The aim of this course is an anthropological approach to the famous platform of the global art world. The course follows an interdisciplinary concept, thus highlighting the interface between anthropology and art.
As a classical space of westerners and whiteness, La Biennale di Venezia with its national pavilions is reflecting an old world order, in which the dominance of the central domains of power – such as Europe and the USA are clearly represented. In a kind of “show of the nation states” the art exhibited in the pavilions is representing the participating country.
At the same time, the Biennale also functions as a mirror of the current political and social conditions in the participating countries. The reverberations of the Corona pandemic and the war in Ukraine are visible in many ways on the grounds of the Biennale.
We will depart from general questions about the interrelatedness of biennials in general and the Biennale di Venezia in particular with their cities. In a second step we will focus on the entanglements between the local and the global in the realm of art. By looking at contemporary art from a postcolonial perspective, can we speak of a globalization of the term art? What about local art productions in Africa, Asia and Latin America regarding the global platforms of art? What do we know about the implicit power relations in the biennials structure: who decides, who is invited and who are the spectators? What kind of contact zones are created through the biennial event and how can we approach artworks and exhibition spaces with our senses?
“The Milk of Dreams” is the title of the Biennale Arte at Venice this year, which will be curated by Cecilia Alemani, the first Italian woman to hold this position. With a focus on three themes in particular: the representation of bodies and their metamorphoses, the relationship between individuals and technologies and the connection between bodies and the environment, the 59th Biennale connects to recent topics in the Social Sciences and with this approach offers a promising field of study.
After reading the introductory texts we will step directly into the field of La Biennale and explore the realities of the event. Groups of students will choose their own research project related to La Biennale, do fieldwork and reflect on their findings. Possible fields of research might be: a special pavilion and its concept and perception, the impact of La Biennale on the city and its inhabitants, sensorial anthropology at the exhibition spaces, current social and political crises and their impact on the Biennale - but also many more. The outcome will be discussed in an open seminar at the Biennale. The course will be held in cooperation with La Biennale Sessions.
- students learn to analyze and contextualize texts
- students get an introduction into contemporary art from an anthropological perspective
- students will learn about how to approach a global art platform like the Biennale and make themselves familiar with it
- they will learn about the entanglement of the City and the Biennale
- students are trained in research methods and will do research themselves
- The course is a seminar. Each session is organized around readings that must be completed before class. Students have to be prepared to discuss the texts and physically bring them to class (either on paper or on screen) so that we can re-read certain passages. Short statements have to be written on the texts
- prepare one presentation (alone or in group) accompanied by power point, based on the readings
- do fieldwork (alone or in group) and present and discuss their research
- write one final essay. The essay must include bibliographical references and notes. The topic can be chosen in agreement with the professor and may range from one of the topics of the seminar to reflections on own research experiences.
No Preliminary Knowledge required.
30% attendance and participation
30% oral presentation in class
40% written final essay
- Biennials and their cities. Positioning between politics and policies: Venezia, Istanbul, Havana/Cuba, Dakar/Sénégal, Port au Prince/Haiti
- Local art- global art. Art in globalizing art worlds
- Anthropology of the senses: La Biennale as contact zone and sensorial space
- Special topics at the Biennale di Venezia: posthuman, hybrid bodies, companion species and cyborgs
- Fieldwork at La Biennale di Venezia
- Reflecting fieldwork and concepts
- Preparation and conceptualization of La Biennale Session: The Ethnographic Café at La Biennale di Venezia” as lively discussion space
Belting, Hans. 209. Contemporary Art as Global Art. A Critical Estimate IN: Hans Belting & Andrea Buddensieg (Eds.) The Global Art World. Audiences, Markets, Museums; S. 38-48. Ostfildern
Bydler, Charlotte. 2004. Introduction. IN: The Global Art World. On the Globalization of Contemporary Art. Stockholm, Uppsala
Bydler, Charlotte. 2004. The Rise of the International Biennial Format? La Biennale di Venezia/La Habana/Istanbul S. 96-123 IN: The Global Art World. On the Globalization of Contemporary Art. Stockholm, Uppsala
Danto, Arthur C. 1992. Art and artefact in, Chapter 6 in: Beyond the Brillo Box: The visual Arts in Post-historical Perspective. NY: Farrar Straus Giroux.
Filipovic, Elena & Van Hal, Mareike. 2010. The biennial reader. An Anthropology on largescale perennial Exhibitions of Contemporary Art. Bergen: Kunsthalle Bergen.
Fillitz, Thomas. 2009. Contemporary Art of Africa. Coevalness in the Global Art World. S. 116-122; IN: : Hans Belting & Andrea Buddensieg (Eds.) The Global Art World. Audiences, Markets, Museums; S. 38-48. Ostfildern
Haraway Donna. 2003. The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People and Significant Otherness. Univ. of Chicago Press
Haraway, Donna. 1991 (1985) A Cyborg Manifesto. Science, Technology and Socialist-Feminism in the late Twentieth Century IN: Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. NY, Routledge pp. 149-181)
McQuire, Scott & Papastergiadis, Nikos. 2005. Empires, Ruins & Networks. The Transcultural Agenda in Art. London, Chicago
Miller, John. 2003. The show you love to hate. A Psychology of the Mega-Exhibitions. IN: Bruce Ferguson & Reesa Greenberg (Eds.) Thinking about Exhibitions
Pink, Sarah. 2009. Doing sensory ethnography. London: Sage Publications.
Ranisch Robert & Stefan Lorenz Sorgner. 2014. Post- and Transhumanism: An Introduction. Frankfurt a.M. Peter Lang Edition
Schneider, Arnd & Wright, Christopher.2010. Between Art and Anthropology. Contemporary Ethnographic Practice. Oxford, NY: Berg.