June 2022 has been our Grand Tour’s month. Twentytwo days around Europe to see the Berlin Biennale and Art Basel
We started from Berlin for the opening of the twelfth Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, “STILL PRESENT!”, curated by Kader Attia. The Biennale is taking place in six exhibition venues around the city and will be open until September 18th.
On the website of the German institution the Biennal is described with the following statement: “With its political profile, it stands for committed art that addresses the urgent questions of the present.” But what does this sentence mean?
Kader Attia is both an artist, and an activist, whose focus examines decolonial engagement, and the notion of “repair”—first of objects and physical injuries, and then of individual and societal traumas. In his practice as well as for the concept of the Biennal, repair has emerged as a mode of cultural resistance, a form of agency that finds expression in diverse practices and fields of knowledge: the project’s core investigates decolonial concepts through diverse backgrounds and critical practices. The aim of the exhibition is to involve the visitors and different kinds of contributors in a critical conversation “in order to find ways together to care for the now”. For Kader Attia, the contemporary is the result of historical formations constructed over centuries, the consequences of the capitalist logic of modern coloniality, and its capacity to depoliticize the subject. All the venues in Berlin have thus been inhabited by artists, researchers, and archivists: artworks, testimonies, and documents of different kinds are interrelated in order to face cross-linked networked environments that interact in ways that are not immediately visible. The question posed by the curator to us, the audience, is to reclaim our present, by reclaiming our attention, thanks to the possibilities offered by art, which is ever present and free. The aim of the Biennale so far is to awaken the consciousness of the present in order to escape capitalist behavior. The exhibition outlines the relationships between colonialism, fascism, and imperialism, and proposes decolonial strategies for the future, oriented around a set of questions posed to each of us. The challenge is to warn us that we do not need to be activists to be conscious of the situation we are facing today, and this is why, in my opinion, a Biennal like this one was needed. My unique con is about the massive use of wallpapers and graphic design: too much information and sometimes not so many artworks.
After Berlin, we moved to Basel and we spent the entire week between the fairs, events, Parcours, and of course parties. Compared to last year’s edition, I’ve found booths of higher quality and also more courageous. Statement most of all offered highlights of excellence. First above all, but it could not have been otherwise, was Veda with an outstanding Dominique White, followed in my opinion by Lyles&Kings with Catalina Ouyang, Édouard Montassut with Özgür Kar, and Laveronica with Daniela Ortiz, who amazed us with a puppet theatre, animated every evening at 5 o’clock for the audience’s pleasure.
There will undoubtedly be more in-depth articles about the fair, and I leave it to them to review the rest of the booths in more detail. I would just like to congratulate ChertLüdde’s stunning booth, which again this year was a smash hit.
Liste also gave us excellent booths: Eva Fabregas for Bombon, Vijay Masharani for Clima, Gabriele Beveridge for Seventeen, Viola Leddi for Vin Vin, Andre Morgan for Harlesden High Street, and Nevine Mahmoud for Soft Opening. Dulcis in fundo Liste gifted us, in my opinion, with the best-curated booth of this ArtBasel edition: as for Arco Madrid was the one by The Ryder Project with Lúa Coderch. A very pleasant discovery was definitely Ndayé Kouagou presented by Nir Altman.
Another nice surprise was June, the fair without booths, much more democratic although perhaps still a little immature. We shall see what the future holds for it.
Highlights worth mentioning around the city were definitely the Parcours, with a touching sculpture by Puppies Puppies, and the exhibitions at the Kunsthalle, which as usual were stunning.
As you can understand I loved every moment in Basel, which obviously it’s always too commercial but presented us with many interesting types of research and artists.
After 10 days we finally moved to Kassel for Documenta fifteen, but I’ll keep this part for another time and another story.