The problem with guano and other stories

21 Feb 2010

The artists and projects are all confirmed, but I want to get some thoughts down now about the theme, 'Framing Identity', before getting stuck into their responses... how they might interpret the frame, where and what it contains, given that the title immediately triggers all kinds of presumptions about art, site and semantics.

These are words and constructs one associates with processes of looking and talking about art and humanity, and together they offer a vast theoretical territory equally applicable to the art biennial as the academic paper. Yet, any thematic starchiness is ultimately undermined by the word 'identity', which by default implicates all, brings one back to the personal.

This large airship of potential ideas, however, is not free-floating. The curators have let down some necessary strings to the ground, to keep it hovering over the biennial's plot. This year's projects all in some sense interpret notions of historicity, landscape as social platform and a sense of place – how culture influences the shape of and our relationship to a site.

Put the words 'framing' and 'landscape' in close proximity and it's hard not to conjure a time-worn vision of an artist holding up a home-made Dürer grid against a pastoral scene with the idea of finding 'the view': the one that captures the wider relevance of a place and a moment in time. The rural landscape and the heritage site are indubitable cultural signifiers in the history of art and anthropology so what makes a place of historical importance a ripe context for the production and receipt of contemporary art?

Having now met a couple of the artists, in situ, my first (obvious but nonetheless important) point on the rural biennial pro-list would be the possibility for artists to think and work beyond the (albeit variable) confines of the white box; the simple joy, for example, of having to consider what might happen to a floating work of art on a lake after a period of relentless shit-bombing by gulls.

Posted by Rebecca Geldard at 1:43 PM