Constellations: The 798 Beijing Biennale
Constellations will inaugurate the 798 Beijing Biennale, bringing together over 70 Chinese and international artists for exhibitions in Beijing's 798 art district. Works will include painting, sculpture, works-on-paper, photography, video, installation, performance, sound works, media art, and site-specific public art. Constellations will be exhibited in the 798 exhibition space as well as other venues located within Dashanzi Art District.
Constellations stems from the notion that stars in a constellation are often vastly distant from each other, but they appear close to each other from the perspective of Earth. Nearness and farness, inside and outside, and global and local are some of the concepts that Constellations uses as touchstones, but situates them relative to each other or in states of parallax. In other words, shifting demographics engendered by migration and the circulation of information foment heterogeneous, cross-cultural, and polyphonic articulations that make binary rubrics, such as those previously mentioned, limited.
Beijing is ideal for this unique biennale because it is a megalopolis located between the future and the past—a confluence of the pre-modern, modern, and postmodern that, in turn, reconfigures globalization in a manner more complicated and multidimensional than in other areas of the world. Some of the exhibiting foreign artists, for example, live in Beijing and the artworks made there absorb the locality yet are also refracted through the artists' peripatetic biographies, creating a more fluid exchange between artistic practices within and outside of Beijing. Apart from the international artists who live and work in Beijing, other foreign artists will create site-specific projects or present works that were made outside of China and modified by interfacing with a wholly different context. On the other hand, many of the native Beijing artists that will exhibit have not only traveled extensively outside of China for exhibitions or residencies, but the work selected or made specifically for Constellations will also highlight the global nature of their work while maintaining the specificity of their geo-cultural location.
Ultimately, Constellations raises more questions than it attempts to answer, particularly in a city where international cultural tectonics perpetually shift and reshape the social landscape in altogether unforeseen ways.
The eight curators will select artists for both the main venue and auxiliary exhibition spaces, creating a dialogue between the main space and satellite venues. The curators will approach their selections as independent projects that are linked to the common biennale, thus creating a coherent and thematically unified exhibition. For example, curator Raúl Zamundio will present a project consisting of works by visual and sound artists entitled 'The Man Who Fell to Earth'. While this presentation can be appreciated autonomously from the biennale, it weaves itself into Constellations thematically as well as through its structure, in which artworks will be simultaneously exhibited in both 706 and other venues. In one sense, the biennale's exhibition design and structure meshes with its thematic concept and reflects the notion of a constellation—that is, the artworks, individual exhibitions, and the curatorial frameworks are vastly different from each other, but innately in conversation since they appear clustered in varying formations depending on the viewer's perspective from within Beijing and without.
The publication to accompany Constellations will deviate from the standard exhibition catalog. Instead, the publication will be a special issue of the Beijing magazine Art Map, which will be bilingual in Mandarin and English. The catalog will include curators' essays, artist pages, bios, and other textual and pictorial material as well as a CD of sound works. In formatting the catalog as a magazine, Constellations seeks to extend itself beyond standard distribution systems of libraries and bookstores. It will have broader accessibility through sales at newsstands in train stations, bus depots, and airports, as well as hotel lobbies, restaurants, tourist kiosks, and so forth.