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The Second Riwaq Biennale in Palestine

Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 30.08.2007:

There are currently more than 60 biennale and triennale around the world. These days it seems that everyone wants to hold a biennale, and cities around the world are competing to host a series of ever more elaborate exhibitions designed to lure the international art world. But as the locations become more varied, it sometimes seems as though the product and curatorial approaches increasingly represent the homogenisation of events – a flattening of cultural diversity crushed under the dictatorship of the international art market.It is not easy to stand out in an increasingly crowded calendar; the conditions of creative production under occupation make it even harder to provide participants with a mental map of Palestine’s contemporary cultural landscape. As a result, Riwaq has taken the decision to offer the public an alternative set of co-ordinates with which to plot a different journey – exploration in the context of a globalised world.In a radical shake up of the biennale concept, the Second Riwaq Biennale will not have a central exhibition but will consist instead of a series of curated conversations and actions in an unprecedented assembly of local and internationally renowned architects, artists, conservationists, planners, curators and theorists. This decision to omit a showcase exhibition offers a startling strategy to challenge our perceptions and expectations of what a biennale can be. Through this absence, the Second Riwaq Biennale locates itself within a space that questions the basis of knowledge formation and representation in the context of colonisation.By taking a more thoughtful approach to biennale culture, the Second Riwaq Biennale creates an opportunity to investigate the trappings of our visual, spatial and cultural codes as well as to look at ways of reconnecting isolated and walled Palestine with the international world. The participants’ journeys to Palestine become an important part of the overall concept of the biennale, confronting visitors with the issues of social and territorial fragmentation caused by successive Israeli occupations, including the restrictions placed on movement, travel, and international networking within the occupied territories.By focusing on process rather than end product, the Second Riwaq Biennale questions the role of culture and its practitioners in relation to their community and to the wider international artistic community. In this way it aims to create contacts and networking opportunities between Palestinian and international creative forces, leading to a series of related workshops, gatherings, projects, exhibitions, and a symposium that will be organised throughout Palestine in 2007 and 2008. Developed out of the reflexive dimension of inhabiting a situation rather than analysing it and commenting on it, this process will set in motion new culturally appropriate works that create platforms for future cultural engagements.The Second Riwaq Biennale in Palestine is organised by Riwaq-Palestine in partnership with Birzeit University-Palestine, UNESCO-Ramallah Office, and ArtSchool Palestine-London. The Biennale officially opens on October 21, 2007, in Ramallah.Khalil Rabah, Director, Riwaq BiennaleSource: This Week in Palestine September 2007

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