2n Athens Biennial

13 June - 4 October 2009

Athens, Greece

Christoph Schlingensiefs work "stahlweg" will be presented within the exhibition "For the straight way is lost". Exhibition curated by Diana Baldon: For the straight way is lost. Exhibition venue: Hellenic Olympic Properties Building #B220, Faliro Bay Complex Area, Athens, Greece

"For the straight way is lost" is the end result of a couple of briefs provided by the Biennial’s directors (the theme of heaven, and the task to focus on presenting moving image-based artworks). Turning XYZ’s brief on its head, the exhibition engages with the "Divine Comedy", the medieval literary poem written between 1308 and 1319 by Dante Alighieri, a text structured into one hundred cantos that narrate the writer’s journey to Heaven from the eternal site of Hell through the transitory state of Purgatory in which dead souls, still on earth, attain intellectual and moral freedom. In the reordered equilibrium between political authority and religious power, the purgatory is a metaphor for the Italian writer’s experience as an exile-for-life, but also a formula for human self-achievement. The indexical employment of Dante in this exhibition highlights a major difference between the concept of Earthly Paradise (i.e. Eden) and that of Heaven (described as the “most just and merciful empire”). Whereby the former can be attained through courageous behaviour and, more importantly, the philosophical teachings of good government, the latter is attainable through civic humanism.

A number of artworks by international artists are brought together to re-exhume part of Dante’s allegorical vision, that of Purgatory as the ante-chamber to, or a deviant form of, heaven. The works of Athanasios Argianas (GR/UK) and Nick Laessing (UK/DE), Christoph Schlingensief (DE), Mark Aerial Waller (UK), Anja Kirschner (DE/UK), The Errorists (US/UK/DE), Michael Stevenson (NZ/DE), Domenico Mangano (IT), Carolee Schneemann (US) and Adam Chodzko (UK), are loosely arranged in line with Dante’s description of the seven terraces of the purgatorial mountain. The steep slopes of the Proud, the Envious, the Wrathful, the Slothful, the Avaricious, the Gluttonous and the Lascivious rise up from the flat and reed-strewn seashores of the Ante-Purgatory which separates them from Hell and are topped by the garden of Eden at their summit. Such a visionary topography serves as the framing device to the design of a shell-shaped pathway whose physical proportions change at each right turn ending up in an enclosed, rectangular space. The conical display of the exhibition is constructed around and—literally—with the material shell of the building’s industrial architecture: a wonder of metal shafts, heating ducts, grey floors, ramps and office furniture in storage. Instead of trying to hide such strong features and surrender to the regime of the white cube, these physical obstacles are incorporated into the exhibition. Most of these works defy canonical screening formats by transfiguring linear storylines in favour of loose narratives whose spatial and situational terms stimulate a more critical understanding of the rules of cinematic representation. More artworks by Rossella Biscotti (IT/NL), Josef Dabernig (AT), Martin Ebner (AT/DE), Elsebeth Jørgensen (DK) and Joulia Strauss (RU/DE) are presented off-site, inserted into the advertising trailers preceding feature films screened in the multiplex alongside the Biennial venue. Coming in the wake of the years in which cinema display sought to perfect the power of filmic illusion and the modalities of the public’s ‘collective’ and ‘distracted’ perception, their films and videos propose different ways of revisiting the idea and focusing the audience’s attention back on the act of cinema-going itself and the inner workings of the film industry.

The British novelist and artist Tom McCarthy has been invited to take the playful role of the psalmist: the Virgil of this purgatory. Throughout the exhibition, he re-scripts the artists' descriptions of their work, cutting their own texts together with lines from Dante's cantos. The results, presented in nine light-boxes dispersed around the exhibition, play an important role in emphasising the allegorical dimension of the works and weaving them into a larger symbolic system.

The 2nd Athens Biennale 2009 will take place from June 15th to October 4th 2009. The multiple exhibitions and events of the biennial will unfold in venues of the Olympic Properties at the Faliro Bay Complex, as well as along the coastline of Palaio Faliro, in various buildings and public spaces.

The 2nd Athens Biennale 2009 HEAVEN is designed as a large-scale, multi-faceted contemporary art event, with several exhibitions, actions, music and theatre performances, film screenings, symposiums, etc, with the participation of more than 150 international artists.

Artistic directors XYZ (Xenia Kalpaktsoglou, Poka-Yio, Augustine Zenakos), who previously curated the 1st Athens Biennale 2007 DESTROY ATHENS, invite an eclectic group of curators to contemplate the subject of Heaven. Heaven as a wide topic touches upon notions such as lost innocence, nature and ecology, utopias and ideal communities. From this premise, a creative dialogue begins, which will reflect upon the theme itself as well as the methodology surrounding large-scale periodical exhibitions. The diverse approaches of the 2nd Athens Biennale 2009 team of curators will retain their autonomy, while interconnecting creatively and claiming a narrative cohesion, which will be further reflected in the exhibition design by architect and artist Andreas Angelidakis.

The multiple visual art and performative interventions in the public spaces will be curated by stage director & choreographer Dimitris Papaioannou and artist Zafos Xagoraris.

Exhibitions, installations, public interventions and screening programmes will be curated by Chus Martínez, chief curator of MACBA, and independent curators Cay Sophie Rabinowitz, Nadja Argyropoulou, Christopher Marinos and Diana Baldon.

The first edition of the Athens Biennale was a great success. Our aspiration is for the 2nd Athens Biennale 2009 HEAVEN to be even more successful than the 1st Athens Biennale 2007 DESTROY ATHENS, which attracted more than 50.000 visitors, was hailed by the international press as one of the best contemporary art exhibitions in 2007 worldwide, was covered in esteemed journals, such as Libération, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Berliner Zeitung, Neue Zeurcher Zeitung and Het Financieele Dagblad, and received positive reviews in international art periodicals, such as Artforum, Frieze, Flash Art, Art Review, Contemporary, Art in America, Art Fairs International, among others. (Every major local and international article and review is available on our website, www.athensbiennial.org.) The enthusiastic response of the local and international audience gives us reason to believe that attendance will increase even more during the 2nd Athens Biennale 2009.

The Biennale has emerged from the terrific energy that is the characteristic of the visual arts in Athens in the last years. Its aim since its establishment has been to constitute a contemplative space for contemporary art, which will produce exhibitions of high quality, addressing a wide audience, as well as form a communication channel between the local and the international contemporary art scenes.

Within this framework, the Athens Biennale has organised conferences, published books and formed numerous collaborations with international institutions. In 2007 it founded the European Biennial Network, a collaborative structure that involves the Berlin Biennial, the Istanbul Biennial, the Liverpool Biennial and the Lyon Biennial as co-organisers, and the Venice Biennial, the Göteborg Biennial, the Tirana Biennial, the Periferic Biennial (Iasi) and the European Biennial Manifesta as associated partners. (Further information on the Network at www.europeanbiennialnetwork.org.)

The 2nd Athens Biennale 2009 Preview Days are June 13th & 14th 2009.


Installation views

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