Could you please describe the driving thought behind the biennial you are involved in?
That is not so philosophical. The Bucharest Biennale responded to a need of a city in distress. A platform where to have a dialogue with the people, a platform for artists as much as the need to reinvent new forms of artistic expression and encourage curators to make a selection of participants who would best represent the struggle of the city/society. We wished for the Biennale to provide a structure able to transform the city itself into an ongoing workshop-cum-field of action. Fundamentally, European culture has been the result of exchanges—sometimes peaceful, other times violent—that have taken place between neighboring societies and between different social groups within a given state. These horizontal and vertical forms of cultural exchange occurred in many different manners: through imitation, assimilation, dissimulation, appropriation, through either mutual understanding or hegemonic dominance. We started off the idea of Boris Groys that the biennial, just like the installation, creates a space that serves as a model for a new social and political order.
Could you please discuss the following shifts: politicization and depoliticization, de- and re-centering of the West, the art-theory interface, and mediation strategies.
If we discuss technocratic post-democratic forms of governance, we can also discuss “the Age of Neutralisations” (Carl Schmitt). Maybe we read wrongly the re- de- post-. Maybe we need to see more profoundly what the future is. Maybe it is about identification, not re-identification. Gen Z already surprised us with simplifying the ideas, pragmatism, and changes that come naturally. They already challenge us through multifarious ways able to provoke new possibilities of critical thinking. Research remains our main instrument of finding new topics, new paths, so I strongly believe research can and will be the art-theory interface, in a way. But, that should give us the instruments and the resources to contemplate the future. Art can be a catalyst in social and technological progress.
Which curatorial formats are necessary to propose a space of radical democracy?
What do we need today? When we have the answer or at least a clue about that and we look very deeply into the needs of the society, we will respond accordingly with new curatorial formats. Blockchain, artificial intelligence, deep learning will be new instruments to generate new curatorial formats and a new approach. Maybe we should talk more about instruments to respond to future developments than to think of formats. A format can be realized, but is that format an instrument to edit our future, or to try to fix the format on something we did not even research properly? Now in the AI era, the process becomes more important than the artwork.
How do formats reflect/interrelate content (in your biennial)?
As I said, I do not really believe in formats as defined in the academy. We somehow decided what the next biennial will be about in order to respond to a need which is reflected in the society. Sometimes maybe we need more debates than the object of art; maybe these days we need more aesthetic objects to connect to the new public and start what I call augmented education.
Răzvan Ion is a theoretician, curator, and cultural manager. He was an associate professor and lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley; Lisbon University; Central University of New York; University of London; Sofia University; University of Kyiv; University of Bucharest, etc. where he taught Curatorial Studies and Critical Thinking. He has held conferences and lectures at different art institutions like Witte de With, Rotterdam; Kunsthalle Vienna; Art in General, New York; Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon; Casa Encedida, Madrid, etc. He is the co-founder of Bucharest Biennale, Pavilion Journal, and Reforma Photo Days. As an artist he exhibited in Bucharest Biennale, Poznan Biennial, SKC Gallery- Belgrade, National Museum of Art – Cluj, ICA – Bucharest, NY Experimental Festival, InterFACES – Bangkok, Centro Cultural del Matadero – Madrid, International Photo Ljubljana, Going Public - Milano, CCA Ekaterinburg, National Museum of Art – Timișoara, ICA Budapest, New Langton – San Francisco, etc. Recently he was the curator of Bucharest Biennale 8, together with Beral Madra. He is the chief curator of creart Gallery Bucharest since 2017. He is a speaker on new technologies, AI, machine learning, blockchain & art. Since 2019 is the founder of Spinnwerk Kunstverein Wien. Lives and works in Vienna.