Magazine article Artforum International

Heat Seeker: Jeff Gibson on the Biennale of Sydney

Magazine article Artforum International

Heat Seeker: Jeff Gibson on the Biennale of Sydney

Article excerpt

Descartes was wrong: The mind/body split is bogus. With this as her hook for the 14th Biennale of Sydney, the director, Portuguese independent curator Isabel Carlos, won't get much argument there. Titing her show "On Reason and Emotion." Carlos has conscripted neurologist and compatriot Antonio Damasio, author of such titles as Descartes' Error and The Feeling of What Happens, to provide the theoretical ballast for floating the interdependence of thought and feeling in contemporary art. Looking to settle the score with "northern" (read: New York) intellectualism, her biennale gets behind the feisty "southerner" by favoring artists from South America and warmer European countries, along with a sizable contingent from Australia and New Zealand.

As she acknowledges in her concept statement. Carlos has built her theme on a foundation of national stereotypes and behavioral cliches, most of which more or less hold until she characterizes Australia as the "only true southern continent"--something of a faux pas in a colonized country anxious to get out from (down) under its peripheral relation to Europe and America. Just the same, the synthesis of emotion and intellect that Carlos proposes may well provide a timely corrective for a local scene perhaps too enamored of theory in the '80s and too easily seduced by its antithesis--poetic and abject expression--in the '90s.

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Working with a two-year lead time. Carlos has chosen anything but the usual suspects. …

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