THE 33RD BIENNIAL OF GRAPHIC ARTS: CRACK UP – CRACK DOWN
7. 6.–29. 9. 2019
The 33rd Biennial of Graphic Arts was curated by the Slavs and Tatars art collective. It should not be overlooked that the central role of the curator as the selector of the works presented at the 32nd Biennial edition entitled Birth as Criterion acquired a chain mechanism in which the choice was left entirely to artists. As Slavs and Tatars participated in this biennial, Birth as Criterion in a very special way influenced the design of the 2019 Biennial.
The collective’s extensive editorial output, complex use of visual language and voracious research practice made them a particularly resonant fit with the history of the Biennial and its contemporary role. Slavs and Tatars is an internationally renowned art collective devoted to an area East of the former Berlin Wall and West of the Great Wall of China known as Eurasia. Since its inception in 2006, the collective has shown a keen grasp of polemical issues in society, clearing new paths for contemporary discourse via a wholly idiosyncratic form of knowledge production, including popular culture, spiritual and esoteric traditions, oral histories, modern myths, as well as scholarly research. The collective’s practice is based on three activities: exhibitions, publications and lecture-performances. Their work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Salt in Istanbul, Vienna Secession, Kunsthalle Zurich and Ujazdowski Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, among others. Slavs and Tatars has published ten books to date, including Wripped Scripped (Hatje Cantz, 2018) on language politics, Friendship of Nations (2nd edition, Book Works, 2017) on the unlikely rapport between Iran and Poland between the 17th and 21st centuries, as well as Molla Nasreddin (currently in its 2nd edition with I.B Tauris, 2017), a translation of the legendary Azerbaijani satirical periodical. Their focus on Eurasia challenges our often times one-dimensional way of seeing relationships between science, religion, power and identity. We saw them in Ljubljana in the Systems and Patterns show in 2012. The exhibition was curated by Nevenka Šivavec, MGLC Director.
For their curatorial début, Slavs and Tatars wanted to re-engage with the origins of the Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts. “After a thaw in the idea of medium-specificity over the last 20 odd years, we would like to refocus on ‘the graphic’ today, both in a literal but also strategic sense. In an age of mashed up futures and scrambled pasts, the role of the graphic in public discourses and polemics seems particularly relevant today.”
The focal point of the exhibition of the 33rd Biennial of Graphic Arts was the idea of satire as a distinctly visual language, with the ‘graphic’ that marks the history of the Biennial being understood and questioned in the broad field of the expressive, uninhibited, even lurid. Is each joke, as George Orwell maintained, a tiny revolution? Or does laughter and satire deflate the pressures and tension which could otherwise lead to political upheaval? Slavs and Tatars looked to humour as both strategy and content. The visual glut of our times has spawned new aesthetic languages whose messages and discourse we often find distasteful. Though the graphic arts and satire each have their own distinct specifics, they both claim to speak for and to the people.
Find out more about the 33rd Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts on the Biennial’s new website: bienale.si.
Honza Zamojski, The Gathering and The Meeting, 2019. Installation view at the 33rd Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts, 2019.
Photo: Jaka Babnik. Archive: MGLC.