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

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9 Conclusion

In 2012, veteran curator and frequent biennial director René Block delivered a keynote lecture at the World Biennial Forum in Gwangju, one of the first such globally networked forums dedicated to thinking about the past, present, and future of biennials (and which, needless to say, was also intended to take place biennially).1 During his presentation, Block argued that contemporary artists had escaped dependency on the ever-accelerating art market through the artistic freedoms offered by the biennial circuit. We have been arguing the contrary: that dependency on the ever-accelerating art market and the artistic freedoms offered by the biennial circuit were entwined and, at times, mutually productive while at other times bitterly divisive. The growing shift towards artistic play and education programs at biennials for children, such as the astonishingly popular Kids APT at the Asia-Pacific Triennial, was merely the tip of the iceberg in contemporary art's postcritical populism at one end of the spectrum, with political activism at the other. Biennials adopted populist and activist politics and reveled in the imperative that contemporary art be critical, cosmopolitan, experimental, networked, and memorable all at the same time. Yet this inconsistency risked uncertainty about biennials' intentions and resources, and the kinds of angry artist boycotts over corporate and state sponsorship that threatened the biennials at both São Paulo and Sydney in 2014. Biennials ...

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