PRINT September 2009

Claire Bishop

Lamya Gargash, Ferrari Hotel, 2009, color photograph, 47 1/4 x 47 1/4“. Lamya Gargash, Sima Hotel, 2009, color photograph, 47 1/4 x 47 1/4”. Lamya Gargash, Al Andalus Hotel, 2009, color photograph, 47 1/4 x 47 1/4". All from the series “Familial,” 2009. United Arab Emirates pavilion, Venice

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 depressingly, national representation in Venice remains a target of aspiration for newly independent countries (Croatia, Lithuania), global latecomers (China, Singapore), and even dissidents (Wales and Scotland, whose participation is grouped under “Collateral Events”). Among the influx of

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