[-empyre-] -empyre- June 2011: Biennales Plus and Minus

Isak Berbic isakberbic at yahoo.com
Wed Jun 8 00:43:56 EST 2011


Dear Tim, Renate and empyre,

I am looking forward to engage in dialogue with the guests of this month and everyone on the list.
Below is my initial statement on my recent work and the “biennale model in the context of global digital environments” and mediums of mass dissemination. 

Thank you for reading.


Many of us learn about biennales, exhibitions and artworks by looking at books, art magazines, culture sections in newspapers, exhibition catalogs and internet websites. We have, long ago, become accustomed to consuming cinema on the television screen, and symphonies in earphones. Through these mediums, we learn about flat works, three-dimensional works, large-scale installations, and time-based pieces. We have become used video art on DVD or the small screen of YouTube, and imagining installation art through photographs that describe it. It is common practice that artists’ submissions for exhibitions, or applications for programs, are viewed on computer screens or digital projections. While looking at art, through its second-hand representations, we judge it by reconstructing all or part of the experience in our mind. We use our imagination to decode the images, while at the same time, we keep in mind that in reality, the works themselves are somewhat
 different, somehow more real. Artists themselves are aware of these limitations, and their work has increasingly come to address the conditions under which it will be seen, not only in the gallery or the museum, but in the pages of art magazines, catalogs, and websites. In a contemporary scene flooded with international biennials and art fairs, they know that these second-hand impressions that can be made available to millions are perhaps more important than the first-hand encounter that will occur for only a privileged few visitors.




Most recently I co-curated, with Fawz Kabra, an exhibition with the aim to utilize new media and put together a show with most speed. The exhibition opened during the Sharjah Biennial and Art Dubai in the spirit of dialogue with these large events, as well as to use the presence of a large audience and their interest in art. 

In the month of March 2011, we were watching on the television, facebook and twitter, that the entire region was rapidly changing. We felt that large exhibitions take much forward planning, and the curatorial decisions and the work of artists occur too far in advance to be timely. So the exhibition Brief Histories was conceived as a responsive project to the recent political turmoil in the middle east. We worked with very quick deadlines, and practical means of realization. We asked for contributions which could be sent thorough email or small packages with currier to be subsequently materialized on site. Which meant that the works themselves were jpgs, video files, texts, or instructions, which we produced into prints, projections, even a wall painting by Brian O'Doherty. There were no frames, there were no plinths and pedestals, the site of the exhibition was utilized to the maximum, and the spartan install allowed for the focus to be on the images and
 the content.

At the opening we received 200 visitors on foot, while on our blog we received 2,000.

You can visit the online version on the following link:

http://briefhistories.blogspot.com

WINTER/SPRING 2011 BRIEF HISTORIES brings together contemporary works responsive to the unfolding events in the region and the larger global happenings of the day. The show will be momentarily materialized in the intimate setting of a villa in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, and subsequently posted online. Diverse participants, from six continents, present photography, moving image, installation, drawing, text, and web-based work. Themes lying within their contributions reflect upon social geography, power and authority, labor and capital, private and public space, and the media.

With telepresence of information, temporality has transformed from its traditional linear progression (past, present, future) to a coexistence of past and present–on demand. In this respect new media networks broadcast multitudes of distinct perspectives, which in turn destabilize a definitive narrative. The challenge has become to maintain a critical, artistic, and curatorial practice that is responsive and relevant, and that is capable of keeping its place amongst rapidly changing contexts and shifting meanings.

BRIEF HISTORIES is an attempt to address this need for immediacy, by bringing together artists and writers to respond with works that are significant to the context of our present day reality. Fawz Kabra and Isak Berbic



Isak Berbic
Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
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