News Shanghai Biennale 水体 ”Bodies of Water”: The 13th Shanghai Biennale

Image: Paula Vilaplana. Produced for the 13th Shanghai Biennale

Image: Paula Vilaplana. Produced for the 13th Shanghai Biennale


“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


Power Station of Art (PSA) is delighted to announce the curatorial team and theme for the 13th Shanghai Biennale, proposed by its Chief Curator, the architect, and writer Andrés Jaque.

For the first time, the Biennale will operate as an eight-month, evolving, “in crescendo” project conceived as a collective undertaking by artists, activists, and institutions, and unfolding in three phases between November 2020 and June 2021, challenging the usual art biennale format. To realize this ambitious proposition, Jaque is working closely with a curatorial team consisting of YOU Mi, Marina Otero Verzier, Lucia Pietroiusti, and Filipa Ramos.

Titled 水体 Bodies of Water, the 13th Shanghai Biennale will advocate for processes of planetary re-alliance relying on transspecies collectivity. Exploring forms of fluid solidarity, the Biennale will convene artists to think beyond human-centered and nation-based narratives, connecting the discussions of bodies with those of the environment.

Chief Curator Andrés Jaque says: “From the depth and tempo of a breath to the evolution of an ecosystem, the Biennale will reflect on how collectivities are made tangible and bodied in wet-togetherness, exploring diverting forms of aqueousness. Beyond the confines of flesh and land, the curatorial proposal considers how discharging, breathing, transfusing, flushing, and decomposing are ways in which bodies exist together.”

The president of the PSA Academic Committee, Fei Dawei states: “The preparation of the 13th Shanghai Biennale took place during the uncertain times of a health crisis. 'Bodies of Water' presents itself in fluid forms to accommodate the ever-changing reality, while finding ways to confront conventional exhibition-making methods. The Biennale strives to reach a place previous exhibition forms could not access. More importantly, this exhibition is utterly experimental: in the face of the changing global conditions, curatorial practices will continue to explore the possibilities of self-renewal.”

The Biennale is engaging with the history and geography of Shanghai, a long-standing arena for liquid territorial bodies, and the site for this Biennale. The city is intimately connected to the 5,000-meter descent to the East China Sea of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau’s meltwaters located at the intersection of the Huangpu and the Yangtze Rivers, and in the vicinity of the human-made Jing-Hang Grand Canal. Particles dragged from up to 6,300 kilometers sediment are metabolized by edible plants at the Yangtze Delta, China’s most fertile agricultural site. Mineral and organic matter, travelling suspended as part of bodies of water, is then rebodied. Water flowing reconstructs geographies and vitalize organisms. Not without struggle.

The Shanghai Biennale, the oldest art biennale in China, will ultimately interrogate its own situation at PSA, a former coal-electric plant that fueled the industrialization of the Huangpu River, a cauldron of accelerated production and bodily mobilization.

This edition will nurture art as an ecosystem of practices closely connected to different forms of human and non-human knowledge, sense, and intelligence. In close collaboration with Shanghai’s universities and networks of independent art spaces and activism, the Biennale will build on art’s interdependency with science, social constructs, technology, and modes of spirituality. Rather than presenting art as autonomous, it will provide a platform to acknowledge the diversity in which research and knowledge-making happens and is disseminated.




For the first time, the Shanghai Biennale will operate as an eight-month “in crescendo” project, unfolding in three phases:



November 10–14, 2020. A summit bringing together contributors to present their work in the form of a performative assembly taking place in the PSA’s Grand Hall and spreading out to networks of art spaces along the Yangtze River, as well as online.



November 15, 2020 – April 9, 2021. Keeping a permanent post at the PSA, the “in crescendo” project associates itself with infrastructures where online/offline social and communal life are taking place. These include streaming TV channels, social media, university programs, and serial interventions on urban dynamics.



April 10 – June 27, 2021. Opening with a festival, the Biennale will unfold into an exhibition that will run through PSA and expand into a series of locations along the Huangpu River and across the city of Shanghai.




In November 2019, with the support of the Academic Committee of the PSA, Andrés Jaque—a New York-based curator, architect, and writer—was appointed chief curator of the 13th Shanghai Biennale. Jaque is director of the Advanced Architectural Design Program at Columbia University and founder of the Office for Political Innovation, which operates at the intersection of architecture and art, exploring how bodies, technologies, and environments converge in transspecies alliances. He has invited an international team of curators and thinkers to work collectively in the development of the Biennale:

Marina Otero Verzier is an architect based in Rotterdam. The director of research at Het Nieuwe Instituut, she leads research initiatives such as Automated Landscapes, Work Body Leisure, and BURN-OUT. Exhaustion on a planetary scale. From September 2020, she will be head of the Social Design Master at Design Academy Eindhoven.

Lucia Pietroiusti is curator of General Ecology at the Serpentine Galleries in London. Recent and upcoming projects include the long-term General Ecology Project, Back to Earth (the Serpentine’s 50th anniversary program dedicated to the environment), as well as Sun & Sea by Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, Vaiva Grainytė, and Lina Lapelytė.

YOU Mi is a curator and researcher at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne. Her interests focus on performance philosophy, science and technology studies, as well as new and historical materialism. She works with extremely ancient and futuristic technologies and networks.

Filipa Ramos is a writer, lecturer and curator based in London. She is curator of Art Basel Film and co-founder of the artists’ cinema, Vdrome. She is a lecturer at Central Saint Martins and Basel’s Institut Kunst. Ramos’ research focuses on how art responds to environmental topics and fosters relationships across humans, non-humans, and machines.

Power Station of Art on the bank of Huangpu River. © PSA

Power Station of Art on the bank of Huangpu River. © PSA

Shanghai Biennale

Launched in 1996, the Shanghai Biennale is not only the first international biennial of contemporary art in mainland China but also one of the most influential art events in Asia. In 2012, the Power Station of Art became the organizer and permanent venue of the Shanghai Biennale. From Open Space in 1996, to Inheritance and Exploration in 1998, Spirit of Shanghai in 2000, Urban Creation in 2002, Techniques of the Visible in 2004, Hyper Design in 2006, Translocalmotion in 2008, Rehearsal in 2010, Reactivation in 2012, Social Factory in 2014, Why Not Ask Again in 2016, and Proregress in 2018, the Biennale has always maintained Shanghai as its primary locus, upholding the mission of supporting academic and cultural innovation, while continuously tracking social evolution and trends in knowledge production in a global context with an open view. Gathering in Shanghai every two years, the Biennale has also become a large-scale platform for the international presence and exchange of contemporary art.


Power Station of Art (PSA)

Established on October 1, 2012, the Power Station of Art (PSA) is the first state-run museum dedicated to contemporary art in mainland China. It is also home to the Shanghai Biennale. Renovated from the former Nanshi Power Plant, PSA was once the Pavilion of Future during the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. The museum has not only witnessed the city’s vast changes from the industry age to the IT era, but also provided a rich source of inspiration for artists with its simple yet straightforward architectural styles. And as Shanghai’s generator for its new urban culture, PSA regards non-stopping innovation and progress as the key to its long-term vitality. The museum has been striving to provide an open platform for the public to learn and appreciate contemporary art, break the barrier between life and art, and promote cooperation and knowledge generation between different schools of art and culture.