Biennials, triennials, annuals, and other large group shows like to tout themselves as paradigm-shifting productions that gauge the current climate of a particular slice of the art world. Whether these ambitious visions are ultimately achieved is often a topic of heated debate once these shows go up.
Featured prominently in both the Whitney Biennial and the New Museum Triennial, Wu Tsang is currently one of the most visible artists in New York City. Although Tsang can be easily pigeonholed as a mixed-race/trans artist of color, these identities provide a hotbed of common misconceptions for his performance work to challenge and problematize.
One of the most talked-about and compelling works at the New Museum’s triennial, The Ungovernables, is Hassan Khan’s video Jewel, a masterful combination of sound and moving image. In the main portion of the video, a fast-paced Shaabi soundtrack (created by the artist) accompanies two men engaged in choreographed dance.
The Venice Biennale is a lot like the FIFA World Cup, but for art. It features multifaceted displays of national talent in an ambiance of courteous yet zealous competition for the ultimate prize—in Venice it’s the Gold Lion, in the World Cup it’s, well, the cup. For both cases, the participants have been carefully selected through a series of preliminary rounds and eliminations. Making it to the final competition is a reward in itself. It’s no coincidence that the Venice Biennale has also been termed “the Olympics of Art.”
The selection of Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla to represent the United States in the 2011 Venice Biennale is sure to have raised some eyebrows. The artist collective based in Puerto Rico is far from a household name in the United States, and their subtle aesthetic commentary on issues of politics and culture are, at times, critical of contemporary American realities.