Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.
The Venice Biennale is upon us. Titled ‘Viva, Arte, Viva’, the 57th edition of the world’s greatest art jamboree has, according to curator Christine Macel, been designed ‘with artists, by artists, for artists’. ‘My idea was not to choose a theme that could be either reductive or autocratic, or even too large and too loose to be a real journey’, she told the Art Newspaper – which certainly leaves things open to interpretation.
But the title of this year’s Biennale is far from the first such event to leave art watchers scratching their heads. Below, the Rake rounds up eight of the stranger biennial and triennial titles and concepts of years past for you.
‘The Deep of the Modern’
Manifesta 9, Limburg, 2012
A title that sounds like it was dreamt up by Google Translate.
‘Le Grand Balcon’
Biennale de Montréal, 2016
‘The project bets on the liberatory potential of art and invites us to rethink both the (im)possibility of an emancipation through pleasure — and its urgency’, said curator Philippe Pirotte at the time.
‘Jurassic Technologies Revenant’
Biennale of Sydney, 1996
Nope, us neither.
‘Not New Now’
Marrakesh Biennale, 2016
Art biennials are often critiqued for their dependence on novelty and shock tactics. All credit to the organisers of the last edition of the Marrakesh Biennale, then, for inadvertently suggesting the event’s contents might be a tad unoriginal.
‘A Needle Walks Into a Haystack’
Liverpool Biennial, 2014
As Rakewell found out when he visited, this edition of the Liverpool Biennial delivered on its promise. Even the organisers admitted to getting lost when tramping around the city with the press delegation…
‘ART Fahrenheit 451: Sailing into the sea of oblivion’
Yokohama Triennale, 2014
A good mixture of metaphors here. Fire, water and, erm, a place where things are forgotten.
‘Gestures and Archives of the Present, Genealogies of the Future’
Taipei Biennale, 2016
This one’s sub-themes included ‘the labor of ruins’, ‘performing the archives’ and ‘the fiction of the retrospective’. Which presumably made sense to somebody at one point.
The ‘non-concept’ Documenta
Documenta 13, 2012
The last word in contemporary art theory or an old-fashioned lack of imagination?
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‘She changed how we encounter sculpture’ – remembering Phyllida Barlow (1944–2023)