Jun 04 2020

Fluidity Guides 2020 Shanghai Biennale

by Charmaine Kong

Concept image produced by PAULA VILAPLANA for the 13th Shanghai Biennale. Courtesy Shanghai Biennale.

The Power Station of Art (PSA) has announced the theme for the 13th Shanghai Biennale, “Bodies of Water,” along with its 2020 curatorial team. The event will commence at the institution this year as scheduled, running from November 10 until June 27, 2021, lasting for eight months for the first time.

Led by New York-based architect and writer Andrés Jaque, the 13th edition speaks to the need for flexibility and accommodation during an everchanging time of difficulty. Based on this idea of fluidity, the Biennale aims to examine the interdependency of transspecies organisms, encouraging artists to transcend anthropocentric narratives by reimagining an environment where entangled life forms evolve in solidarity. Elaborating on the theme, Jaque explained in a statement that the project would “reflect on how collectivities are made tangible and bodied in wet-togetherness, exploring diverting forms of aqueousness,” and “consider how discharging, breathing, transfusing, flushing, and decomposing are ways in which bodies exist together.” 

While mainly based in the PSA, the project will extend to other sites as it develops in three phases. The phases include “A Wet-Run Rehearsal” (November 10–14) which assembles contributors to present their works at the PSA and various art spaces along the Yangtze River,  “An Ecosystem of Alliances” (November 15–April 9, 2021) featuring numerous online and in-person programs and workshops, and finally “An Exhibition” (April 10–June 27, 2021), staged at the PSA, along the Huangpu River, and across Shanghai. 

The 2020 international team of curators includes You Mi, curator and researcher at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne; Marina Otero Verzier, architect and director of research at Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam; and Lucia Pietroiusti, curator at London’s Serpentine Galleries. London-based writer and lecturer Filipa Ramos, who is curator of Art Basel Film and co-founder of the artists’ cinema Vdrome, will serve as the Biennale’s head of research and publications.

Founded in 1996 by Fang Zengxian, director of the Shanghai Art Museum, the Shanghai Biennale is the first international biennale of contemporary art in mainland China, and has been hosted by the state-run PSA since the museum’s establishment in 2012.

Following a citywide lockdown due to Covid-19 measures, Shanghai has witnessed a gradual reopening of art galleries and museums since mid-March. Meanwhile, art fairs Art021 and West Bund Art & Design are both still scheduled for November according to their respective websites. At the time of writing, Shanghai has a total of 673 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with seven reported cases in the past two weeks. 

Charmaine Kong is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific.

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