Claire Bishop


    IN ITS FORTY-YEAR HISTORY, London’s Hayward gallery, like any art institution, has had its fair share of exhibitions that failed to pull in the masses. One of the standard-bearers in this category was “Inno₇0,” which, according to institutional lore, was the most poorly attended show in the gallery’s history. Also known as “Art & Economics,” “Inno₇0” was intended to showcase the achievements of an entity called the Artist Placement Group, whose mission was to arrange artists’ residencies at corporations and government agencies.¹ Confusing to many observers in its day, APG appears a peculiar

  • diary November 27, 2009

    Trial and Error

    New York

    LAST WEDNESDAY NIGHT, I found myself standing on the main stage at the Abrons Art Center, blinded by stage lights, looking at a gently playing string quartet, dimly aware of a full house halfheartedly applauding my arrival . . . and wondering what exactly I was expected to do next. As I circled toward the strings, I noticed a woman standing downstage, frantically beckoning me forward. “Are you K11?” she asked. “Yes, I’m K11!” To my relief, she led me into the auditorium, where I was gratefully given a seat in . . . row K.

    Such was my entry, in medias res, to Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and Ari

  • diary October 29, 2009

    Public Opinion

    New York

    THIS YEAR I’ve already sat through two art-related pecha kuchas—that’s the new ADD-friendly presentation format from Japan, in which people have a limited time (usually three to five minutes) to rattle through their life’s work. At the end of each speaker’s allocated slot, the next person’s PowerPoint begins, and the previous presenter has to quit the stage pronto. Pecha kucha is like a live version of channel zapping or Internet surfing—not long enough to get really bored, but also not long enough to get really interested. It’s the perfect format for the info-ravenous who crave high quantities

  • Claire Bishop

    THE VENICE BIENNALE is a dinosaur of cultural politics. After the biennial boom of the 1990s, the mother of all international art shows seems more akin to nineteenth-century extravaganzas than to the experimental exhibition formats promoted by new generations of curators in Havana, Istanbul, and Gwangju, or via the roving Manifesta. The Giardini’s antiquated structure of freestanding national pavilions clings to a geopolitical power map largely static since the 1930s, reinforcing a model of representation that even São Paulo’s grandstanding classic finally abandoned in 2006. And yet, perhaps

  • Tania Bruguera at the 10th Havana Biennial

    WHENEVER PEOPLE LAMENT the homogenization of global biennials, a special case should be made for Havana’s. Located in a country suffering the longest economic blockade in modern history, the Havana Biennial has, since its inception in 1984, placed post-colonial theory and Southern-Hemispheric relations at the forefront of its activities while consciously eschewing the mediation of Western centers. However, for all the innovations this independence has produced—the Havana Biennial could be said to stand historically as the model for today’s discursive, transnational biennials—the flip

  • diary February 18, 2009

    Think Twice


    LAST OCTOBER AT TATE BRITAIN, during the penultimate “prologue” to this year’s Tate Triennial, curator Nicolas Bourriaud invited Carsten Höller to give a talk about traveling. Höller, a longtime fan of Congolese music, offered a meandering travelogue about his first visit to the Congo and the type of decor, food, and music he found there. He showed a couple of music videos and was at pains to tell us that this wasn’t an artist’s talk. It was business as usual, until Russian provocateur Alexander Brener stood up, blew a whistle, and began to babble about going to the insane asylum and finding

  • Claire Bishop

    IN THE LAST PERFORMANCE (A LECTURE), 2004, French choreographer Jérôme Bel narrates his own development, from dancer, during the 1980s; to student of poststructural theory, in the ’90s; to his present-day status as a leading proponent of European conceptual dance. The piece serves as a quasi retrospective of his oeuvre and his thinking; it is quintessential Bel in its self-referentiality and desire to recapitulate previous works. Bel sits casually behind a desk at the side of the stage, a fur coat slung over his chair, occasionally glancing at his laptop while telling us the checkered history

  • Claire Bishop


    1 Steve McQueen, Queen and Country (Central Library, Manchester, UK) Ninety-eight sheets of postage stamps, each bearing the image of a British soldier who died in Iraq, are arrayed on racks in an austere, coffinlike wooden display case. Because the photographs were donated by the families of the deceased, many are painfully intimate. These amateur domestic portraits are compressed into stamps—small slivers of public space—poignantly overlaid with the silhouette of the monarch in whose name they died. Installed in the Great Hall of the library, its rotunda encircled with

  • the 10th International Istanbul Biennial

    THE NINTH INTERNATIONAL ISTANBUL BIENNIAL was always going to be a tough act to follow. That edition, organized by Vasif Kortun and Charles Esche in 2005, was exemplary: Clustered in the Beyoglu area, it engendered a productive dialogue with the city, using found buildings (including a tobacco warehouse, former offices, and an apartment block), all within walking distance of one another, encouraging a seamless interaction between the urban milieu and the works of art being exhibited. It showcased a generation of emerging artists, many of whom had produced their projects in the Balkan region,

  • Claire Bishop

    ONE OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT CURATORIAL moves in recent history was Okwui Enwezor’s “deterritorialization” of Documenta 11 via four intercontinental “platforms,” or conferences—held in Vienna, New Delhi, Lagos, and St. Lucia—that effectively unmoored the exhibition from its geographic base in central Germany. Arguably, Documenta 12 aspires to continue this deterritorialization through its magazine project, a collaboration of about ninety periodicals from more than fifty countries. Led by Georg Schöllhammer, editor of Austrian art magazine Springerin, Documenta 12 Magazines posed the

  • Tino Sehgal

    This “permanent,” gradually unfolding retrospective will include every piece made by the German Conceptualist since 2000, when he began hiring nonprofessional actors to aid in the creation of dematerialized situations, such as one in which an invigilator falls to the floor and burbles an exhibition’s press release (This Exhibition, 2004).

    Jens Hoffmann recently relocated to San Francisco from London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts, where he intrepidly devoted three solo exhibitions to Tino Sehgal. No prizes for guessing what opens this month at the CCA Wattis—a Tino Sehgal show. This “permanent,” gradually unfolding retrospective will include every piece made by the German Conceptualist since 2000, when he began hiring nonprofessional actors to aid in the creation of dematerialized situations, such as one in which an invigilator falls to the floor and burbles an exhibition’s press release (This Exhibition

  • Cerith Wyn Evans

    PEOPLE UNACQUAINTED with the London art world are probably unaware of how central a presence Cerith Wyn Evans is here. Admittedly, to a certain extent this quasi-institutional status derives from his flamboyant party persona—he is a stately figure in Dior suits, dispensing Wildean pronouncements with a strict Welsh lilt. But his standing owes even more to his austere, heavily encrypted, crisply poetic tableaux, in which chandeliers, fireworks, and other objects are charged with literary, cinematic, and countercultural references. This elegant body of work has had formative impact on a younger




    Kierkegaard once said that his goal in writing was to make life difficult for people. I read Edward Said’s On Late Style (Pantheon) because its title suggested that it might offer insights into my life’s pursuit of trying to understand art. The subtitle of the book is Music and Literature Against the Grain. The photo of Said on the back cover shows his shirt collar slightly askew, which I chose to understand as an unintended message.

    There are no artists (in the narrow sense) discussed, but the book contains

  • diary August 01, 2006

    Speech Bubble


    In the UK, Channel 4 television is broadcasting a masturbate-a-thon for charity. Some people have drawn unkind parallels between this event and the twenty-four-hour interview marathon hosted by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Rem Koolhaas at the Serpentine Gallery last Friday and Saturday. Sixty-four luminaries were lined up to chew the fat inside the distinguished Dutch architect’s pavilion—a clear display of the duo's pulling prowess and a flamboyant declaration of Obrist’s arrival in London.

    The event was broken into eight three-hour slots priced at £15 each. I skipped the first to catch Roman


    AT FIRST GLANCE, Pawel Althamer’s Fairy Tale, 2006—perhaps the most iconoclastic work in the current Berlin Biennial—is an activist project: the artist leveraging the power of institutions (in this instance, the biennial, with its visibility and prestige) for social change. Entering a run-down former stable in the courtyard of a disused post office, viewers find themselves in a room that’s empty except for a single sneaker. On the door is a photocopied text on biennial stationery: a letter from Althamer to Berlin’s interior minister, Erhart Körting, pleading with him to grant a residence permit

  • diary March 27, 2006

    Bleak Chic


    The idea of The Wrong Gallery curating a biennial inevitably conjures a myriad of preconceptions—daft japes, irreverent pranks, slapstick-a-go-go. Six months ago, Maurizio Cattelan, Massimiliano Gioni, and Ali Subotnick set up a renegade franchise of Gagosian Gallery. It was also rumored that whenever they were asked a question about the Biennale, they replied with an answer/work by Tino Sehgal. Their chosen title, “Of Mice and Men,” thus seemed to auger a panoply of stuffed animals (as befits Cattelan’s oeuvre) and trickster hoaxes, rather than an engagement with John Steinbeck’s melancholic

  • diary March 01, 2006

    Performance Anxiety


    How do you organize an academic conference on Martin Kippenberger, that most rock ’n’ roll of artists? Well, you don’t. Tate Modern anticipated this problem, and last Saturday presented three informal lectures on the late German rollercoaster. Sadly, all of them fell a little flat. The highlight came in the form of Kippenberger himself, when Daniel Baumann (Museum of Fine Arts, Bern) showed us Christoph Doering’s 3302 (1979) an artist’s film of a taxi ride around Kippenberger’s Berlin milieu: After repeatedly accelerating toward the Berlin Wall, the taxi careens through the city at night, carrying


    All artists are alike. They dream of doing something that’s more social, more collaborative, and more real than art. —Dan Graham

    SUPERFLEX’S INTERNET TV STATION for elderly residents of a Liverpool housing project (Tenantspin, 1999); Annika Eriksson’s inviting groups and individuals to communicate their ideas and skills at the Frieze Art Fair (Do you want an audience? 2003); Jeremy Deller’s Social Parade for more than twenty social organizations in San Sebastián (2004); Lincoln Tobier’s training local residents in Aubervilliers, northeast Paris, to produce half-hour radio programs (Radio Ld’A,

  • diary October 21, 2005

    Gin Biz


    It’s that time of year again. Several thousand specimens of international art trash and flash have descended on London for the Frieze Art Fair. The first site of infestation was the Turner Prize exhibition opening at Tate Britain Monday night. What work was visible through the swarm of bodies revealed what seemed to be a surprisingly evenly matched line-up. Simon Starling, the local favorite, chose to obstruct the first room with his vast ShedBoatShed (Mobile Architecture No. 2), 2005, a shed that became a boat and then, you’ve guessed it, was reassembled to become a shed again. After maneuvering