The Next Airport Should Be a Biennial


(Originally published in Reptilhjärnan #2, 2013)

I like it when it doesn’t matter in what order I do things, when walking around does not take me anywhere. So I like big stores and airports. Especially airports because you can’t walk away from them. Moderna Museet in Stockholm looks like an airport. But looks is deceiving; At an airport you only have one single point in time that matters, the rest of the time is unstructured and without any necessary content. To be there is to experience suspended time, like a memory of profound drunkenness: every image, a shaky step and isolated from every other, without sequence. At an airport, if you keep away from shopping, you are actually liberated from behaviour. You do the things that are possible, like anybody. And since anybody at any time can do the same things for no reason at all…it is a very pure existence without… me. I like it. That is why it should be considered a “non-place” (and not for the reasons Marc Augé gave). The suspension of time and personhood is what makes it into a non-place. It sounds like it should be a great place for art. If tragdy could be described, as Nietzsche does, as something “with causes which apparently lacked effects and effects which apparently lacked causes”, then an airport is dionysian enough for me. How much more arty do you want it?

I know what you think : “ anybody at any time can do the same things for no reason at all”, that very egalitarian spirit reigns in the art world! That’s why, in any panel at any place for any reason (be it Heroins in Armanian Socialist Propaganda Painting between 1921-23), Anton Vidokle may show up and tell you about how E-flux first started and… Yes! And that’s why conferences should be held at the airport!At an airport we are not suffering from time, place and personalities – any thing at any time for any reason, bring it on!

It would not only be practical, but also honest and great to have biennials at airports, airport biennials. Going abroad, to conferences and biennials, I usally take a short flight (an hour, rarely more than three hours) and then comes the completly unrewarding bus or train trips to…places. Fuck places! A two hours flight would have been enough and acceptable, but now I’m forced into a all in all nine hours journey to go from my place to the exhibition. One way, nine hours, only to arrive at a small town, subject to depopulation, and thus with big, empty buildings. Ie. perfect for a biennial. It had a local theme (sponsors love that), kept the exhibition space as rough as possible (authentic roughness, I like it but you love it ), and it pretty much looked like other biennials. It was nice. If only people could learn to non-behave in a biennial artspace the way as they naturally do in airports, it would have been a living tribute to the idea of a practical open-ended participation in the curatorial concept behind this installation. But that is difficult outside an airport. If you really want to reach new audiences and make people feel at ease at artexhibitions, mount them at airports! It’s nice, they’ll love it!

I met a japanese there, living in Japan, who had come to this depressing, deprived-of-meaning-town-hosting-a-biennial-(but only once), from the opening of a major, recurring exhibition. “This is my first time in…” she explained to me. No shit! That poor person didn’t realize how out of context that comment was. Everybody was there for the first time, probably also the people living there. Between heaven and earth, there simply is no reason to go to that town and non what so ever to go back. Why, I said to myself, why were we there when we could all have met and have a nice time at the airport? The exhibition should have been there. It could without significant loss have been there. The actual place of the it mattered in theory, in pretext, but not in practice (in selection of art, in installation, in reception etc.). The exhibition was actually made in good old international (global) style that we all have learned from airports. While seeing it you understood that it was border, an interior border. The curators had had the function of custom officer, letting some works in to the exhibition if they didn’t contain anything undecleared etc etc. I’ll refrain from pushing this image. Just made me think of Barthélémy Toguo’s work Transit 1-8 (1996-1999). He really messed with custom officers by  giving them an occasion to prove their skills.

(These are the bags he tried to bring:)

Barthélémy Toguo, Performance Transit 1, 1996 Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris, France

Barthélémy Toguo, Performance Transit 1, 1996
Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris, France

If they don’t start to locate the biennials to the airports or turn the airports into biennials (but I hope they will! And exceptions will made for big or nice cities), I hope some day artists, at least one, will do to curators what Toguo did to custom officers. The least you could demand of a curator is to not give false reasons (any kind of thematisation of the place of the exhibition) for making us travel to shitty places. Either the exhibitions or the travelling must change. Global art for everyday people at the global airport, please!

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