Internationally renowned, large-scale art biennials are occasions that create significant interfaces between contemporary art and the larger public. In contrast to the media-savvy biennials that mainly cater for tourists and professional audiences, the Taipei Biennial has always been em-braced and phenomenally well attended by the citizens of Taipei. Aware of this very specific condi-tion, the 2008 Biennial attempts to establish itself in the city's public zones to both help generate an exchange of viewpoints and with the hope that this community condition will continue even after the exhibition has ended. In the 1990s, biennials that took place outside the classical centres of the art world, played a groundbreaking role of catapulting local talent to wider possibilities. Locality was expected to garner attention to places that were not previously on the international art map. How-ever, there are no fail-safe recipes about how to make an exhibition in and for a city. Each situation is specific. The communication to a local public and the foreign artists' communication with a new context is complicated. Nevertheless, it is important to engage in productive failures, to brave it out and see if the work is compelling enough to generate a discussion.
The 2008 Biennial deals with a constellation of related issues arising from neo-liberal capitalist globalisation as seen in Taipei and internationally, such as urban transformation, the dire circum-stances of foreign labour forces, divided nations and micro-nations, permanent conditions of war, ecological collapse, global unrest, as well as opportunities for change. These issues are addressed through do-it-yourself practices, humourous approaches and idiosyncrasies. Art does not provide solutions, but it does have the capacity to reflect on issues from different angles, and to work with unexpected forms of enquiry.
While the main body of the Biennial is found in the museum, the exhibition also spans out to in-clude other sites. There are works and events in the Beer Brewery, on the mega-digital screen at the Taipei Arena, in Taipei Art Park, at the Zhongxiao Xinsheng MRT Station, on a series of adver-tising boards found around the city and an intervention at No.13, Qidong Street. Another character-istic of the project was to commission a number of new works specifically for the Biennial that have been researched, produced and/or performed in Taipei.
There are parallel programmes taking place during the Biennial that include a conference co-presented with Dictionary of War, a film programme related to the themes of the exhibition co-hosted by the Urban Nomad Film Festival, and a hypothetical art centre conceived by one of the participating artists. The art centre, temporarily located in the art park, will host discussions and events. Hence, the Biennial is not only an exhibition but a series of activities spread out in time. In addition, the curators have invited the artist/activist Oliver Ressler to curate a section within the context of the Biennial titled A World Where Many Worlds Fit that is dedicated to resistance move-ments. Ressler's project brings to the fore a rainbow of presentations about individual and collec-tive singularities from all over the world, who express their noncompliance to world summits where decisions that effect everyone's lives are made behind massive security arrangements, in ways that are hardly transparent or democratic.
The 2008 Biennial attempts to insinuate that it is possible and in fact necessary, especially today, to imagine, explore and propose another world. The Biennial hopes to induce you to smile and laugh out loud, get you irritated or encourage your participation in the perversity of art, send you on the defensive, tickle your curiosity, as well as engage you. An exhibition is not a closure, it is not meant to have the last word on things. The most the curators can hope for is to create a small im-balance in the way we look at the world and what we take for granted.
2008 Taipei Biennial
The Taipei Biennial is the major international art exhibition held by the Taipei Fine Arts Museum once every two years. It is not only the most cutting-edge and significant event in Taiwan furthering the development of contemporary art, but also a stage for unveiling new art from around the world. It is a window through which the charm of Taipei’s culture and progress radiates outward, a platform for engaging in cultural exchange with other areas of the world and promoting international dialogue. In this exhibition, visitors will witness many of the trends developing in international art, the assiduous concern of the artists for society, and the energy that visual art generates.
The 2008 Taipei Biennial features the largest number of artists since 1998, and it is being presented on the grandest scale ever, with the participation of 47 artists and art groups from 26 countries. In addition, the exhibition space is broader and larger than in previous years, expanding beyond the Taipei Fine Arts Museum to include other venues in Taipei, ushering in a new curatorial vision and methodology and integrating the exhibition and art concepts into the city in a more active, deeper melding with the lives of the city’s residents. According to the curatorial concept, the 2008 Taipei Biennial explores the metamorphosis of Taipei in relation to globalization, the predicaments of foreign laborers and illegal workers, mobility, borders, divided nations and microstates, perpetual states of war, ecological catastrophes, global upheaval and the opportunity for change – a variety of issues intimately related to our life and survival today. Along with constantly advancing transportation and Internet technology, the world has already entered the age of the global village. People from different cultures interact much more closely than in the past, yet this has not caused the chasms and fences of cultural difference to disappear. Culture makes life abundant. It has also laid the foundation for historical development. Only through substantive, mutually beneficial exchanges, seeking common ground while affirming diversity, can we create a state of affairs in which everyone wins.
As the leading city of Taiwan, Taipei encompasses an array of cultural forms and hosts a broad spectrum of artistic exhibitions and performances. I am deeply grateful to the co-curators of the 2008 Taipei Biennial, Mr. Vasif Kortun of Turkey and Mr. Manray Hsu of Taiwan, for their dedicated efforts, enriching and expanding the cultural life of Taipei City’s residents. These diverse forms of artistic creation amply integrate culture with life, deepening people’s aesthetic experiences and promoting the recognition of many different countries and cultures.
Department of Cultural Affairs
Taipei City Government
2008 Taipei Biennial
The Sixth Taipei Biennial, co-curated by Mr. Manray Hsu of Taiwan and Mr. Vasif Kortun of Turkey, features the works of 47 artists and art groups from 26 countries.
The 2008 Taipei Biennial has a number of special features: It enjoys more generous funding than in previous years, and the greatest number of participating artists since 1998. Moreover, the exhibition space has expanded beyond the confines of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum to encompass the Taipei Brewery, the Taipei Arena’s giant digital video screen, the Taipei Rapid Transit System’s closed-circuit television displays, the TRTS Zhongxiao Xinsheng Station, the management office of Taipei Art Park on Zhongshan North Road, and a special wall-dismantling project to be carried out on Qidong Street, allowing the artists to make deep inroads into the city, and interweave their works with the lives of Taipei residents. Furthermore, the Biennial includes sixteen highly challenging site-specific creations, whose content directly refers to the current state of contemporary Taiwanese society, giving this Biennial the greatest degree of attunement to locality and the most complex artwork production process of any Taipei Biennial to date. Each site-specific artwork, like an independent solo exhibition or art project, involves direct interaction with a local place. During the preparatory period, artists in Taipei engaged in performances and interventionist actions. Portions of these works have been recorded and edited, and will be presented in the Biennial’s exhibition spaces.
The 2008 Taipei Biennial has also devoted greater resources and manpower to international marketing and to attaining international standards. For the first time, the Taipei Biennial is cooperating with the Shanghai Biennale and the Guangzhou Triennial, by sharing media and marketing resources, promotional websites, invitations of special guests, and the organization of group tours. At home in Taiwan, we have also worked to improve public outreach and art education, by arranging for participating international artists to speak at a variety of art schools and university art departments while visiting Taipei, and also by organizing a spectrum of events, including symposiums, interviews, discussions, documentaries and lectures.
Upon the successful launch of the 2008 Taipei Biennial, we sincerely thank the curators Mr. Manray Hsu and Mr. Vasif Kortun for the immense passion and perseverance they have devoted to this exhibition, and to the many featured artists from around the world for their avid participation. We also extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following organizations and groups for their generous sponsorship and participation: the Council for Cultural Affairs, Taiwan; Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation; Credit Suisse; Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (Ifa); the Mondriaan Foundation; the Ministry of Education and Culture, Republic of Cyprus; the State Corporation for Spanish Cultural Action Abroad (SEACEX); the Danish Arts Council; the Australia Council for the Arts; the Office for Contemporary Art, Norway; the Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei (ISECO); Cultures France; Institut Français; the German Cultural Center, Taipei; the Netherlands Trade and Investment Office; Ventura Bicycles; Nova Media Co. Ltd.; Yeh Rong Jai Culture & Art Foundation; Taipei Artist Village; and Epson Taiwan Technology & Trading Ltd. I hereby express my most earnest thanks to everyone whose passionate support for art and enthusiastic involvement has made the 2008 Taipei Biennial possible. Finally, I wish to express my genuine appreciation to all the groups and individuals that have provided assistance to the artists during the preparatory period for this exhibition, as well as to all my colleagues at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum for assisting the artists in bringing their creations to fruition.
An art exhibition is a platform providing all the artists, workers and viewers an opportunity to experience and consider the relationship between art and life. With the unprecedented complexity in politics, economics and society that Taiwan encounters today, the presentation of the Taipei Biennial is particularly meaningful.
Taipei Fine Arts Museum