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.
What is AGORA?
Agora is not just an art exhibition. Nor is it an attempt to construct a predefined and rigidly designed event. AB4 is an effort to demonstrate the procedure that compounds and produces an art exhibition, at the same time the Threshold of that procedure and the Beginning of its openness to unconventional approaches towards the traditional practices of supervision. AB4 is the place and time, the Event of meeting, coexisting and rethinking of the pluralism and contradictions of society as well as the meaning of collectiveness, a tool to deal with the critical question of our time: “And now what?”. AGORA is a Machine that produces reflections, functions with ideas and opinions as fuel, that does not forordain the result but highlights the mechanisms and manifestations of its collective use. AGORA is the Question without the answers, the Failure and Triumph of our joint experiment.
Through a participatory and collective attempt to oversee the works of art, the simultaneous events as well as the procedures, open to public intervention, for developing meaning and substance, the team of the 4th Athens Biennale aspires to offer the exhibition as a spotlight for expression and reflection on reality as experienced by the public, rather than the organizers and artists exclusively, and to see art confront its natural boundary which is no less than the society which engulfs it and constitutes the conditions for its existence. Here, participation is equally important to everything which are already designed, are being designed and are presented. AGORA is you and us, our common ground. Don’t visit it, experience it.