How Serious Artists Prepare for the Venice Biennale

Let be honest here.

The idea of attending the opening week of the Venice Biennale can be pretty intimidating.

There’s the art of course.

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And as if that weren’t enough, along with the art come throngs and throngs of people. Good-looking, well-dressed people. Most of them are Europeans for god’s sake, with their good health care, bicycling-to-work, and months-off-hiking-in-the-mountains lifestyles.blog14

It was enough to make us want to stay home under our blankets eating Pringles.

But THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN WRONG, I TELL YOU WRONG! We were not about to rest on our considerable laurels when there was so much art to be seen and so many fabulous receptions to be attended!

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We refused to let the scale (or time, or American health care) keep us from our rightful places frolicking with the well-healed and glamorous masses. No, we took control of the reigns of fabulousness, and dedicated ourselves in the weeks and months prior to our Venice pilgrimage to our task with our customary resolve.

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We got rid of the bad skin!

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And those rotten wrinkles!

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We committed ourselves to various scientifically proven replenishing regimes!

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We adorned ourselves with the most glorious embellishments!

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We polished our pearly whites until they sparkled!

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We got the most perfect highlights in our hair!

 

We ironed our seductive yellow attire and painted our digits to match!

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And in one truly impressive case one of us actually did something of substance,

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Losing SIXTY POUNDS in time for the trip!

WILL PAINT FOR FOOD! (Squeegee Punks Spotlight Neighborhood Gentrification)

Squeegee people were the one of the many signs of the chaos, disorder and decay of our society in the 1970s - caused by a poor economy and a system of government that was failing it's people — and now they’re making a comeback.

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Only this time, the squeegee people are present because of a severe inequality of wealth manifesting itself with inflated real estate prices and the cost of housing and insurance. This time the Squeegee Punks are the artist group known as The Biennial Project, and they spraying your windshields for ‘donations’ in the hope of holding on a little longer in the city of Boston.

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Imagine if you will that you have paid $1,500 to get a ticket to the opening gala of the Institute of Contemporary Art's new annex in East Boston. It's in a neighborhood you probably have never been to and only associate with the airport. You put on your best pastel summer outfit and hop into your uber, which delivers you to a foreign location right in your own city. You are pleased with yourself for supporting the arts and looking forward to a really great sunset party on Boston Harbor. You come out of the tunnel and see a lively and pleasant, albeit dilapidated, neighborhood right on the water with beautiful parks and turn of the century architecture. You start to picture the real estate bargain and the quick appreciation it will turn once they clean the neighborhood up and open that Starbucks and Whole Foods.

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Then Boom! Your uber is blocked and you are accosted by a merry band of artists dressed in yellow, lead by the renowned East Boston artist group The Biennial Project. They are attacking your windows from all sides with spray wash and soapy water. These yellow bandits are actually washing your windows like you saw in the inner city in the 1970s. They are yelling things like ‘Make Art, not Condos!', ‘Buy art, not hors d'oeuvres!’ They have written slogans such as '$ for Artist Anti Displacement Fund’ and ‘Will paint for food’ on their wash rags.

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Oh my, what kind of a neighborhood is this? What do they want? Do they mean to harm you? Do they want your money (well maybe). No, what the Biennial Project wants is to be able to let artists stay in the city they call home. The Biennial Project wants to bring to light that we are losing the soul of Boston to real estate developers and the wealthy. The Biennial Project means to demonstrate this by borrowing one of symbols of urban decay of the past century - The Squeegee Bandits. And yes, maybe The Biennial Project wants you, the wealthy, well-meaning art patron, to feel a little bit uncomfortable in your bourgie ways.

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The Biennial Project, whose roots are in East Boston, have been witnessing fellow artists being chased out of our gentrifying neighborhood at a rapid pace. The artists, who have been here for at least a few decades, are one of the many reasons developers have been selling East Boston as the new hot spot to live. How ironic that we contributed to making the neighborhood desirable and now many of us can’t afford to stay here.

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   Where will we be in 15 years?

 

SEE THE SQUEEGEE PUNKS IN ACTION HERE!

 

The Squeegee Punks as performed at the ICA Watershed Gala by The Biennial Project Summer Players - Anna Salmeron, Audrina Warren, Charlene Liska, Emily Jansen, Eric Hess, Michael St. Germain, Paul Weiner, Roman Edirisinghe, and Vicki Schepps. Video by Charlene Liska. Photos by Paul Weiner, Michael St. Germain, and Charlene Liska.

 

 

What it means to howl in Cuba

The formal mission of The Biennial Project is to “develop a body of work that will be displayed in as many biennial exhibits as possible (especially the really cool ones)”.

Our informal mission is to raise just as much hell as humanly possible.

Rarely have these two goals dovetailed as effortlessly as during our recent participation in the 00Bienal de La Habana. The 00Bienal de La Habana took place this May, and was organized by an ad hoc coalition of Cuban artists in response to the state-organized Habana Bienal being postponed from this year to 2019 in response to very difficult economic conditions on the island.

The organizing artists took great pains to make it clear that they were not anti anything. Rather they were in favor of the necessary role that art and artists must play, ever more so in challenging times.

The 00Biennial de La Habana received no institutional funding, relying instead on the organizing artists’ Herculean efforts in pulling off a multi-venue 10 day schedule of events that showcased the art of fascinating Cuban artists as well as that of many invited international artists (including us!). It tires us out just thinking about how much work this must have entailed.

One might think that the Cuban authorities would have been just proud as punch to have these fantastic young artists taking so much responsibility and putting such a positive face forward to the world.

Unfortunately that would be the case only in the Cuba we wish existed, not in the one these artists live and work in today.

So, to sum up, we risked investigation by the U.S. State Department to travel to another country to participate in an art event that was denounced and harassed by that country’s government. We guess artists are seen as a threat just about everywhere.

And what a great fucking trip it was! Incredible! How we got so lucky to be part of it we are still not sure. Our best guess is that somewhere in our youth or childhood, we must have done something good. In any event, it was amazing. No way can we do justice to it in one post (more to come – we promise!), but here follows the CliffsNotes version.

SO many artists put themselves out there to make this happen – with the two lead organizers being just goddamned paragons of artistic and human wonderfulness – (yes of course we did Artist Trading Cards on the participating artists – again, more on that later) - Yanelys and Luis – you are really tooooo extraordinary!

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The exhibitions and presentations – in artists’ homes, studios, the beach – were electric and suffused with the heady energy of direct artist to artist exchange and support. Artists just doing it, instead of waiting for the powers that be to it for them. (Not a bad idea wherever you live, we thinks.) So much fun. So much food for thought. So many new connections with artists that we are thrilled to now know about and be able to follow. A thrilling model for what a biennial exhibit can look like.

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And because it was us, hanging out in a gorgeous country with intrepid (and photogenic!) co-conspirators (including our new BFF Nonardo Perea – more on him later of course), there were a few pictures.

SEE A FEW MORE PICS FROM CUBA

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We promise to write more, but in the meantime here are some links to other articles about this remarkable event:

Hyperallergic - The Importance of Havana’s First Alternative Biennial for the Cuban Art Scene

Artforum - Cuba Detains Artists, Threatens Participants of First Alternative Havana Biennial

Artnet - Cuba Abruptly Turns Away Artists as ‘Dozens of Agents’ Prowl Havana’s Alternative Biennial

 

XXOO,

 

The Biennial Project

Venice Biennial 2017 What We Saw, What We Liked in Summary

Breaking news – being an artist is hard.

We’re generally broke, and when we do come by a little money, we usually spend it on stuff to make more art, which perplexes the normal people around us.

And making art means being immersed in the reality of the human experience, which – spoiler alert – sort of sucks these days.

That’s why this particular group of artists gets together every two years to travel to an imaginary land – one in which all the nations of the earth meet in a place of hallucinatory beauty and grandeur to make and experience art, art, and more art.

We mean Venice of course. We went in May, and it was a salve for the soul, as usual. We couldn’t see everything that we wanted to see, as usual. We allowed ourselves to harbor a tiny dream of going back to see more in the fall after the crowds were gone, as usual. There is no way we are going to be able to make that plan work, as usual. [SOUND EFFECT: deep resigned sigh.]

So we’re going to have to make do with our memories. Here are some new WHAT WE LIKED posts, and links to some of the older ones.

Enjoy the read, keep working, and send us plans for art trips we can do together to warm our collective souls.

 

INTUITION at Palazzo Fortuny

by Coral Woodbury, for The Biennial Project

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When you reach the end of what you should know, you will be at the beginning of what you should sense.” Kahlil Gibran

 

“When the body functions spontaneously, that is called instinct. When the soul functions spontaneously, that is called intuition.” Shree Rajneesh

Peter Greenaway's installation at Palazzo Fortuny during the 1993 Venice Biennale left such an impression on me that the one thing I knew heading to Venice was that I would return to the Palazzo. Even in Venice this is a unique space, embodying faded and decaying grandeur while preserving the home and collections of Mariano Fortuny, an early twentieth-century stage, fashion, and lighting designer. So the house is a stage set of sorts, and one an artist like Greenaway knew how to animate eerily.

As it turned out, I was in time for the sixth and last collaboration of Axel Vervoordt, Belgian antiquarian, art dealer, interior designer and curator, and Daniela Ferretti, Director of Palazzo Fortuny. Intuition was absolutely worth the 25 year wait. READ MORE

 

The Irish Pavilion

by Anne Murray, for The Biennial Project

“My broken bones shall be a weapon, chaos is the bread I eat!”

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photo of Jesse Jones’ installation by Anne Murray

With an impressive sense of dignity, profound understanding of the human condition, and in full knowledge of the challenge that women face in a rapidly morphing set of boundaries created through elusive and divisive judiciary systems in Ireland and abroad, Jesse Jones has created a meta world which challenges the legal system, where what we think and see implores us to react and evolve or suffer the vile subsistence living that will ensue in the storm of chaos unleashed in the form of women forced to take justice into their own hands.

Tremble, Tremble, curated by Tessa Giblin, is more than a pavilion, it is a space between, a space possessed by magic and where fears take shape in an unearthly form, as a human buried under the bog, preserved in flesh, but morphed, shape shifted into something beyond comprehension.

Here, women have an enormous tempest of power controlled only by the force of the black hole of the body of Olwen Fouéré, as a photon encircling and drawn into it only when encountered by the the Higgs boson particle, a weight that gives our thoughts as light mass, and thus, slows us down; we are trapped in this hole with her, as if time would stop or else become eternal, both one in the same. READ MORE

 

 

The Mongolian Pavilion

by Victor Salvo for The Biennial Project

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photo by Victor Salvo

 

Lost in Tngri

Fire. The Sun is Heaven sent. The Sunfire makes the pastures grow the pasture grass. The sun droughts up the land or runs away for too long. Cattle sheep ram lamb burn to black. Fire lovemaking sperm seek along the skulls.

Fire droughts up the land. Circling us. Cooking us. Sits down on a lone fire red fish still alive, Sun, still swimming above the scorched economic lines.

Fire. Fire your weapon straight and true. The scope tells you where to aim. Fire molds the bronze. Fire curves the barrel. Water remembers and walks the rifle after rifle, a flock of the ungainly.

Water flows in a ribbon, flows the trees, rivers come from Tngri, the gods, down from the sky, up to the sky.

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photo by Paul K. Weiner

 

 

NOTES FROM VENICE

by Charlene Liska, originally published in the North End Waterfront

The Biennial Project at Spazio TanaIl Mondo Magico (photos courtesy The Biennial Project)

In this era of biennials, The Venice Biennale, the vast international art festival begun in 1895, is the grandmother of them all. While Venice is revered for it’s great Renaissance and earlier art, the Biennale has always managed to feature avant-garde and contemporary art, and somehow the contrast enlivens both worlds.

I attended the first week of the Venice Biennale with an East Boston-based arts organization, “The Biennial Project” which began about 10 years ago as a send-up of the many pretensions of the art world and has since grown into a world-wide network of people who care a lot about art and not at all about the pretensions. The BP stages its own counter-biennials, including one in Marfa, Texas and four Boston Biennials that have been held here locally, last in 2016. These people are the most serious fun around!

This year, in addition to attending the official Biennale, the Boston-based organization held its own parallel Venice event that featured several hundred artists from across the globe. Participating artists included German-born painter-sculptor Artemis Herber, Florida-based photographer Barbara Revelle, videographer Tom Corby from London, and Zsolt Asztalos, who represented Hungary in the official 2013 Biennale but who chose this year to appear in the Boston organization’s parallel event instead. Poetry, in English and Italian, was recited, locals and visitors confabbed, words and prosecco flowed liberally. One couldn’t really say it was a bit of Boston in Venice; it was more like a bit of the world, that had come together under prompting from Boston on a dark night in a Venice neighborhood to talk, and drink, and talk some more about art, because they admired the weird and interesting spirit of the Biennale and the art works that were on display.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: CLICK HERE to see the galleries of beautiful work exhibited in ArtVenice Biennial IV.]

And there were some stunning pieces in the Venice Biennale, not least, the small old wooden country house with holes in its roof that was imported in its entirety from the Republic of Georgia, down through which the artist, Chachkhiani, caused artificial rain to pour unceasingly, covering everything inside with dripping water; it captured everyone’s worst fear about waking up in the middle of the night to hear water dripping, and finding that somehow a hole has opened up in the roof — in this case many holes! — and the rain is starting to come in. And in the Italian pavilion, Il Mondo Magico, an exhibit which showed an assembly line in which simulated dried and mummified life-sized corpses of Christ were manufactured from plastic materials and then were heated in ovens and allowed to molder, and then, once finished, were broken into large pieces and displayed, in more or less random order, on a dark wall. It was about imitation versus reality, yes, and the almost unbelievable power of technology, but also about magic, and how and why people hope, and the power of belief. Of course, there were more conventional pieces too, in their hundreds; but this gives you an idea.

About timing, for anyone who might be thinking of attending — and it’s well worth going to see! — it makes a Venice trip even more dramatic than it would otherwise be. Either go early, as I did this year, in May, for the excitement of the crowds and the fun of getting there first, or otherwise consider waiting till late in the year — say, October month — which can be exquisite too, since the fact that there are no crowds then means you can actually see and enjoy and understand things in your own good time.

And full marks to “The Biennial Project”: they’re projecting Boston onto the global arts scene in a singular way, and they do it basically because, being artists themselves, they can’t help it. These people are living to make, and view, and talk about art. Interesting way to live.

 

The Taiwanese Pavilion

by Barbara Jo Revelle, for The Biennial Project

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Ok, I’ll admit this up front. I’m wildly attracted to durational performance art. I do it myself sometimes. Not so long ago, as part of an art installation scrutinizing my father’s big game hunting practice, I walked continuously - eight hours a day, seven days a week, for two weeks - on a treadmill set up in a gallery. I stopped only to take pees. While I moved I edited 100+ hours of my father’s old hunting films and videos - mostly shots of him watching game from blinds, hanging cut up animal parts baits in trees, or posing with dead animals and the African natives who helped him track and kill them. This footage was projected onto the gallery walls in front of me as I walked and worked. READ MORE

 

READ MORE OF WHAT WE LIKED IN VENICE

 

 

 

XXOO,

 

The Biennial Project

 

 

 

 

 

The Save Ireland from the Curators Project (TM)

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THE BIENNIAL PROJECT AWAKES TO FIND THAT WE HAVE ATTRACTED THE ATTENTION OF A MAJOR CURATOR:

Dear Mr Hess, Ms Rollins and Ms Salmeron,
I'm writing to you in connection to photographs on your Facebook page - namely Nos 18 and 19 from "Shit we liked at The Venice Biennale 54".
Corban and I would be grateful if you could remove these, as permission to stage/use these photographs was not obtained from us and the images present the artist, his work and the Pavilion in a less than favourable light. Also we find the captions rather derogatory, in particular: 

  • It is deeply offensive to refer to Corban as "a little person from Ireland"
  • Despite your claims he is not married
  • You comment about "Irish Slaves" is rather crass

Whilst we fully respect your artistic intention, we don't feel these photographs project a positive image about your work or that of a fellow practitioner.
I look forward to you response.
Kidnest,
Eamonn Maxwell
Curator
Irish Pavilion @ Venice Biennale

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WE REPLY:

Dearest Mr. Maxwell:

First and foremost, let us say how deeply honored we are to have received this notice from you. Finally, The Art World is paying attention to us.

Secondly, we would point out that putting one's work in the rather public forum of the Venice Biennale unfortunately does open one up to the possibility of being responded to by others in a less than a "positive image".

Thirdly, upon reflection, the "little person" reference was perhaps not our very finest moment. The artists of The Biennial Project are passionately committed to complete and total human and political rights for all of society's oppressed minorities, and this of course includes the height-challenged. Our comment was made in the context of praising Mr Corbin's work, and we thought that it was clear that we were poking fun at a stereotype rather than reinforcing it.

Which brings us to Fourthly - taking offense to the "Irish Slaves" reference. Really? Have you no sense of humor whatsoever?

We're from BOSTON for Christ's sake - we get the history of the Irish.
We arethe history of the Irish, a part of that history anyway."Irish Slaves"  built this town, swim deep in our personal gene pools, and have given Boston so very much of what we hold near and dear about our little seaside village. 

We're the ones after all who were insulted when Jack Nicholson did his usual crazy shtick while wearing a "kiss me I'm Irish" t-shirt in The Departed.

And way back when there were politics in the world, we're the ones who went to fundraisers in Dorchester for Noraid. (When the U.S. government bombed Afghanistan on the pretext of wanting to root out support for al-Qaeda, Noam Chomsky said it that was like the English government bombing Boston to defeat the IRA.) Hey there FBI agents reading this - finally something you can nail us with!

Not to mention that The Biennial Project usually plays well in Ireland - our website gets more hits from Irish users of the internet than any other country per capita. We have always attributed that to the Irish having a more developed ability to comprehend irony than most. 

Apparently there are exceptions to every rule. And because we know that manners apply even to those one believes to be misguided, we will take down the offending pics of Corbin.

More's the pity, we really do like his work.
XXOO,

The Biennial Project

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A CURATOR FRIEND OF OURS ALSO REPLIES:

Dear Sirs,
I am writing as a fan and supporter of the conceptual artist group known as “The Biennial Project.” As attendees at the opening reception for the Venice Biennial (with legitimate press credentials I might add) they took photos and published an edgy and satirical entry on the Biennial Project blog aptly titled “Shit we like…”

As luck would have it, The Biennial Project  had stumbled upon the Irish Pavilion. They really enjoyed the work presented there and loved chatting with the exceptionally friendly staff. When it came time for them to write a witty and sarcastic blog entry, they couldn’t help but to express sympathy and solidarity for these lovely ladies (and all behind-the-scenes art worker bees) by referring to them as Irish slaves. Perhaps it would have been more accurate to say (as they usually do in their writing) “gallery slaves”, but they were so excited to share with the world what they had seen that they couldn’t resist hitting the send button before the editor arrived.

And yes of course, they couldn’t let well enough alone and decided to have a bit of fun with Corban Walker by referring to him as a “little person” in their post. I will admit it: they and I love his work and are extremely jealous. We may be physically taller, but he is “culturally” taller than we’ll ever be.

In light of the above, The Biennial Project artists and their fan base were quite surprised to receive a “friendly” note from the curator of the Irish Pavilion which essentially represented a “cease and desist” order r/t the blog post referred to above. Apparently, as press-pass carrying visitors to the Biennial, they are not allowed to take pictures of the Irish Pavilion and present them in a way which didn’t show the artist and his work in a pre-approved light.

But wait a minute!  Aren’t we talking about Corban, the self-same artist who consistently references his bodily dimensions in sculptural work? Aren’t we talking about the fun-loving Corban who posed with Shaq in a picture which is readily available on the internet?

Yes all supporters of The Biennial Project were tickled. Yes we felt very important. Believe it or not, they don’t hear from upper-echelon international curators every day!  But ultimately we were sad. If freedom of speech and expression didn’t exist, Corban would not be having his 15 minutes…and neither would anyone interesting.

Truly in Art,
Cleah Saraholi,

WE ARE SAD:

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 BUT  AFTER A SUITABLE MOURNING PERIOD WE GET OVER IT:

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TEXT AND PHOTOS FROM THE CORBAN WALKER LIMITED EDITION ARTIST TRADING CARD THAT WE PRODUCED FOR THE 2011 VENICE BIENNALE:

Ireland Corban Walker

Born, June 23 1967 Cancer in Dublin (Baile Átha Cliath) (IE)

Lives and Works In New York

Parents were architect Robin Walker and the art critic Dorothy Walker,

Mr. Walker, 43 years old, is a minimalist sculptor and installation artist known for layering and stacking industrial materials like glass, steel and LED lights into precarious arrangements.

Mr. Walker's work plays with mathematical rules of order and scale, yet he occasionally adds a distinctive twist by making pieces that stand around his own height of 1.2 meters.

He has his own App for The Venice Biennale

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"

What MUST be accomplished in 2013 for the world to live as one

"

 

BIENNIAL PROJECT TO DO LIST TO MAKE

2013 VENICE TOUR A FABULOUS SUCCESS

1.  Organize logistics for The Biennial Project Assault on Venice 2013 Tour with Stunning Germanic Precision.

2.  Publish our limited edition Venice Biennale 2013 Artist Trading Cards earlier than last time and give the art public the chance to snap them up.

3.  Get our press credentials in order so that we can see the show early and hang out with other important art world figures.

4.  Redouble our dedication to The Patented Biennial Project Less Of Us Program so as to lose at least 30 lbs between now and Venice to maximize our photogenic capabilities during the trip.

5.  Fly over the pond to Venice with a minimum of fuss, arriving at our Fabulous Vacation Villa Palazzo Angeli rested and ready to take the city by storm.

6.  Organize The Live Biennial Project Video Feed from Palazzo Angeli that eluded us last time.

7.  Have a fantastic time, soak up art, hang with friends.

8.  Get out on the streets (and canals) - meeting cool artists and movers and shakers while furthering international name recognition of The Biennial Project Brand.

9.  Organize the best Venice Biennale Art Exhibit And Party ever:

The Palazzo Angeli Biennale 2013.

 

10. Clean up afterwards.

11. Produce lively and ever more technically sophisticated video work/photography/writing on a variety of subjects including but not limited to: us/our friends/people we meet/art we like/art we don't like/parties, parties, parties/whatever Important Themes the Biennialist folk are discussing this time/anything involving nudity or questionable taste/butt running/Justin Getting Arrested/etc.

12. Get back to states without losing above video/photography/writing.

13. Spend rest of summer editing and publishing and following up on new contacts and projects. Do some of this from Maine. Use summer as a verb whenever possible.

 

OK, there you have it.

Let's get this party started!

 

XXOO,

 

The Biennial Project

 




"

Come All Ye Faithful

"

Sometime living as an artist makes you feel like you live on the Island of Misfit Toys.

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We especially can feel this over the holidays when we are forced to co-mingle with our families - who don't quite understand why we do the things we do, and why we don't have much money to show for it.

 

Well for those of us creatives who either did not go to their families of birth this holiday or simply forgot to make plans, The Biennial Project is inviting you to celebrate this blessed holiday with us.

Please join The Biennial Project at The Boston Biennial 2012 exhibit being held at The Gallery at Spencer Lofts at 60 Dudley Street in Chelsea, MA on Christmas Day (that’s December 25th) from 3pm-5pm.

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Come and drink the milk and eat the cookies Santa didn't get to because he choose not to visit you this year either because you behaved poorly (yes you are a drunken tramp) or simply because he doesn't exist.

 

 

 The Gallery at Spencer Lofts


60 Dudley Street


Chelsea, MA


3pm-5pm


FREE

"

How To Build an Art Movement

"

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Hey Artists and Art-Lovers out there!

When The Biennial Project Team was participating in the 2009 Venice Biennale, one
of the coolest of the many cool folks we met was German-born film-maker Alec Onsemska (seen at left mugging for the camera the day we met him). He's ridiculously talented, speaks about a million languages, and travels the world like a true jet-setter. He's also very insightful about the art world.

 

As luck would have it, Alec is spending this year teaching film history at Harvard - and recently wrote a super interesting article about the Boston art scene. Even though he wrote it in response to his experience here in Boston - it's relevant to artists everywhere, so we wanted to share it with our readers. So here we go:  

 

 

An Open Letter to Boston Artists

By Alec X. Onsemska

 

"So here I find myself, a European artist and art-lover teaching in Boston this winter. I wanted to offer a few impressions on the local art scene from the perspective of a visitor, in the hope that they could be of some use to the multitudes of great artists who call this fiercely gorgeous city home.

 

Yes, multitudes of great artists and gorgeous city. I know, you're shaking your collective heads now, wondering where I got off the plane, and that's exactly the problem.

 

Boston artists have internalized the general Bostonian characteristic of trash-talking their own town, and their own art. Now don't get me wrong, I get the tell-it-like-it-is, a-million-stories-in-the-cold-city esthetic that permeates your hard-ass Boston soul, making the display of anything resembling enthusiasm as un-hip as betraying the neighborhood or talking to the cops, and it is one of the many qualities that makes me feel at home here. I am German after all, and we are a people also acquainted with the night.

 

But really, enough is enough. There is a point where embracing the middle-of-the-night futility of it all passes over from being recognition of reality to causing said reality to suck worse than it does already (something we Germans alas also know a thing or two about).

 

So, although it's not as familiar as lamenting how the art scene here sucks, and that anything that's worth happening only happens in New York, let's take a moment to talk a little truth about this town that doesn't suck for a change. 

 

To start, Boston is an amazing, one-of-a-kind city, the kind they don't make anymore, what's more, and you know it. That's why you came here or decided to stay.

 

Everywhere you look is this ridiculously majestic blue ocean, and it's not vapid vacation-land ocean - it's the take-no-prisoners cold Atlantic, with giant tankers approaching and receding on the horizon like dream cities. Talk about your end-of-continent sadness. Boston's ocean is a working ocean, and Boston is a working city - where being the real thing matters, and how. The only city I know of where local boys get rich getting Hollywood to tell its story from the side of the 'townies".

 

Boston is at the centre of the most progressive region of this country, and has been at the forefront of innumerable important intellectual, social and political movements. 

 

Tell the truth - you didn't have to live here - you could have moved to New York, or la la land, or wherever hip people were supposed to go - but you chose to live here. Not to deny New York it's due, but every not-born-rich person I know who lives there actually lives two towns away or works 3 jobs to pay for their little scrap of paradise.

 

And the NY art scene, yes, it's cool, cool, cool, but so is the Berlin art scene, and the Peking art scene, and the San Paulo art scene, and undoubtedly a lot of art scenes that most people have never heard of.

Because that's the thing about cool scenes - their key quality is their ability to define their coolness on their own terms. And cool art scenes that exist in the mainstream consciousness are usually not as cool as they are thought to be, because once the mainstream comprehends and begins to absorb them, the independent people start to move on.

 

For art to be meaningful, we must be truly the avant-garde of society, defining our own terms, rather than chasing advertizing agency notions of hipness. Berlin, once an extremely unlikely art-world mecca, became "cool" because its artists stopped chasing Paris or any other art "centre", and instead spent their time creating art and art communities on the ground where they lived.

 

Why do I tell you this Boston?

 

Because of all the places I've visited in the states, you have the most potential to stop chasing the commercial centre and just be great. A great city, with great art schools, where cutting-edge artists live in droves - you have the power to be cool on you own terms.

 

Among the many artists I love here are the innovators from the Boston-based (yes!) art collaborative known as The Biennial Project - who, by doing a fantastic parody of artist success-seeking at the pillars of official art-dom, and by demanding to know why they (we) are not good enough to succeed, point the way for artists to just get down to work in the here and now. 

 

Their upcoming 2012 Boston Biennial is exactly the sort of project that's needed - riffing on the lure of the 'biennial" world, while placing the carrot right here at home where it should be, and cutting out the "critical" intermediary by organizing an artist-controlled biennial. We need more of this.

 

Boston, to your places!"

 

bostongwhgreat

 

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OK, it's us again. He's right you know. To find out more about entering The 2012 Boston Biennial - OK, it's us again. He's right you know. To find out more about entering The 2012 Boston Biennial - 
 
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Open Letter from Alec X. Onsemska

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alec1

 

Open Letter to Boston Artists

So here I find myself, a European artist and art-lover teaching in Boston this winter. I wanted to offer a few impressions on the local art scene from the perspective of a visitor, in the hope that they could be of some use to the multitudes of great artists who call this fiercely gorgeous city home.

Yes, multitudes of great artists and gorgeous city. I know, you’re shaking your collective heads now, wondering where I got off the plane, and that’s exactly the problem.

Boston artists have internalized the general Bostonian characteristic of trash-talking their own town, and their own art. Now don’t get me wrong, I get the tell-it-like-it-is, a-million-stories-in-the-cold-city esthetic that permeates your hard-ass Boston soul, making the display of anything resembling enthusiasm as un-hip as betraying the neighborhood or talking to the cops, and it is one of the many qualities that makes me feel at home here. I am German after all, and we are a people also acquainted with the night.

But really, enough is enough. There is a point where embracing the middle-of-the-night futility of it all passes over from being recognition of reality to causing said reality to suck worse than it does already (something we Germans alas also know a thing or two about).

So, although it’s not as familiar as lamenting how the art scene here sucks, and that anything that’s worth happening only happens in New York, let’s take a moment to talk a little truth about this town that doesn’t suck for a change. To start, Boston is an amazing, one-of-a-kind city, the kind they don’t make anymore, what’s more, and you know it. That’s why you came here or decided to stay.

Everywhere you look is this ridiculously majestic blue ocean, and it’s not vapid vacation-land ocean – it’s the take-no-prisoners cold Atlantic, with giant tankers approaching and receding on the horizon like dream cities. Talk about your end-of-continent sadness. Boston’s ocean is a working ocean, and Boston is a working city - where being the real thing matters, and how. The only city I know of where local boys get rich getting Hollywood to tell its story from the side of the ‘townies”.

Boston is at the centre of the most progressive region of this country, and has been at the forefront of innumerable important intellectual, social and political movements. 

Tell the truth – you didn’t have to live here – you could have moved to New York, or la la land, or wherever hip people were supposed to go – but you chose to live here. Not to deny New York it’s due, but every not-born-rich person I know who lives there actually lives two towns away or works 3 jobs to pay for their little scrap of paradise.

And the NY art scene, yes, it’s cool, cool, cool, but so is the Berlin art scene, and the Peking art scene, and the San Paulo art scene, and undoubtedly a lot of art scenes that most people have never heard of.

Because that’s the thing about cool scenes – their key quality is their ability to define their coolness on their own terms. And cool art scenes that exist in the mainstream consciousness are usually not as cool as they are thought to be, because once the mainstream comprehends and begins to absorb them, the independent people start to move on.

For art to be meaningful, we must be truly the avant-garde of society, defining our own terms, rather than chasing advertizing agency notions of hipness. Berlin, once an extremely unlikely art-world mecca, became “cool” because its artists stopped chasing Paris or any other art “centre”, and instead spent their time creating art and art communities on the ground where they lived.

Why do I tell you this Boston?

Because of all the places I’ve visited in the states, you have the most potential to stop chasing the commercial centre and just be great. A great city, with great art schools, where cutting-edge artists live in droves – you have the power to be cool on you own terms.

Among the many artists I love here are the innovators from the Boston-based (yes!) art collaborative known as The Biennial Project – who, by doing a fantastic parody of artist success-seeking at the pillars of official art-dom, and by demanding to know why they (we) are not good enough to succeed, point the way for artists to just get down to work in the here and now. Their upcoming 2012 Boston Biennial is exactly the sort of project that’s needed – riffing on the lure of the ‘biennial” world, while placing the carrot right here at home where it should be, and cutting out the “critical” intermediary by organizing an artist-controlled biennial. We need more of this.

Boston, to your places!

Alec X. Onsemska

 

bostongwhgreat

OK, it's us again. He's right you know. To find out more about entering The 2012 Boston Biennial -

"