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Cyprien Gaillard, The Arena and the Wasteland, 2008, bronze and concrete. Installation view, Skulpturenpark Berlin_Zentrum. From “When Things Cast No Shadow.”

the 5th Berlin Biennial

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THE BIENNIAL FORMAT may exert a more decisive influence on the field of contemporary art than any other kind of exhibition today, but such shows are also regularly criticized on account of their instrumentalization in the service of both cultural and local political agendas. Noting that this type of large-scale show tends to prioritize post-Conceptual and lens-based practices that engage the historical, economic, and (geo-)political resonances of specific sites in a particular city or region, Julian Stallabrass, in Art Incorporated: The Story of Contemporary Art (2004), goes so far as to argue that the biennial, “with all its crude jostling for position in the global market,” performs the same function for a city “as a Picasso above the fireplace does for a tobacco executive,” and as such it “not only embodies, but actively propagandizes the virtues of globalization.”

The curators of the

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