Jennie Guy


Inquiries into Curatorial Practice

Contribution to Curatorial Session Reader – Enquiries into Curatorial Practice, presented by MAvis in the Project Arts Centre on 2 May, 2009.

Internationally acclaimed curators Bart De Baere, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Raimundas Malasauskas and Tone Olaf Nielsen will arrive in Dublin to respond to questions raised by IADT’s MA in Visual Arts Practices students in an open Curatorial Session that will be held at Project Arts Centre in Temple Bar on 2 May 2009 from 1pm. The Curatorial Session will be moderated by Tessa Giblin, Curatorial Seminar Module leader for MAVIS, IADT and Curator of Visual Arts, Project Arts Centre.

This public session will raise critical questions about curatorial practices today, debated by four leading figures in the international field who are active as curators of major international events, political activism, and experimental curatorial practice.


What mode of biennale would be best suited to Dublin?

Dublin is scheduled to have a biennale in the year 2010. What would make a Dublin biennale an interesting local event within a global artistic context? How would Ireland’s small population, recent influx of immigration, post-colonial status, and current economy differentiate a Dublin biennale from other international art exhibitions? Are local demographics and cultural issues crucial to the curatorial agenda of a twenty-first-century art exhibition? Currently the exhibition ev+a (located in Limerick) is Ireland’s closest alternative to the biennale format (1); is this exhibition significant in the context of a potential Irish biennale sited in Dublin?

Contemporary art biennales exist in various forms and have a very strong place in the current global art movement. For example, site-specificity was crucial to the 10th Istanbul Biennale curated by Hou Hanru (2), but in the case of this year’s 7th Gwang-ju Biennale (3) curated by Okwui Enwezor, emphasis is oriented towards a more globalised, open-ended exhibition format in which the lack of thematic framework becomes an overt curatorial gesture. The Manifesta biennale has a nomadic itinerary built into its core. The Liverpool biennale has a rigourous plan for urban regeneration and cultural tourism, seeking to unify its major art institutions to create a strong artistic platform with an international voice (4).

As inferred above, there is a complex panorama of contemporary art biennales in existence for curators to incorporate into strategies concerning Dublin’s first biennale. Which model will best serve Dublin, taking into account that this will be the city’s first large-scale international exhibition? Or will Dublin have to beat its own path?



(1) e v+ a exhibition of visual+ art is an annual exhibition of contemporary art… takes place in Limerick, Ireland every year […] Curated each year by a different, single, invited curator of international standing, e v+ a presents the work of Irish and international contemporary artists in a range of venues and settings, formal and alternative, throughout the city of Limerick., Date accessed 05/10/08.

(2) “Rising to his own challenge to find positive strategies in the face of global injustice and violence, curator Hou Hanru delivered a vibrant, solidly conceived exhibition […] Crucially, through a group of highly symbolic and problematic venues, the city of Istanbul itself and Turkey’s chequered history were taken as all too tangible examples of the project of modernization in the non-Western world.”

Eichler, Dominic, “10th Istanbul Biennale”, Frieze Magazine, Issue 112, January 2008, 164

(3) “[…]Gwangju Biennale has provided the space in which to explore the changing nature of international artistic networks, and to examine new modes of artistic subjectivity and conditions of contemporary cultural production that extend beyond national borders or focus on regional modes of identification. Date accessed 06/10/08

(4) What’s also notable about the Liverpool Biennale is that it began with private funding and that to date the mode of curating appears to be largely an in-house affair. This situation raises a double question as to how financial support and the provenance of the curatorial team contribute to the mode of individual biennales?

Telephone interview with James Moores, founder of the Liverpool Biennale. 06/10/08