Magazine article Artforum International

6th Goteborg International Biennial

Magazine article Artforum International

6th Goteborg International Biennial

Article excerpt

VARIOUS VENUES

When Milton's Lucifer was thrown out of heaven, he built Pandemonium, a castle where he and his fellow devils could plan their future actions against the old order. One couldn't find a better image for organized disobedience. It's also an excellent starting point for the production of a twenty-first-century biennial. The Sixth Goteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art, curated by Sarat Maharaj and his team--Dorothee Albrecht, Stina Edblom, and Gertrud Sandqvist--was lavishly called "Pandemonium: Art in a Time of Creativity Fever." But despite the biennial's devilish title, there were few works that came close to the demonic darkness and flamboyant rebellion of Paradise Lost. "Pandemonium" was, in fact, a low-key exhibition that nevertheless opened up like a lotus flower, with fragile and process-oriented works that required time and careful attention--no sociopornographic Wunderkammer or neocolonial quests for the uninformed other, but rather a Sisyphean, slightly melancholic gesture toward rebuilding the world.

The most vivid examples of this lyrical reconstructionism were Children's Games, 2009--Francis Alys's black-and-white video of children building a sand castle that gets washed away by the waves--and Isaac Julien's Better Life, 2010, which approaches the 2004 tragedy of Morecambe Bay in the north of England (when twenty-three Chinese cockle pickers were washed away by the tide) by way of the enigmatic goddess Mazu's ethereal journey through China's mesmerizing landscapes and cities.

Among the works using social space, there was no institutionalized gift economy but negotiation-oriented practices. In order to get some food from Mahlet Ogbe Habte's The Audience Cooking Performance, 2011, you had to participate in the cooking and wear a colorful turban for the rest of the evening. For Time Exchange, 2006-2009, Antonio Vega Macotela fulfilled the wishes of Mexican prisoners--for example, looking after their loved ones outside the prison walls. In exchange, the prisoners performed absurd tasks such as scratching holes in books, or collecting and organizing cigarette butts, hair, and fingernails into mystical formations. …

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