Bergen Biennial Conference – Upcoming September


This Fall the art world in Scandinavia will gather in response to existing plans in Bergen to establish a biennial in the city in 2011.  The three-day conference will constitute one of the most extensive discussion about biennials to date.It will take place in Bergen Kunsthall, Norway.


Rasmus Meyers alle 5
5015 Bergen

The Bergen Biennial Conference will bring together an international group of curators, critics, artists, and thinkers so as to benefit from their discussions of their findings, and create the occasion to reflect collectively about the practice and potential of biennials as institutions. The conference aims to identify and explore existing ‘biennial knowledge’ from different regions of the world and will be made up of lectures as well as seminar style workshops with young and leading professionals in the field. It will be complemented with an extensive publication, The Biennial Reader, including existing seminal texts on biennials from around the world as well as newly commissioned texts.

As scholars and curators have recently acknowledged, the history of exhibitions is both one of the most vital and, paradoxically, ignored narratives of our cultural history. And given the increasing role of biennials and other perennial exhibitions of contemporary art in contemporary culture, it seems all the more necessary to critically examine them today. The impetus to do so now comes in response to the Bergen City Council’s plans to establish a biennial for contemporary art in Bergen, for which the Bergen Kunsthall has taken up the task of organizing an international conference and think tank to study and discuss the status of the biennial as an exhibition model, and also to launch a debate concerning the plans for a biennial in Bergen.

Conference program conceived by: Solveig Øvstebø, Marieke van Hal and Elena Filipovic.
Conference founded by the City of Bergen, by Departments of Cultural Affairs, Business Development and Sports.
Supported by Hordaland County and Arts Council Norway.


Thursday September 17

Official Opening

Opening of the conference and the Arquivo Histórico Wanda Svevo of the Fundacáo Bienal de Sáo Paolo at Bergen Kunsthall.

On the occasion of the conference, the entirety of the archive on international biennials that was conceived as part of the 28th São Paolo Biennial and constituting the most comprehensive documentation source on biennials anywhere, will be present and available for consultation in the Bergen Kunsthall. An invaluable resource, this first ever presentation of such an extensive archive on biennials in Europe underscores the ambitions of the conference to incite new critical thinking and writing on recurrent large-scale art exhibitions.


Friday September 18


Laying the foundations for subsequent discussions, this day focuses on the history and origins of biennials and other perennial international exhibitions, from early World’s Fairs and the Venice Biennale, as well as such others as the São Paolo, Havana Biennials and Documenta to the 1990’s biennial boom that saw the rise of the Manifesta, Berlin, Istanbul, Gwangju, Mercosul, and Dak’Art Biennials, among many others. Discussions will closely consider the historical events, socio-economic, geopolitical and artistic contexts that made these recurrent exhibitions possible or even necessary and urgent.

Lectures by: Caroline A. Jones, Olu Oguibe and Charlotte Bydler.
Moderator: Sabine B. Vogel
Reviewer: Vittoria Martini
Dialogues with, among others: Sarat Maharaj, Carlos Basualdo and Gerardo Mosquera
Reviewers: Vinicius Spricigo and Marit Paasche



Saturday September 19


Focusing on practice, this day elaborates on the different types of biennials, looking at their functioning, developments and evolution over time. It will be the occasion to reflect collectively about the biennial as a historically new type of art institution, reading the variety of benefits and limitations of such large-scale art events against the grain of their resulting exhibitions.

Lectures by: John Clark, Maria Hlavajova and Paul O´Neill
Moderator: Ute Meta Bauer
Reviewer: Ina Blom
Workshops with, among others: Gridthiya Gaweewong, Ann Demeester, Mahita El Bacha Urieta, Per Gunnar Eeg-Tverbakk, Jonas Ekeberg, Llilian Llanes, Elmgreen & Dragset and Donna De Salvo.
Moderators: Elena Filipovic and Marieke van Hal
Reviewers: Tommy Olsson and Monika Szewczyk


Sunday September 20


Is the perennial exhibition still relevant today? Taking up the query that some biennials are themselves asking of late about the potentials and limits of the format, the final conference day focuses on the future. Reflecting on the responsibility and the role of the curator, the consequences of these changing exhibition structures for artists, curators and the public will be discussed. The debates of the previous days will come together and the possibilities for new curatorial paradigms as well as the idea for a biennial in Bergen will be assessed.

Lectures by: Ivo Mesquita, Sara Arrhenius, Ranjit Hoskote and Rafal Niemojewski
Moderator: Jan Verwoert
Reviewer: Nikos Papastergiadis



Further Info re. Bergen Biennial Conference




Rasmus Meyers allé 5-5015Bergen

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