Magazine article Artforum International

4th Ghetto Biennale 2015: Various Venues

Magazine article Artforum International

4th Ghetto Biennale 2015: Various Venues

Article excerpt

4th Ghetto Biennale 2015



Cofounded in 2009 by artist-curators Leah Gordon (UK) and Andre Eugene (Haiti) and sited in the Grand Rue neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, the Ghetto Biennale brings together a cadre of international artists with Atis Rezistans, a group of Haitian artists who live on Grand Rue and incorporate the detritus of that dense urban center into their work in a creative process they call recuperation. Positing a curatorial ethic distinct from socially engaged practices emblematized by artists like Theaster Gates and Thomas Hirschhorn, the exhibition embodies a number of conflicting aims, as its ostensibly contradictory moniker suggests. The Atis Rezistans practitioners seek to enter an art market from which they have been largely excluded. Their foreign colleagues, in contrast, articulate their projects and enfold their own presence in the neighborhood as a conceptual encounter with Haitian history and culture as well as a critique of the occidental art complex with its white cubes and global art fairs.

Inviting artists to engage with the theme of "Kreyol, Vodou and the Lakou: Forms of Resistance," the Fourth Ghetto Biennale 2015 offered new approaches to these incongruities. However, its curatorial strategies unintentionally continued to perpetuate a binary relationship between local and international artists that was made manifest when one navigated the dense corridors of the neighborhood. While many of the foreign participants exhibited their works and performances on exterior walls or more explicitly communal spaces, the vast majority of Haitian works remained tucked away in the lakous--extended familial dwellings--of individual artists that often remained difficult to locate, even with a map.

Individually, however, many of the installations and performances worked to dissolve these divisions between center and periphery through an acute attention to creolized relationality, a concept developed by Edouard Glissant to account for the distinct syncretism of Caribbean cultures. Omani artist Radhika Khimji's Safely Standing (all works 2015)--an installation of three walls of concrete blocks on a tile floor, arranged at angles and topped with shards of broken glass--used local building materials to thoughtfully braid together a Minimalist sculptural encounter with the complex relationship to space within the lakou. …

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