"Why Not Ask Again: Arguments, Counter-arguments, and Stories”
The 11th Shanghai Biennale
The 11th edition of the Shanghai event will emphasize the possibilities of South-South dialogue within the current scenario of a highly interconnected world. In doing so， it will seek to present artistic and discursive visions that go beyond and challenge the conventional division of the world between ‘East’ and ‘West’. Raqs Media Collective, who straddle diverse roles in creative and curatorial work and research processes, envisage the forthcoming biennale to be a destination for many different kinds of exploration and investigation as well as a launching pad for new visions and ideas.
“Why not ask again? Why not begin at the beginning, or the end, or the middle of a question, or a desire (because the task of ‘asking’ can stand both for the posing of a question as well as for the awakening of a desire)?”
This phrase, inspired by Raqs Media Collective’s reading of the Indian New Cinema movement pioneer RitwikGhatak’s film Jukti, Takko Ar Gappo (Maneuvers, Disputations and Stories)  anchors the curatorial design of the forthcoming Shanghai Biennale. Towards the end of Ghatak’s film, the protagonist, an alcoholic intellectual, falls in with a band of fugitive peasant and student rebels.
To their proposals and counter-proposals, their arguments and counter-arguments, the protagonist offers his stories, his reminders, and his incandescent confusions.
The artist who Raqs imagine as a protagonist for the forthcoming Shanghai Biennale islike a figure in a fable who transforms the telling of the story he is in by presenting riddles and engines, by asking necessary, difficult and engaging questions.
Thetriad – Maneuvers, Disputations and Stories – is like the three-body problem in physics. Two bodies in space interact in a manner that is predictable, with the dynamics of their mutual gravitational forces governing how they rotate around each other - “the moment a third body is introduced things get complicated and unpredictable. Suddenly, it appears as if everything can change”.
A biennale inspired bythis vision promisespleasurable surprises inherent in fables and story-telling and a playful deployment of questions and argumentsa matrix of heterodox and non-doctrinaire connections between images, ideas and expressions – between art, literature and philosophy.artistic and discursive visions that go beyond and challenge the conventional divisions of the world.
The Biennale will be realized through a series of intersecting orbital paths.
Terminals – staging posts, launching pads, or connecting hubs – where an artist’s practice is invited to develop a constellation of questions, propositions and narratives through a consolidated, evolving body of work.
Infra – Curatorial Platform – exploration of the different curatorial vantage points that draw upon new questions around network and knowledge, upon archives, upon the stressed image, and how the new generation has its own way of thinking the curatorial.
Theory Opera – An orchestration of major and minor modes in thought and speculation, voiced in ways that marry the heft of philosophy to the cadence of opera.
51 Personae –A programme of exciting actions that celebrate the city of Shanghai, celebrate life, dreams, friendship and conversations in the form of visionary proposals for re-imagining urban life animated by the energy and electricity of polemics, solidarities and arguments.
Raqs Media Collective was founded in 1992 by JeebeshBagchi (New Delhi, 1965), Monica Narula (New Delhi, 1969) and ShuddhabrataSengupta (New Delhi, 1968). Raqs is a word in Persian, Arabic and Urdu and means the state that “whirling dervishes” enter into when they whirl. Raqs follows itself declared imperative of “kinetic contemplation”, and enjoys playing a plurality of roles, often appearing as artists, occasionally as curators, sometimes as philosophical agent provocateurs. They make contemporary art, have made films, curated exhibitions, edited books, staged events, collaborated with architects, computer programmers, writers and theatre directors, and have founded processes that have left deep impacts on contemporary culture in the world with their originality and scope.
As artists, Raqs has presented works at most of the major international shows, including Documenta (2002), the Venice Biennale (2003,2005 & 2015), and the Shanghai Biennale (2010). The members of Raqs were co-curators of Manifesta 7 - the European Biennial of Contemporary Art (2008) in Bolzano and INSERT2014 in Delhi.
Agan Harahap, Aki Sasamoto, Anawana Haloba, Ayesha Jatoi, Ayodamola Tanimowo Okunseinde& Salome Asega, Azadeh Akhlaghi, Bahar Behbahani, Bianca Baldi, Cell Art Group, Chen Zhe, Christian Thompson, Christine Sun Kim, Desire Machine Collective, Etel Adnan, Fabrice Monteiro, Farzana Ahmed Urmi, Forensic Oceanography, Gagandeep Singh, Georges Adéagbo, Graham Harwood/YoHa, Ha Bik Chuen, HaoJingban, Heidi Voet, Hu Xiangqian, IstvánZsíros, Jagdeep Raina, Jefferson Pinder, John Gerrard, Karl Max, Kendell Geers, Khaled Barakeh, LantianXie, Lee Mingwei, Lena Zubtsova, Liao Fei, CANTONBON, Lin Ke, Phuong Linh Nguyen, Lisa Tan, Liu Wei, Liu Yujia, Lu Pingyuan, Ma Haijiao, Mao Chenyu, Marina Androsovich, Matts Leiderstam, Moinak Biswas, Müge Yilmaz, Nabuqi, Navjot Altaf, Nicholas Wells, Nikolaus Hirsch/Michel Müller, Olivier de Sagazan, Olu Oguibe, Patty Chang, Peter Piller, Rabin Mondal, Radical Space, Rafiqul Shuvo, Rheim Alkadhi, Robin Meier, Ross Manning, Sammy Baloji, Sener Özmen, Simone Fattal, Sofya Staune, Sohrab Hura, Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, SUPERFLEX, Surabhi Sharma &Tejaswini Niranjana, Susanne Kriemann, Takashi Arai, Tao Hui, Taus Makhacheva, Theo Eshetu, Tomás Saraceno, Verina Gfader, Vinu V.V., Vishal K. Dar, Wang Gongxin, Wang Haichuan, Yang Zhenzhong, Yazan Khalili, Yin Yi, Yu Ji, Zheng Bo, Zheng Chongbin, Zhou Zixi.
With its first edition launched in 1996, the Shanghai Biennale was the first international biennale dedicated to contemporary art in mainland China. Over the past 19 years, it has held highly its mission to support academic and creative innovation, and with an open perspective has been concerned with cultural change and the direction of innovation in the context of globalization, evolving into a significant platform for international art exchange and presentation. In the current global circumstance of strong interconnection, the 11th Shanghai Biennale attaches itself to exploring possibility for “south-south cooperation,” and by such exploration seeks to present an art world that traverses the dividing boundary between the East and the West and embraces radiating variety.
Established on October 1st, 2012, the Power Station of Art (PSA) is the first state-run museum dedicated to contemporary art in mainland China. It is also the hosting organization for the Shanghai Biennale since 2012. The facility that houses PSA was renovated from a former power plant, whose brute style of industrial architecture provides a rich source of inspiration for artists and enables diverse creative possibilities. With a total exhibition area of 15 thousand square meters, it provides the Shanghai Biennale with a large physical space for expression. As the Shanghai Biennale gains greater international influence, it continues to closely examine and engage with local issues, while PSA evolves into an imagination-stimulating new power plant.