Claire Bishop

  • Jackson Pollock Bar, Opening, 2009. Performance view, United Arab Emirates pavilion, Venice, June 3, 2009.

    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, El susurro de Tatlin #6 (Tatlin’s Whisper #6), 2009. Performance view, Centro Wifredo Lam, Havana, March 29, 2009.

    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

  • Left: Artist Carsten Höller. (Except where noted, all photos: Dafydd Jones) Right: A view of The Double Club. (Photo courtesy Fondazione Prada)
    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

  • Michael Rakowitz, The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist (Recovered, Missing, Stolen Series), 2007, packaging, newspapers, and glue. Installation view, Antrepo No. 3, 10th International Istanbul Biennial. Photo: Serkan Taycan.

    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,

  • Magazines on display in the Documenta Halle, Kassel, June 2007. Photo: Adrian Koss.

    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

  • Left: Architect Rem Koolhaas and curator Hans Ulrich Obrist. (Photo: Sarah Thornton) Right: The Serpentine pavilion lights up. (Photo: Claire Bishop)
    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