Vol 3 No 1 (2022)
Exhibiting Prints: The Role of Printed Matter in International, Large-Scale Exhibitions
Prints, multiples, artist’s books, posters, printed ephemera, etc., have been exhibited alongside paintings and sculptures in international, large-scale exhibitions. They have been displayed in, sold, and collected from the Venice Biennale, São Paulo Biennial, Documenta and several other perennial exhibitions. Regardless of their continuous, vital presence within international venues and despite the proliferation of scholarship on biennials, there have been few studies on the role of prints and artist’s editions within these exhibitions. The texts collected in this third issue aim at opening art historical narratives towards a sometimes marginalised medium, which has been in many cases vital for the life and fortune of large-scale exhibitions: cultural tourism, dissemination of the avant-garde, bourgeois collections’, taste-making, democratisation of art, institutional critique as well as politics.
OBOE selected contributions from scholars from around the world on prints in exhibitions that range from the Venice Biennale to Latin American Biennials alongside a miscellanea of other texts on different subjects. For the first time, in our three years' history, articles will be released between June and October 2022. Stay tuned!
This article examines the exhibition of prints at the Venice Biennale between the 1930s and the early 1970s. Drawing upon recently discovered archival material, this essay argues that the prints displayed and awarded prizes during this period offer a picture of the art world, biennial culture, and its socio-political milieu, including the ebbs and follows of nationalism and internationalism. Part of this study, therefore, includes an assessment of how the print exhibitions reveal the shifting aesthetic, cultural and at times political world in which they were situated. This essay also provides an extended analysis on the role graphics played at the 1970 Venice Biennale in the Italian and United States pavilions and will argue that the organisation and installation of these exhibitions mirrored contemporaneous, ephemeral aspects of avant-garde art and, in fleeting moments, transnational exchanges.
As an ephemeral, portable and disposable object, the postcard is a powerful medium for the global circulation of images and the creation of enduring collective imaginaries. This essay considers a project by artist Aleksandra Mir for the 53. Venice Biennale (2009), titled VENEZIA (all places contain all others), which entailed the design, printing and free distribution of one million postcards. A visitor could mail the postcards on the spot, ensuring the global circulation to the project. The participatory and ephemeral nature of this postcard project is discussed in relation to the curatorial concept of that year’s Biennale, the ability of the postcard format to activate a problematic memory of place, and the various iterations of the project from 2005 to 2018. Mir’s use of the postcard format in the Venetian context stresses the close link between the contemporary art world and the economy of tourism in late capitalism.
Taking Forensic Architecture's project Triple-Chaser as its point of departure the article is a theoretical exploration of the role of exhibition in contemporary aesthetic and artistic practices. It claims that works of art are capable of producing a reflexive transformation of our non-artistic everyday lifeworld (cf. Juliane Rebentisch) and argues that the act of exhibition, of making visible or perceptible, is a decisive element in such a reflexive transformation of the non-aesthetic and non-artistic social reality that the art work addresses or in which it embeds itself. The act of exhibition makes something/the work present but, at the same time it creates a distance, precisely because the appearance of the work has been arranged and addressed to someone/us; what is exhibited is given as having been organised and deliberately made available to appear to us (cf. Tristan Garcia). This distance installs a difference, a pensive image in the language of Jacques Rancière, which is what allows for reflexive transformation. When Forensic Architecture, for instance, make use of reenactments in their investigations of human rights violations, real space is turned into a model of itself, and a negotiation of what it means can begin. An agency like Forensic Architecture, however, operates in a number of different forums to communicate and exhibit their investigations, of which the forum of art is but one as they consider each forum, i.e. place of exhibition, as a distorting lens of its own kind. A decisive aspect of what then still makes their work—and many other contemporary practices that expand their field of operation beyond the dedicated spaces of art—aesthetic is a certain mode of exhibition or exposition and address, which invites the addressees to take part in a process of sense-making.