Given that 2011 was the year of protesting and dreaming dangerously, 2013 prompts us to think responsively and come up with useful ideas and suggestions. At a time when the financial crisis in Greece and elsewhere is reaching a highpoint, the 4th Athens Biennale (AB4) cannot but respond to this bleak situation through a pertinent question: Now what?
While Monodrome (AB3) attempted to reflect upon Modern Greek history and the origins of the crisis, this year the Biennale will set out to explore creative alternatives to a state of bankruptcy.
Pondering this turning point, AB4 puts into play the collaborative process in producing an exhibition. Titled AGORA, it reflects on the way a biennale has to operate under the current socio-economic circumstances. Using the empty building of the former Athens Stock Exchange as its main venue, AB4 proposes AGORA not only as a place of exchange and interaction, but also as an ideal setting for critique. Contrary to an idealized image of the ancient agora, this new AGORA points to a radical re-orientation in thinking – one that entails judgment, ruptures and conflict. As a contested space where multiple theses and doctrines emerge, this AGORA cannot be taken for granted: it aims for pleasure and purpose; it opts for the carnivalesque and the ambiguous, for the significant as much as the insignificant.
AGORA draws on the notions of the assembly and the assemblage. Conceived both as a living organism and an exquisite corpse, it is formulated through a succession of objects, collaborative events, performances, roundtable discussions, film screenings, workshops and educational programs. In AGORA works and theses evoke that which is urgently needed at this particular moment: an engaged subjectivity, an unearthing of timely attitudes, a reevaluation of artistic strategies, a deconstruction of mystifying narratives.
AB4 will be realized by a nameless and ephemeral group of artists, curators, theorists and practitioners in the creative industries. AGORA is thus a collective experiment, the result of a process of fermentation between professionals from different backgrounds. What matters most to those who participate in such an experiment is a shared sense of responsibility and an urge to co-produce meaning.