A member of the group Chto Delat, he edited the newspaper of the same name from 2003 to 2008; he has also contributed as an artist to projects such as the 52nd Venice Biennial Think with the Senses/Feel with Mind(2007), the international exhibition Principio Potosi (Madrid, Berlin, La Paz 2010-11) and the 4th Moscow Biennial (2011).
Degot and Riff teach at the Rodchenko School for Photography and Media Art in Moscow. Their joint curatorial efforts include the 1st Ural Industrial Biennial in Ekaterinburg (Shockworkers of the Mobile Image,2010; together with Cosmin Costinaş ) and the international exhibition and discussion platform Auditorium Moscow, coorganized in Moscow by the Warsaw Museum of Modern Art.
In the first edition of Bergen Assembly, Degot and Riff’s point of departure will be a core problem of the present: the absence of an optics for the future: “At a time of momentous change, the present holds us hostage, and this is especially the case in contemporary art” they write. “The future only appears in by-now traditional guises, in flashes, fears, and illuminations; these accumulate in a design of the present which still looks futuristic even when it is hopelessly antiquated. Actually, what we need is the kind of extenuated, politically responsible gaze into the world to come usually associated with the optics of historical research. Precisely because things are changing so quickly every day, we have to insist upon the need to take a long, careful, critical, engaged look at the conditions that will make up our lives.”