The 13th Shanghai Art Biennale

The Shanghai Art Biennale is the highest-profile contemporary event in Mainland China. The last November 10th has inaugurated the first phase of a Biennale that will challenge its usual format creating an exhibition “in crescendo” that will let artists, curators, and scientists collaborate during the 8th month, the last phase of which will conclude with an exhibition on the April 10th.

Why should you visit a Biennale?

A biennale is a cultural event that happens every two years. The term is Italian, which means “biennial.” The term became popular after the first Venice Biennale in 1895. Since then, different Biennale has been organized all over the world.
Shanghai Biennale is relatively young: it started in 1996 at the Shanghai Art Museum (SAM). From 2012 the Shanghai Biennale is at the Power Station of Art, first China’s state-run contemporary art museum.
A Biennale is a very important event for a country for its diplomatic and international relations. For Shanghai, this event is essential to show the city’s importance as a “gateway to the West.” It upholds the mission of supporting academic and cultural innovation while continuously tracking social changes and knowledge production trends in a global context with an open view.
Shanghai is always the central topic of every Biennale. This event is often proposing renovation plans for the city, but it is mainly a stage for Shanghai and China to show the world their predominance in the contemporary art world.
The Shanghai Art Biennale is the most important artistic event in Mainland China and the most relevant one in Asia.


Science and art are often related. This year, Biennale organized in a “crescendo” will collaborate between artists, scholars, scientists, and curators on water and fluid themes.
Exploring fluid, the first two phases of the Biennale had multiple talks and workshops, and it will hold several kinds of research ending on April 10th with the last phase of the Biennale: “An Exhibition.”
Why water?
This year’s Biennale’s theme is our body’s perception of fluid and other fluid realities outside our human perception. With a study beyond our human-centered and nation-based narratives, Bodies of Water explores forms of fluid solidarity.
Considering how discharging, breathing, transfusing, flushing, menstruating, ejaculating, and decomposing are ways in which bodies exist together, beyond the confines of flesh and land, the Biennale will reflect on how collectivizes are made tangible.
I found very poetic the comparison between human bodies and cities. As our body is alive because fluids like blood are running in our veins, a city is alive thanks to the several pipes running underground carrying water.
This year Biennale is questioning the role of the Power Station of Art, a former power station on the bank of the river Huangpu that industrialized the waters of the river crossing the city of Shanghai.
I found it not a coincidence that this year’s chief curator in Andres Jaque, a famous writer, and architect. His work is usually centered on studying the role of architecture in the making society.
As I found this year, Biennale’s theme is closely related to the multiple floods problem China underwent last spring, and the world is the rising level of oceans due to global warming and climate change.
Bodies of Water is calling for reconnection, and maybe it is time to pay more focus on non-human centered matters.

“The flow and flush of waters sustain our own bodies, but also connect them to other bodies, to other worlds beyond our human selves.” —Astrida Neimanis.


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