Magazine article Artforum International

11th Shanghai Biennale: Power Station of Art

Magazine article Artforum International

11th Shanghai Biennale: Power Station of Art

Article excerpt

In 1991, three young filmmakers from New Delhi were discussing the future of the world over a late-night game of carom (table billiards) when they decided to write their first script together. The resultant film, Half the Night Left, and the Universe to Comprehend, 1991, marked the formalization of the three-way partnership among Jeebesh Bagchi, Shuddhabrata Sengupta, and Monica Narula as Raqs Media Collective. Raqs's artistic approach, involving cinematic, philosophical, social, and digital pursuits, as well as their cerebral force, often pulls other practitioners into their orbit and is fueled by shared conversation. If we recall that one of the meanings of "Raqs" is the acronym "Rarely Asked Questions," their curatorial concept for the Eleventh Shanghai Biennale, "Why Not Ask Again: Arguments, Counter-Arguments, and Stories," can be understood as an epic rendering of their preoccupation with sidestepping assumptions, a timely concern given that the exhibition opened immediately after Donald Trump's election victory and Narendra Modi's "economic emergency."

Rather than posing riddles, as critics have sometimes accused them of doing, or allowing experimental proposals to unfold, as in their uneven "Sarai Reader 09: The Exhibition" at the Devi Art Foundation, Gurugram, India, in 2012-13, Raqs responded to this behemoth of a biennial by selecting artists with a penchant for gently, astutely, and persistently probing subjects over time. This idea of durational or repeated conceptual engagement is enhanced by key architectural and spatial interventions, including seven "infracuratorial" subexhibitions by young curators from around the world, and four "Terminals," each consisting of multiple works by a single artist. Of these, Marjolijn Dijkman's Lunar Station, 2015, has a science-museum quality to it, with its large-scale video of a rotating asteroid, a pendulum marking circles in the sand, and multicolored miniatures of planets. Just as the installation's formality is disrupted when it becomes the site of a multilingual discussion among physicists, artists, and philosophers, so the seepage of one world into another is echoed by one of its miniature motifs, in which a planet pours out its contents and connects with another nearby.

This curious little image is repeated in Srajana Kaikini's infracuratorial project "Vectors of Kinship," an assortment of notes, videos, and sculptures presenting questions on the nature of curating. …

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