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Biennials, Triennials, and Documenta by Charles Green, Anthony Gardner

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2 1979: Cultural Translation, Cultural Exclusion, and the Second Wave

Exhibitions in this chapter: The Third Biennale of Sydney: European Dialogue (1979, Sydney, Australia); XV Bienal de São Paulo (1979, São Paulo, Brazil)

Introduction: Biennials as Models for Cultural Encounters

In the burgeoning discipline of curatorial studies, biennials play a central if complicated role, as the increasing importance of exhibition histories constructed from fragile and ephemeral archives shows.1 But more specifically, biennials have come to exemplify the significance of cultural translation for contemporary art, a situation relevant to the biennials in this chapter. Biennials bring artists and works from one culture or region to another, ideally to establish dialogues, tensions, and resonances between different cultural products, and all through an exhibition medium transposed from its nationalist foundations at the Venice Biennale in 1895 into a leviathan of international proportions and inflated profiles today. Yet, this globalized over-reach can reveal the less salubrious aspect to these exhibitions: their reduction to an easily identifiable trope, an already ossified readymade enabling a struggling locality (often, though not always, a second- or third-tier post-industrial city like Liverpool or Gwangju) to aspire to the attention of international art audiences, markets, and magazines. In each city's yearning for new-found global relevance, notions of cultural translation have thus ...

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