Art plays an increasingly important role in entrepreneurial planning strategies. This presentation reflects on the consequences of such instrumentalisation for the social role of art. Will contemporary art become one more complicit social practice guided by the ulterior motives of economy and state, or can curatorial resistance somehow help to support a more critical role? This paper reflects on this question through an analysis of the curatorial strategies and outcomes of the 2018 Bangkok Biennial (BB). Thailand has since long been dominated by a political, economic and cultural hegemony that combines specific views of nation, religion and monarchy with related notions of ‘Thainess’. Under the current military leadership, art is consciously employed to legitimise this dominant discourse. One example of this ‘complicity’ is the upcoming Bangkok Art Biennale (BAB), a top-down curated event, which in a setting of enormous social polarisation highlights the theme ‘bliss’. Biennale venues include retail spaces and Buddhist temples.
We explore how in this restrictive setting, the BB has consciously refrained from central curatorship. Its decentralised approach has stimulated collective authorship and helped opening up dialogues by creating platforms for alternative Thai and other identities. On the basis of our experiences as pavilion organisers, and some twenty interviews with artists, pavilion curators, BB organisers, and other experts, as well as interviews with the eleven artists that were part of our research-based BB pavilion, we will address the following questions: how was the BB organised and why; which artistic practices did these choices stimulate; did this transform art from complicit to critical practice and could this be improved; is this approach sustainable; and is it transferable to other contexts?
About the Speaker
Lara van Meeteren is an independent art historian, currently involved in art research, curation and production. Bart Wissink is associate professor urban studies and urban policy at City University in Hong Kong. His interests include the role of art in entrepreneurial governance strategies. Together, Lara and Bart have a research-based practice, focusing on issues relating to the social role of art in the early 21st century. For the 2018 Bangkok Biennial, they initiated the Coming soon • เร็ว ๆ นี้ research project and pavilion (www.facebook.com/comingsoonbkk; www.comingsoonbkk.com; www.bangkokbiennial.com).
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