Zürich Biennale / Kunsthalle Zürich

The Zürich Biennial is currently taking place in the Kunsthalle in Zürich, Switzerland. Curated by Mitchell Anderson, artist and founder of Plymouth Rock, and Daniel Baumann, director of Kunsthalle Zurich, this biennial is quite unusual. Unlike other biennials such as the one in Venice it’s not spread across multiple venues in the city; and it doesn’t have a theme, or in other words: it has only one theme, art. This video provides you with a look at the exhibition, and Mitchell Anderson talks about the concept of the show and presents some highlights of the show.

The participating artists are Osama Alrayyan, Tolia Astakhishvili, James Bantone, Juan Barcia Mas & Shen He (Sexkino), Mark Barker, Sarah Benslimane, Vittorio Brodmann, Matt Browning, Centre D’Editions Melbourne, Tornike Chapodze, Anjesa Dellova, Nathalie du Pasquier, Cédric Eisenring, FitArt App, Madge Gill, Renee Gladman, Rafik Greiss, Raphael Hefti, Hardy Hill, Lonnie Holley, David Hominal, Brook Hsu, Shamiran Istifan, Lisa Jo, Jean Katambayi Mukendi, Miriam Laura Leonardi, Shuang Li, Lorenza Longhi, Danny McDonald, Jasper Marsalis, Alexandra Metcalf, Daniel Moldoveanu, Sveta Mordovskaya, Maurice Morel, Marianne Mueller, Jonathan Okoronkwo, Juan Antonio Olivares, Margit Palme, Cora Pongracz, Sophie Reinhold, Frode Felipe Schjelderup, Leopold Strobl, Kelly Tissot, Cassidy Toner, Ilaria Vinci, Dena Yago, and Bruno Zhu.

Zürich Biennale at Kunsthalle Zürich. Zürich (Switzerland), October 6, 2023.

> Right-click (Mac: ctrl-click) this link to download Quicktime video file.

Exhibition text (excerpt):

The act of organising exhibitions, at its heart, is one of discovery and sharing. We share with an unknown audience; we share artists and individual artworks that we believe are thought provoking, and may be beautiful. We share with the belief that those works might have the same effect on others. 

From the start, this was an exhibition whose theme and reason to be was art. We live in a moment in which it seems as if the only option for group exhibitions is the thematic exhibition. This is false, and minimises the visual and conceptual impact of what is exhibited. Art is enough in its ambiguous anythingness. Art is not just a symptom. 

What happens when you look at art? When you select works you are drawn to? When you try to understand an artist’s art making? You expect to end up with an arbitrary selection, but this is an illusion. You end up with a collection of voices that talk to you about the world in which we live. You discover a potential exhibition and choose a generic title like ‘Zurich Biennale’ to keep the voices independent, so that they can stand on their own two feet. 

Many options for the presentation of art are represented: some works are new productions created for the exhibition; others are existing works recontextualised here; there are historical works expressing a current vitality; and new works direct from the artists’ studios. This is a diverse and international collection of works framed by the place, the institution and the city in which it is exhibited. It is a biennial, across only 500m2 and a single room, reaching, as biennials do, around the world; it is a small, disparate fraction of the thrilling work across many media existing around us.

Yet, there is (at least) one common thing. We call it ‘windschief,’ or, to use a literal translation, warped by the wind. Many of the works in this exhibition use the language of exaggeration, the grotesque and caricature. They use a language of abrasion, both optimistic in its humour and pessimistic about the state of things. This shouldn’t come as a surprise in a time obsessed with exposure, perfection, control and fear. The grotesque offers a way out, the exaggeration allows one to say ‘un-things’ while signaling self-awareness; caricature is a place of oblique truth and humour. Through a variety of media, the artists here mirror our world, telling the truth, but telling it slant, like Emily Dickinson urged. Architecture in particular is stripped of its practical roots throughout the show, in a variety of ways becoming aesthetic and sculptural, shaping one’s movement as it is made redundant and non-functional. All these tropes seem appropriate in a time like ours.

Posted in: art, interview, Zürich