10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art
Titled We don’t need another hero, the 10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art is a conversation with artists and contributors who think and act beyond art as they confront the incessant anxieties perpetuated by a willful disregard for complex subjectivities.
Starting from the position of Europe, Germany, and Berlin as a city in dialogue with the world, the 10th Berlin Biennale confronts the current widespread states of collective psychosis. By referencing Tina Turner’s song from 1985, We Don’t Need Another Hero, we draw from a moment directly preceding major geopolitical shifts that brought about regime changes and new historical figures.
The 10th Berlin Biennale does not provide a coherent reading of histories or the present of any kind. Like the song, it rejects the desire for a savior. Instead, it explores the political potential of the act of self-preservation, refusing to be seduced by unyielding knowledge systems and historical narratives that contribute to the creation of toxic subjectivities. We are interested in different configurations of knowledge and power that enable contradictions and complications.
We don’t need another hero is curated by Gabi Ngcobo with a curatorial team composed of Nomaduma Rosa Masilela, Serubiri Moses, Thiago de Paula Souza, and Yvette Mutumba.
Berlin Biennale venues
Founded in 1696 as an academic institution, the Akademie der Künste is one of the oldest cultural institutions in Europe. The Akademie has been formed through a membership process, which endures to this day. In its early history the Akademie der Künste foregrounded learning through teaching and exchange among members. Having established itself as a center for national cultural renewal and enlightenment, it gradually assumed its present-day form as a platform for discussions on art and politics. The 10th Berlin Biennale is interested in positioning sociopolitical and historical narratives in conversation with stories that inhabit the expansive archives of the Akademie, the lineage of membership, and the Brutalist architecture of Werner Düttmann from the late 1950s.
The 10th Berlin Biennale exhibition at the Akademie der Künste starts with a temporary structure that introduces historical and visual elements from two heritage sites and one historical figure: Sanssouci, a summer palace built by Frederick the Great, King of Prussia in Potsdam, DE, between 1745 and 1747; Sans-Souci Palace in Milot in Haiti, built by King Henri of Haiti between 1810 and 1813; and Haitian revolutionary leader, Colonel Jean-Baptiste Sans Souci, an enslaved African who led troops in guerrilla fighting against the French in 1791. This conceptual frame underlines the ideological underpinnings of all historical narratives and the institutions that house them.
Founded in the early 1990s, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, KW Institute for Contemporary Art is a space for the production, display, and dissemination of contemporary art. Founded as an association of young people passionate about art, KW and the Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art that soon followed were established with the desire to engage with international contemporary art discourses. Throughout the past twenty-six years, KW has been able to construct its own legacy around the people who have shaped its development and those who continue to imagine its future.
We don’t need another hero marks an intersection from which we can imagine what the next twenty years of a global-minded contemporary art biennial might look like. The exhibition at this venue begins by introducing viewers to a portrait of a selection of people who have helped define the institution and continues with works that renegotiate inherent hierarchical structures in political spaces, knowledge generating institutions, and personal spaces.
The Volksbühne Pavilion is a glass construction located on Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz next to the Volksbühne theater’s main building and situated a short walk away from KW. Previously the pavilion hosted artists’ projects as well as the theater’s bookshop and box office.
For the 10th Berlin Biennale the pavilion features an artistic project that considers its historical location of the pavilion and includes a malleable installation open to public participation. Here performances and other durational actions take place over the course of the biennial.
ZK/U – Center for Art and Urbanistics is located on the grounds of a former railroad depot in Berlin’s neighborhood of Moabit. It was initiated and is run by the artist collective KUNSTrePUBLIK. The collective cooperated with the 5th Berlin Biennale in 2008, in which their temporarily installed project Skulpturenpark Berlin_Zentrum also served as a venue. At the time the “park” was an empty plot of land, a former part of the Berlin Wall in the heart of the city—and the object of intense real-estate speculation.
The 10th Berlin Biennale reestablishes a dialogue with the collective by inviting selected artists for extended stays in Berlin to work in the studio spaces that form part of ZK/U’s residency program. In their practices these artists investigate how their politicized bodies respond to the inherent systems of power that define the built city environment. Other projects critically examine varied imagined schemas for natural and constructed environments, both present-day and historic.