The Biennial as Commissioning Agent

Panel Discussion

Paul Domela, Yuko Hasegawa, Riyas Komu, Marieke van Hal


Dar Al Nadwa

Photo by Alfredo Rubio

Paul Domela (Liverpool Biennial, UK)
Yuko Hasegawa (Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, Japan)
Abdellah Karroum (independent art researcher, publisher and curator, Morocco)
Riyas Komu (Kochi Biennale Foundation, India)
Marieke van Hal (Biennial Foundation, Greece)

The commissioning of new work has historically been a characteristic of biennial exhibitions. This is in part a strategy to create distinctiveness among the ever-proliferating number of international biennials, but also suggests an interest in creating work reflective of the specific location and communities in which the biennials take place.  When contemplating the biennial as a commissioning agent, there are a number of questions to be asked, including: does the emphasis on commissions reflect an interest in working with artists and local communities, or is it simply the result of curatorial ambitions? Have biennial exhibitions in some way changed the nature or tenor of contemporary art being made or produced? Conversely are biennials the direct product and development of contemporary art? What is the role of site specificity – and is it inherent to the biennial as an exhibition format?

Paul Domela is Programme Director of Liverpool Biennial after being Deputy Chief Executive from 2001-2007. In 2010 he initiated City States, an exhibition platform for the cities around the world. He is interested in the intersection between art and urban development and organised a variety of public research programmes: Touched Talks, Urbanism09, Urban Ecologies, City Breaks - Art and Culture in Times of Expediency. He is Co-Founder of the European Biennial Network and member of the boards of Liverpool School of Art and Design, International Foundation Manifesta, The Biennial Foundation, International Curators Forum and the Journal for Art in the Public Sphere. Previously he organised the public programme of the Jan van Eyck Academy, The Netherlands (1992-1999). He holds an MBA from Georgetown University, Washington DC and an MA in Art History of Goldsmiths’ College, London

Yuko Hasegawa is Chief Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (MOT) and Professor of curatorial and art theory at Tama Art University in Tokyo. She was a Chief Curator and Founding Artistic Director (1999−2006) of the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa. Since 2001, Hasegawa has served on the International Arts Advisory Council for the Wexner Center for the Arts and since 2008 has been a member of the Asian Art Council at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Most recently, she has served as a board member of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (2009-2010) as well as the Artistic Director of Inujima House Project at Benesse Corporation (from 2010). She has curated numerous major international exhibitions and served as Artistic Director of the 7th Istanbul Biennale (2001), the Co-Curator of the 4th Shanghai Biennale (2002), the Commissioner of the Japanese Pavilion at the 50th Venice Biennale (2003), the Co-Curator of the 4th Seoul International Media Art Biennale (2006), the Artistic Advisor of the 12th Venice Architectural Biennale (2010) and the Co-Curator of the 29th Sao Paulo Biennale (2010). She has been appointed as Curator of the 2013 Sharjah Biennial. She has written extensively throughout her career, including her recent essay, Performativity in the Work of Female Japanese Artists In the 1950s-1960s and the 1990s’ in Modern Women: Women Artists at the Museum of Modern Art (2010).

Abdellah Karroum works as an independent art researcher, publisher and curator. He is the Founder and Artistic Director of several art projects: L’appartement 22, an experimental art space in Rabat, Morocco, the Le Bout Du Monde art expeditions, taken to different locations since 2000 together with artists, the éditions hors’champs art publications that have been published since 1999 and Radioapartment22, an experimental online radio. He was Assistant Curator at the capcMusée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux (1993-1996) where he curated numerous exhibitions: Pensées bleues (1993), Jean-Paul Thibeau (1995) and Urgences (1996). Karroum was Associate Curator for the 2006 DAK’ART Biennial for African Contemporary Art, Co-Curator for the Position Papers programme in the Gwangju Bienniale (2008) and the Curator of the 3rd AiM International Biennale’s exhibition (2009) in Marrakech. He initiated the laboratory Art, Technology and Ecology at ESAV-Marrakech, a film school, which has been running monthly since March 2010. In 2010 he curated the exhibition Sentences on the Banks and other activities for Darat Al-Funun in Amman. In 2007, Karroum served as a Member of the Golden Lion Jury in the Biennale of Venice. He is also Member of the Prince Pierre Monaco Foundation’s Artistic Council International Prize of Contemporary Art and Associate Curator for La Triennale, Paris in 2012.

L’appartement 22 is an experimental space for encounters, exhibitions and artists’ residencies founded in 2002 based in Rabat, Morocco and producing projects in Rabat, throughout the country and abroad, collaborating with local, regional and international artists. L’appartement 22 hosts a variety of artistic programmes: artist residencies, workshops, lectures, symposiums, film and video screenings and exhibitions. L’appartement 22 also founded Morocco’s first internet cultural radio station.

Riyas Komu is a visual artist, Secretary of the Kochi Biennale Foundation and Director of Programmes of the inaugural Kochi-Muziris Biennale. As an artist, his works have been exhibited extensively in India and abroad, often thematically exploring the political and cultural history of Kerala. In 2007, he was one of two artists from India to be selected by curator Robert Storr for the Venice Biennale. He has exhibited in a variety of institutions including: the GEM Museum for Contemporary Art, The Hague, The Netherlands, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, Norway and the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art, China. His works are currently on view at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, in the Paris-Delhi-Bombay exhibition.

The Kochi-Muziris Biennale is the world’s newest biennale and India’s first, initiated in 2010 and founded by Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu. The first edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale will open in 2012. The mission of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale is to serve as a catalyst for artistic expression in India, elevating contemporary art to a position of undisputed social and economic value and establishing a point of access for artistic engagement locally and globally.

Marieke van Hal is an art historian and the Founding Director and President of the Biennial Foundation. She worked as a Curator at Montevideo/TBA, the Netherlands Media Art Institute (1997-2001), after which she became General Coordinator of the International Foundation Manifesta - European Biennial of Contemporary Art and Managing Editor for MJ-Manifesta Journal, Journal of Curatorial Practices (2001-2006). In 2007 she was Director of the 1st Athens Biennial, for which she initiated the European Biennial Network, financed by the European Commission. In 2009 she founded the Biennial Foundation, an independent platform for the exchange of knowledge and experience for biennial organisations worldwide. She is a MPhil research graduate at the CCA, Curating Contemporary Art Department, Royal College of Art, London (2011).

The Biennial Foundation is a non-profit organisation based in Athens, Greece, legally registered in the Netherlands and global in its outreach and practice. The Biennial Foundation facilitates links between organisations and practitioners operating within the global biennial community by providing resources and an open platform for exchange, collaboration and research.

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