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09 Feb 2010

Hiker meet cards

It's the beginning of February and I am back at Tatton – more rain and more action, for the house and park are open for business and for the first time I am invited to attend a meeting between Tatton staff and the curators. Here, as in every other sense of being (albeit temporarily) lassoed into 'the loop', information proves both curse and blessing. I say curse because quite simply the more one knows, the more there is to accidentally let slip – for very little can actually be set in stone, adhered to a surface or hard fact of any kind, during much of the biennial's development period.

On the other hand, it's important to know enough, how much is difficult to call. As I watch the curators deliver and respond to information (quips, practical observations and protestations of the home team), I begin to grasp the specificity of the demands on and of the project and how different it is to any single exhibition structure the phrase “art biennial” might conjure up.

Tatton Park Biennial appears, at this juncture in my research, something of a hybrid endeavour delivering one into and out of other biennial formats in existence. The formality of the house setting brings to mind that of the museum, the largely site-specific nature of the projects commissioned (most outdoors), gives it a sculpture park feel, while the expansive themes and list of artists selected align it with projects that offer theoretical slices through or pan-geographic perspectives on current making practices.

Set in a National Trust-protected stately home, its problems are very different to those that define the many city-wide biennials in capitals and towns as diverse as Cairo and Folkestone. Yet, the context for curators and makers is nonetheless complex. A brief moment with some of the issues and perceptions shaping the initiative has left me thinking about the curious compromises that must be reached, to create this project within a project, which are nothing if not unique.

Posted by Rebecca Geldard at 9:54 AM