One is not sure how long the institution of biennale would last, but one suspects that a major reason for its going out of circulation would be the gap of two years. In a world where you send a letter and it reaches instantly to the addressee, and if lucky gets a response in next few minutes, waiting for 525,600 minutes may be too unbearable. Yet one hopes that the structure of biennale changes, and as literary festivals associated with a certain city are now taking place in other continents, likewise biennales may keep on happening around the year, and at different locations.
Location in today’s world is the most misunderstood term/concept. I live in Lahore, Quetta, Karachi, Sukkur, Sialkot, Sargodha; but my real address/home is my internet account, or social media ID. In that case, biennales have taken a step further from that old and defunct concept of ‘national exhibitions’, since these are not about the place where they take place, still one hopes that these are not locked in a city after which these are named; Venice, Sao Paulo, Havana, Gonzo, Shanghai, Sharjah, Kochi, Kathmandu, Colombo, Karachi, Lahore. One imagines that sometimes in near future, Beirut Biennale may be located at different cities/sites in Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin America, and so forth.
As observed, these biennales trespass and transcend local references when it comes to showcasing art. Venice Biennale is not about art of Venice, let alone Italy; nor any other biennale for that matter, and one would be slightly surprised to find an artist from Sharjah in the Sharjah Biennale. More to celebrate contemporary world in which countries have surrendered to cities. The city invites you to be part of a project that is transnational, transcultural and even trans-art.
Works showcased at these biennales reflect a diversity in terms of forms, formats, genres, styles, mediums, periods and purposes, since these denote and reveal an individual’s position regarding the questions of existence, identity, ideology, moral and issues, material culture. An art work, even if confined to momentary matters, becomes a document of its epoch and a manifestation of ideas in a certain society. One lives in one time, and place, but one is also a citizen of multiple worlds simultaneously. A reality biennales bring to the surface.
Concerns like these, which have been dealt creatively at the current Karachi Biennale 09, are part of present issue of Art Now Pakistan. In Focus essays, Interviews and Profile, Photo-essay, reviews and Book Review highlight diverse aspects of biennales, particularly Karachi Biennale, because a monumental art event of this scale is not just a matter of moments, but it will remain in our memory, mind, and media for two years – if not more.