Boston Biennial 5 Accepted Artist List

by the-biennial-project 17. March 2018 14:27

Here is the list of accepted work for BB5 – excluding video work (we will post that list in next 2 days).

Leigh Yardley, Relic  
Leigh Yardley,  The Tallette is Dry  
Coral Woodbury,  Mend 
Coral Woodbury,The New Dictionary of Thoughts  Standard Book Co. 1954: Heaven 
China Blue Wong, Mind
Michelle Woitzel, Intrigue 
Carolyn Wirth, Earthly Paradise 
Katie Wild, A Shocking Turn of Events  
Jesse Wiedel, The Dark Side 
Paul Weiner, Night in Venice 
Lars Vilhelmsen, moment and rest I 
paul Valadez, sopa albino  
paul Valadez, tener un punto 
Tran Trong Vu, The meeting point Installation  
Tran Trong Vu, A partition of chance Painting/Drawing  
NANCY CHEE-KWAN TONG, Unpredictable Series - White 2017 
Keith Tang, 2001 
David Stickney, Godzilla vs Rockport 
Michael St.Germain, untitled 
Michael St.Germain, untitled  
Qing Song, Cigarette Girls 3  
Marlene Siff, Septet   
Roxanna Sierra, Bridge # 1 
George Shaw, UNTITLED 
George Shaw, UNTITLED  
Victoria Schepps, Subway Breakdancers  
joan ryan, Life on the Noon
joan ryan, Card Games 
joan ryan, Escaping the Rabbit Hole 
Alexandra Rozenman, Moving in with Winslow Homer 
Thomas Roth, No-183
Thomas Roth, No-152 
Ruth Rosner, GUARDIANS AT THE GATE Women Who Witness Series 
Ruth Rosner, THE RUINS OF THE FAMILIAR [What Resonated] Refugee Women Series 
Ruth Rosner, ECHOES OF VOICES [Broken Steps] Refugee Women Series/On the Journey
Lisa Reindorf, Neon Isles   
Lisa Reindorf, Neon City 
Bill Psarras, To the Unknown Place   
Alison Pruchansky,  Fleur-tile 7 
R. Prost, Veritas No. 47 
Kevin Porter, resolve 
Heather Park Hanlon, ChurchFire - An Installation view 2 
CHRISTINE PALAMIDESSI, The Prometheus Lights   
CHRISTINE PALAMIDESSI, Releasing Blackbirds from Left Shoulder   
Ozlem Ayse Ozgur, Death of A Refugee   
Ozlem Ayse Ozgur, Hometown Left Behind   
paul ott, woods hole  
Jean Noon, Inside Outside 
Erica Nazzaro, Tiny Cabin   
Jeannie Motherwell, Chrysalis  
Jeannie Motherwell, Sol 
Matthew McKee,  Honey Doo! 
Matthew McKee, First Place Burn   
Matthew McKee, Breakfast of Champions 
J Fredric May, Author's Hallucination No. 3 "Les" 
Cynthia Maurice, FIGURE 1 
Dave Martsolf, Windows of Allegory 
Virginia Mahoney, Make-Shift Work Vest
Adamo Macri, Phenotype Bardo  
Madeleine Lord, CORE 
Samantha Lindsay, You Will Get There  
Charlie Lemay, A. I.  
Myung Hwan LEE, Dead hero 
Myung Hwan LEE,  wearing aquarium  
Louise Laplante,  Ancient  Original  Modern Fables and Hares 
Jean-Francois Lanthier, Speak from the heart  
Kristin Krimmel, Site Warrior 
Kristin Krimmel, Yellow Construction Fence 
Kristin Krimmel, Spectacles
Laura Krasnow, Dark Matter #8   
Laura Krasnow, The Day The Earth Stood Still  
Kara Krantz, Vestiges  
Kara Krantz, Fractured  
Kara Krantz, Shattered  
Walter Kopec, The Last Dog Eats Alone (small)   
Walter Kopec, Helping Make America Great Again (PRO/CON STITUTION)  
Walter Kopec, Neighborly Lifestyles of the Richer and Thinner [ENVY] 
Lee Kilpatrick, Easter Dinner 
Lee Kilpatrick, Watching The Olympics   
Marjorie Kaye, MESSAGES  
Marjorie Kaye, SPIDER HATCHERY   
MARCO JIMENEZ, Shirley tempera 
MARCO JIMENEZ, Imperatrix reflexionis 
Kei Ito, Infertile American Dream (Installation shot)  
Joan Bemel Iron Moccasin, Distance Pain  Aerie Lake Cabin  
Clint Imboden, broken "crutch bottoms"  
Clint Imboden, flowers 
Crystal Heiden, Mountains 5 
Susan Harmon, before her mind broke 
Al Harden, brown Targets Bleed Red 
Al Harden, We Are One II 
Leigh Hall, Emerson Woods 
Leigh Hall, Meded Stones
Erik Gehring, Paperbark Maple 
hal gage, Abstraction #3  
Faith Gabel, Dot's Life  
Diane Francis, Old and New  
farzin foroutan, I'm not here  Even not there 
farzin foroutan, I'm not here  Even not there  
Lynda Fatalo, For Rent 
Catherine Evans, Thistle - Carbone Park Maynard 
Catherine Evans, Electric Blue
Tom Estes, Escape Velocity Jellyfish In Space  
Barbara Eskin, CUT OUT/TWOSOME 
Sigrid Ehemann, Style Tips for the Invisible Woman   
Sigrid Ehemann, Style Tips for the Invisible Woman   
Sigrid Ehemann, Style Tips for the Invisible Woman  
Steven Edson, Urban Walls 05   
Katharine Dufault, Evening Walk  
Gary Duehr, Arena: Capt. America   
Gary Duehr, Arena: Fuck You  
Chloe DuBois, Systemic Tension  
Chloe DuBois, Agitated Potential 
Darlene DeVita, Be Here Now Havana Cuba 
Darlene DeVita, Cambodia 2017 
Anna C Curtin, Technicolor Rain   
Marie Craig, Beijing Archway 3   
Gay Cox, Psalm 56  
Gay Cox, Psalm 143:3 4 6 
Christine Comeau, Rituels   
Christine Comeau, Mutations/Rituels
Christine Comeau, Mutations  
Christine Comeau, Inventer le pays  
Yvonne Cilia, Let Me Walk With You 
Ben Carroll, Seat Taken  
Joe Carpineto, Walk-about  
patricia burson, House #55 
Karen Burgess, Terracotta Trooper   
Karen Burgess, Treeform 2   
Karen Burgess, Digital Cowboy
Maggi Brown, The Disconnect   
Maggi Brown, Red Glow 
Jan Brandt, Detail  Happy Contagion 
Jan Brandt, Art Baby 
Jan Brandt, Happy Contagion  
Ryan Bouchard, Untitled  
Jo-Ann Boback, Audacious 
William Bloomfield, Untitled4 
John Blom, The Loop 
Markus Blaus, Chicago Shower  
Markus Blaus, Pompei Charlie  
Lois Bennett, Complicated Spirit   
David R  Banta, Umbrella Lady
Manss Aval, Fifth Dimension  
Stephanie Arnett, Shine  
Stephanie Arnett, Puppeteers 
Stephanie Arnett, Native Structures 4244.8
Jelena, Abstract blue  Sea and the sky
Jelena Antic,  Will You Follow? IV 
Anne Anicet. Linhas à Mostra 6  
Anne Anicet. Linhas à Mostra 3 
Julie Angela Theresa, Nope 
Julie Angela Theresa, Paint Me 
Nancy Anderson, Portrait of a Jack Russell 
Nancy Anderson, Hydrocodone 
Jessica Andersen, Quick  Act Happy! Paint
B Amore, Canterbury Pilgrims 
B Amore, Tree of Life detail 
Dorette Amell, More Alike than Not Alike 
Sara Amato-Gentric,
The kiss


a valentine for you…..

by the-biennial-project 11. February 2018 16:44

The Biennial Project LOVES LOVES LOVES “living these lives in art” as our close friend Jerry Saltz calls it. No joke, seriously, he actually said that. To us. About us. His exact words were “I truly envy you all for these lives lived in art…” We know it sounds just like something that we would make up, but in this case we did not have to. Seriously.

Anyway, back to the lives lived in art thing. The current project of these lives lived in art is our fifth edition of the Boston Biennial. We are getting to experience and promote SO MUCH EXCELLENT ART! We are thrilled to be able to share it with you and everyone out there.

We had planned on closing for submissions on this Wednesday February 14th, but because our inboxes are full of requests for extensions (we get it, we can never finish stuff on time either – we think it’s an artist thing), we have decided to extend the deadline to March 1st. Consider it our valentine to everyone who has been thinking about entering but has yet to get to it. So keep those amazing entries coming, we can’t wait to see your work!


In the meantime, here are some very cool recent entries that strike us as in the spirit of St. Valentine’s Day.


Mend, by Coral Woodbury


Speak from the heart, by Jean-Francois Lanthier


Defende, by James Wodarek


No-77, by Thomas Roth


Helping Make America Great Again (PRO/CON STITUTION), by Walter Kopec


The Biennial Project


more great work being submitted to the Boston Biennial 5…….

by the-biennial-project 5. February 2018 16:42


Darlene DeVita


Hal Gage


Clint Imboden


Madeleine Lord


Jean Noon


Heather Park Hanlon



from the U.S. to Quebec to Greece to Korea to Australia……

by the-biennial-project 14. January 2018 13:10

More exceptional work

being submitted to the

Boston Biennial 5

Extraordinary art from

artists around the world:


          Coral Woodbury, Massachusetts


          Joan Ryan, Massachusetts


          Ruth Rosner, Massachusetts


          Crystal Heiden, Connecticut       

             WATCH VIDEO HERE


          Christine Comeau, Quebec, Canada


          Bill Psarras, Greece



          Myung Hwan LEE, South Korea


          Karen Burgess, Australia

Enter the Boston Biennial 5



from MA to NY to NE to CA to IRAN…….

by the-biennial-project 25. December 2017 17:19

SO MUCH COOL WORK being submitted to the

Boston Biennial 5

Wonderful work from artists NEAR -



Chrysalis by Jeannie Motherwell, see more HERE


Honey Doo!  by Matthew McKee, see more HERE 


Neighborly Lifestyles of the Richer and Thinner [ENVY] by Walter Kopec, see more HERE




Evening Walk by Katharine Dufault, see more HERE



Intrigue by Michelle Woitzel, see more HERE



The Dark Side by Jesse Wiedel, see more HERE

and across the ocean FAR (IRAN)


I'm not here, Even not there by Farzin Foroutan, see more HERE




Call to Entry for the Boston Biennial 5

by the-biennial-project 23. November 2017 12:02

Building on the very positive critical response to 2016's Boston Biennial 4, The Biennial Project is excited to announce that Boston Biennial 5 will be unveiled in the Spring of 2018. Check out the reviews of BB4 here.

Boston Biennial 5 will be juried by the internationally feared artists of The Biennial Project, who will pick prizewinners in the categories of 1) photography, 2) painting/drawing, 3) sculpture, 4) installation, 5) video, 6) performance, 7) mixed media/collage and 8) other.



Reasons To Enter:
- All accepted work will be shown in digital galleries on The Biennial Project website.
- Selected work promoted on Biennial Project Blog postings reaching over 40,000 subscribers.
- Many received entries are highlighted on our social media and in our blog.
- A large screen digital presentation of all accepted work will be shown at Atlantic Works Gallery in April 2018 as part of The Biennial Project's Manifest Destiny exhibition.
- The pieces chosen by the jurors as first prizewinners from these categories (as well as one piece to be chosen for a Special Juror's Prize by a celebrity juror to be announced) will be shown physically in the gallery in this show as well.


We know (from hard experience) that artists just love to wait until the last possible moment to respond to calls for entry. But there are great reasons to break from this time-honored tradition and enter the Boston Biennial 5 early.

You will have a much better chance of having your work promoted as part of the publicity for Boston Biennial 5. We feature an entry of the day every day during the entire entry period - sending a chosen image out on Facebook to our foillowing of 4000 people- and linking to the entrant's website or facebook page. Additionally, we send out Entry Sampler Email Blasts several times during the lead up to the contest, highlighting some of the most interesting work that we have received. Near the end of the entry period we are swamped with the number of replies, whereas at the beginning is much slower - greatly increasing your chances of being included in one of these publicity vehicles. Not to mention that your image could be selected to appear on a postcard or a poster for Boston Biennial 5.


So while we don’t guarantee you instant fame and fortune, you do get a heck of a lot of lot of promotion work for your buck (only $25 for 3 entries). ENTER NOW, we can’t wait to see your work! So enter now! See the impressive entries from our latest contests. Do it!



The Biennial Project Venice Biennale 2017 Artist Trading Cards

by the-biennial-project 11. November 2017 12:28

For those days in Venice we walked down streets so beautiful as to defy description, enjoyed the unfathomable generosity of spirit of the Italians, drank from fountains of prosecco, shared the company of our dearest friends and co-conspirators, swam in an ocean of art, and most importantly lived as artists citizens of some parallel possible world where all countries hold sacred the role of art and artists in defining and maintaining our common humanity. We did (for once) not think about the terror of our current reality, but about the tremulous joy of being alive.

Yep, it was good. And as we now approach the closing of the 2017 Venice Biennale, we’d like to share a few of the artist profiles we did of participating 2017 VB artists. Enjoy them, and if you would like to have your own deck of over 50 artist profiles, let us know and we can send you one for cost plus shipping.

XXOO, The Biennial Project



















PAGE lastxxxxx


Venice Biennial 2017 What We Saw, What We Liked in Summary

by the-biennial-project 7. October 2017 15:53

Breaking news – being an artist is hard.

We’re generally broke, and when we do come by a little money, we usually spend it on stuff to make more art, which perplexes the normal people around us.

And making art means being immersed in the reality of the human experience, which – spoiler alert – sort of sucks these days.

That’s why this particular group of artists gets together every two years to travel to an imaginary land – one in which all the nations of the earth meet in a place of hallucinatory beauty and grandeur to make and experience art, art, and more art.

We mean Venice of course. We went in May, and it was a salve for the soul, as usual. We couldn’t see everything that we wanted to see, as usual. We allowed ourselves to harbor a tiny dream of going back to see more in the fall after the crowds were gone, as usual. There is no way we are going to be able to make that plan work, as usual. [SOUND EFFECT: deep resigned sigh.]

So we’re going to have to make do with our memories. Here are some new WHAT WE LIKED posts, and links to some of the older ones.

Enjoy the read, keep working, and send us plans for art trips we can do together to warm our collective souls.

INTUITION at Palazzo Fortuny

by Coral Woodbury, for The Biennial Project


When you reach the end of what you should know, you will be at the beginning of what you should sense.” Kahlil Gibran

“When the body functions spontaneously, that is called instinct. When the soul functions spontaneously, that is called intuition.” Shree Rajneesh

Peter Greenaway's installation at Palazzo Fortuny during the 1993 Venice Biennale left such an impression on me that the one thing I knew heading to Venice was that I would return to the Palazzo. Even in Venice this is a unique space, embodying faded and decaying grandeur while preserving the home and collections of Mariano Fortuny, an early twentieth-century stage, fashion, and lighting designer. So the house is a stage set of sorts, and one an artist like Greenaway knew how to animate eerily.

As it turned out, I was in time for the sixth and last collaboration of Axel Vervoordt, Belgian antiquarian, art dealer, interior designer and curator, and Daniela Ferretti, Director of Palazzo Fortuny. Intuition was absolutely worth the 25 year wait. READ MORE

The Irish Pavilion

by Anne Murray, for The Biennial Project

“My broken bones shall be a weapon, chaos is the bread I eat!”


photo of Jesse Jones’ installation by Anne Murray

With an impressive sense of dignity, profound understanding of the human condition, and in full knowledge of the challenge that women face in a rapidly morphing set of boundaries created through elusive and divisive judiciary systems in Ireland and abroad, Jesse Jones has created a meta world which challenges the legal system, where what we think and see implores us to react and evolve or suffer the vile subsistence living that will ensue in the storm of chaos unleashed in the form of women forced to take justice into their own hands.

Tremble, Tremble, curated by Tessa Giblin, is more than a pavilion, it is a space between, a space possessed by magic and where fears take shape in an unearthly form, as a human buried under the bog, preserved in flesh, but morphed, shape shifted into something beyond comprehension.

Here, women have an enormous tempest of power controlled only by the force of the black hole of the body of Olwen Fouéré, as a photon encircling and drawn into it only when encountered by the the Higgs boson particle, a weight that gives our thoughts as light mass, and thus, slows us down; we are trapped in this hole with her, as if time would stop or else become eternal, both one in the same. READ MORE

The Mongolian Pavilion

by Victor Salvo for The Biennial Project


photo by Victor Salvo

Lost in Tngri

Fire. The Sun is Heaven sent. The Sunfire makes the pastures grow the pasture grass. The sun droughts up the land or runs away for too long. Cattle sheep ram lamb burn to black. Fire lovemaking sperm seek along the skulls.

Fire droughts up the land. Circling us. Cooking us. Sits down on a lone fire red fish still alive, Sun, still swimming above the scorched economic lines.

Fire. Fire your weapon straight and true. The scope tells you where to aim. Fire molds the bronze. Fire curves the barrel. Water remembers and walks the rifle after rifle, a flock of the ungainly.

Water flows in a ribbon, flows the trees, rivers come from Tngri, the gods, down from the sky, up to the sky.


photo by Paul K. Weiner


by Charlene Liska, originally published in the North End Waterfront

The Biennial Project at Spazio TanaIl Mondo Magico (photos courtesy The Biennial Project)

In this era of biennials, The Venice Biennale, the vast international art festival begun in 1895, is the grandmother of them all. While Venice is revered for it’s great Renaissance and earlier art, the Biennale has always managed to feature avant-garde and contemporary art, and somehow the contrast enlivens both worlds.

I attended the first week of the Venice Biennale with an East Boston-based arts organization, “The Biennial Project” which began about 10 years ago as a send-up of the many pretensions of the art world and has since grown into a world-wide network of people who care a lot about art and not at all about the pretensions. The BP stages its own counter-biennials, including one in Marfa, Texas and four Boston Biennials that have been held here locally, last in 2016. These people are the most serious fun around!

This year, in addition to attending the official Biennale, the Boston-based organization held its own parallel Venice event that featured several hundred artists from across the globe. Participating artists included German-born painter-sculptor Artemis Herber, Florida-based photographer Barbara Revelle, videographer Tom Corby from London, and Zsolt Asztalos, who represented Hungary in the official 2013 Biennale but who chose this year to appear in the Boston organization’s parallel event instead. Poetry, in English and Italian, was recited, locals and visitors confabbed, words and prosecco flowed liberally. One couldn’t really say it was a bit of Boston in Venice; it was more like a bit of the world, that had come together under prompting from Boston on a dark night in a Venice neighborhood to talk, and drink, and talk some more about art, because they admired the weird and interesting spirit of the Biennale and the art works that were on display.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: CLICK HERE to see the galleries of beautiful work exhibited in ArtVenice Biennial IV.]

And there were some stunning pieces in the Venice Biennale, not least, the small old wooden country house with holes in its roof that was imported in its entirety from the Republic of Georgia, down through which the artist, Chachkhiani, caused artificial rain to pour unceasingly, covering everything inside with dripping water; it captured everyone’s worst fear about waking up in the middle of the night to hear water dripping, and finding that somehow a hole has opened up in the roof — in this case many holes! — and the rain is starting to come in. And in the Italian pavilion, Il Mondo Magico, an exhibit which showed an assembly line in which simulated dried and mummified life-sized corpses of Christ were manufactured from plastic materials and then were heated in ovens and allowed to molder, and then, once finished, were broken into large pieces and displayed, in more or less random order, on a dark wall. It was about imitation versus reality, yes, and the almost unbelievable power of technology, but also about magic, and how and why people hope, and the power of belief. Of course, there were more conventional pieces too, in their hundreds; but this gives you an idea.

About timing, for anyone who might be thinking of attending — and it’s well worth going to see! — it makes a Venice trip even more dramatic than it would otherwise be. Either go early, as I did this year, in May, for the excitement of the crowds and the fun of getting there first, or otherwise consider waiting till late in the year — say, October month — which can be exquisite too, since the fact that there are no crowds then means you can actually see and enjoy and understand things in your own good time.

And full marks to “The Biennial Project”: they’re projecting Boston onto the global arts scene in a singular way, and they do it basically because, being artists themselves, they can’t help it. These people are living to make, and view, and talk about art. Interesting way to live.

The Taiwanese Pavilion

by Barbara Jo Revelle, for The Biennial Project


Ok, I’ll admit this up front. I’m wildly attracted to durational performance art. I do it myself sometimes. Not so long ago, as part of an art installation scrutinizing my father’s big game hunting practice, I walked continuously - eight hours a day, seven days a week, for two weeks - on a treadmill set up in a gallery. I stopped only to take pees. While I moved I edited 100+ hours of my father’s old hunting films and videos - mostly shots of him watching game from blinds, hanging cut up animal parts baits in trees, or posing with dead animals and the African natives who helped him track and kill them. This footage was projected onto the gallery walls in front of me as I walked and worked. READ MORE



The Biennial Project


Mongolian Thoughts on Chinese Economic and Environmental Policies

by the-biennial-project 9. September 2017 13:25

Mongolian Pavilion

at the 2017 Venice Biennale

by Victor Salvo for The Biennial Project


photo by Victor Salvo

Lost in Tngri

Fire. The Sun is Heaven sent. The Sunfire makes the pastures grow the pasture grass. The sun droughts up the land or runs away for too long. Cattle sheep ram lamb burn to black. Fire lovemaking sperm seek along the skulls.

Fire droughts up the land. Circling us. Cooking us. Sits down on a lone fire red fish still alive, Sun, still swimming above the scorched economic lines.

Fire. Fire your weapon straight and true. The scope tells you where to aim. Fire molds the bronze. Fire curves the barrel. Water remembers and walks the rifle after rifle, a flock of the ungainly.

Water flows in a ribbon, flows the trees, rivers come from Tngri, the gods, down from the sky, up to the sky.


photo by Paul K. Weiner



Exodus: A Mirror of Hope for the Future of Art Biennials - 4th Mediterranean Biennial of Contemporary Art of Oran, Algeria

by the-biennial-project 12. August 2017 10:46

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The Biennial Project is immensely proud to be able to bring you this very thoughtful look into this biennial exhibit, written by our world-traveling correspondent Anne Murray.] 

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Photo credit Anne Murray, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Oran

4th Mediterranean Biennial of Contemporary Art of Oran, Algeria

Interview by artist and participant Anne Murray, , MFA and Master of Science in Theory, History, and Criticism of Art and Architecture, Pratt Institute, with the curators and co-founders of the Mediterranean Biennial of Contemporary Art of Oran, Algeria, Sadek Rahim, and President of Civ-Oeil Gallery Tewfik Ali Chaouche,

July 2nd-31st, 2017

At the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Oran (MAMO, Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain d'Oran )

With today’s mixture of classic and unconventional biennials, it is necessary to think again about the purpose and drive behind the biennial itself and to wonder where we are going globally in terms of art, its movements, and its connections to globalization.

This year’s Venice Biennale brought about many questions concerning the depth and political responsibilities of the biennial and its context.  Viva Arte Viva seemed a bit superficial in terms of themes, although, yes, we all hope for Art to keep living and to remain strong in terms of significance and output around the world. It played a safe role in terms of not making anyone get too fussy about political titles, while subterfuge allowed some of the individual pavilions to give out unique passports and visas such as the Tunisian Freesa and the NSK pavilion passport.  Although these ideas are not new, since it was Jorge and Lucy Orta who gave out Antarctica World Passports at the 9th Shanghai Biennale back in 2012, they are an indication that just beneath the surface or the superficial title, artists are still challenging the viewer and the world of politics.

Recently, such avant-garde approaches to the biennial format as the Museum of Non-Visible Art Biennial (MONA Biennial), the upcoming Wrong Biennial which combines digital pavilions with physical exhibitions around the world, and the Worldwide Apartment and Studio Biennial, have created a different context all together for the purpose and even, venue of a biennial in contemporary times.

The United States has seen a rise in interest in Islamic art with the displays at the Museum of Modern Art being changed over to represent Islamic art in the collection as a protest to travel bans,, as well as the active collecting happening with the important Guggenheim UBS Map Global Art Initiative,, which has expanded the collection to include more artists from South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa.

In Spain, the recent exhibit, Making Africa, showed at the CCCB, Center of Contemporary Art of Barcelona,, and represented artists and designers from all over Africa, and was a more than subtle hint at the necessity of constructing a vision of Africa of the future through art. Still in Venice, we had a limited amount of representation from Africa and the diaspora with the Diaspora Pavilion, including some key emerging artists and mentor artists of influence from multiple diaspora, and the Nigerian (for the first time), Egyptian, and South African Pavilions.

So, what happens when someone decides to create a biennial that defies convention and is themed from the heart, refusing to indulge in the mass of political ambiguity and safe quadrants of benign titles and approaches, but instead, confronts directly the global issues of exodus? Well, the answer is, the Mediterranean Biennial of Contemporary Art of Oran, Algeria (Biennale Méditerranéenne d'art contemporain d'Oran), which is in its 4th edition this year.

Why is it important? How did it start? Well, considering that there has never been an Algerian Pavilion of Contemporary Art at the Venice Biennial, one realizes that its importance is tantamount in the contemporary art scene, in elevating and preparing the road to an Algerian Pavilion in Venice, in 2019 or 2021.

I asked the curators, Sadek Rahim and Tewfik Ali Chaouche, of the Mediterranean Biennial of Contemporary Art of Oran, Algeria, a few questions about its development, challenges, and the direction it is heading towards, in terms of creating a solid contemporary lift-off for Algerian artists and a pavilion in Venice for the future.

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Photo credit Anne Murray, Curators Sadek Rahim (on the left), Tewfik Ali Chaouche, and journalist Stéphanie Pioda

Murray: What did you expect from artists who submitted work for the theme of Exodus? 

Ali Chaouche: There were 37 Algerian artists and 20 foreign artists this year, hailing from England, Canada, Spain, France, Syria, Switzerland, Turkey, Tunisia, Palestine, the United States, Greece, Italy, and Thailand and the exhibition took place at the recently inaugurated, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Oran.  The participating artists who submitted their work for the theme of Exodus, were welcomed as a part of this project, because of their human and artistic engagement: as was stated in the open call for the theme, ‘Art is the mirror of society; it reflects one’s daily life- happiness and sadness.’ The works of these artists echo this reflection to the public, (of which, there were many visitors in the 4th Biennial)... for me, my objectives as a curator were to re-introduce contemporary art to the people of Oran who could not see and frequent exhibitions and visual art events for a long time except at the Civ-Oeil Gallery (, which shows contemporary art of Oran from time to time; there are no other visual art exhibition spaces in Oran and in the region for that matter.

Murray: Similarly to the early days of the Venice Biennale, I noticed that the biennial in Oran included a selection of invited artists, open call artists selected from around the world, and emerging Algerian artists, is this the way that the selection was made in the past or was it a new combination this year? Was there a particular reason why you made the grouping this way this time?

Ali Chaouche: Concerning the selection of artists, this year, we opted to have three invited artists  (our choice was to have three contemporary Algerian artists who have been recognized recently for their creative productions and their diverse exhibitions across Algeria and abroad).  The other artists who were chosen, represent all the different cities of Algeria, (the young creators), and some of the Mediterranean countries. We accepted some countries outside of the Mediterranean region, because of their relationship to the theme of Exodus. This year, since we had this particular theme of Exodus, our selections were made with this topic as a priority.

Murray: Sadek, what was your major role as a curator in this exhibition?  I understand that you worked with several of the young artists helping them to develop their ideas, what can you share with us about this experience? In the Diaspora Pavilion in Venice, they paired more established artists with emerging artists, to help build and support the younger artists and their careers. Do you think this combination will be a new trend in biennial exhibitions? How do you see what you did in relation to the pairing of artists in the Diaspora Pavilion? As an established artist yourself, were you acting as curator and mentor to these young artists?

Rahim: What David A. Bailey and Jessica Taylor have done, as curators of the Diaspora Pavilion in Venice, and which is very interesting, is to create a pavilion structured as a project. They had the great idea to put out an open call for emerging British artists of various backgrounds in 2016. These young artists had not only to work for projects for the biennial, but also a two-year agenda of mentoring and support by a group of established artists. What we wanted to do at the Mediterranean Biennial of Contemporary Art in Oran, was a bit the same, except with regard to Algeria, there is a sense of urgency, because we are significantly behind in this area.

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Photo credit Sadek Rahim, Camps, an installation by Djamel Benchenine

Rahim: The curatorial work with three young artists, which I had, was such a great experience for me as an artist and as a supporter of change in the cultural and academic programs of our country. These three young artists: Islem Haouti, Nora Zaïr, and Djamel Benchenine were such a good example of what we can do to help young artists to take a step forward. Djamel Benchenine had proposed at the end of my work with him, an installation 6/7 meters called ‘Camps’ a model of a Sahrawi refugee camp (Dakhla) in the city of Tindouf in Algeria. The artist made the tents of this camp out of wood, originally white, Djamel painted them in black, a color that reflects the tragedy of these peoples lives. In 2016, Djamel was invited as an artist to The International Film Festival of Western Sahara (Fisahara), which takes place at this camp among others and also, simultaneously, in Madrid, allowing for a greater number of personalities from the world of Spanish cinema, culture as well as Spanish citizens sympathizing with the Saharawi cause, and to the public in general, to attend and to inquire about the situation of the Saharawi refugees.

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Photo credit Nora Zaïr, a photograph called, Up, by Nora Zaïr

Rahim: Nora Zaïr, photographer, worked on Rumi poetry. Rumi was one of the first who elaborated the ‘Sufi turning’ or the dervish dance, the physical exertions of movement, specifically dancing and whirling, in order to reach a state assumed by outsiders to be one of ‘ecstatic trances’ a way to travel ‘above’ to be closer to heaven. Her installation, a photograph ‘big sticker’ is glued to one of the panels of the museum elevator. Nora photographed a kid next to graffiti on a wall, which said ‘’towards a reinvented world”.

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Photo credit Sadek Rahim, Freedom by Islem Haouti

Rahim: My work with photographer Islem Haouti was mostly about contemporary techniques and how to represent photography in a contemporary way. Islem chose to print a photograph called ‘freedom’ taken in the Western Sahara camps on a sticker and directly mounted it on one of the walls of the museum. The picture was taken when he worked with the Spanish human rights organization ARTifariti, inside a camp in the Western Sahara in 2016. And finally, yes, I think this combination should be a trend in the biennials, especially those of the Arab world and more precisely of the MENASA region (Middle East North Africa South Asia).

Murray: Who were the main jury members for the selection and what background do they have? Have they been involved with this biennial since the beginning?

Ali Chaouche: The principle members of the jury were : Sadek Rahim: artist (’s laureate of the world-renowned, Central St. Martins University of the Arts in London, Co-curator and Co-Founder of the the Mediterranean Biennial of Contemporary Art of Oran, Hafid Boualem: Filmmaker and screenwriter (member of Civ-Oeil Gallery), Karim Benacef : Journalist (director of publication), Abdelhamid Aouragh : Photographer (journalist for Elkhabar ), Tewfik Ali Chaouche, President of the Jury: Artist (Co-Founder and President of the Mediterranean Biennial of Contemporary Art of Oran) During the 3rd and 4th Biennial, Tewfik Ali Chaouche was the curator representing Algeria in the Magmart International Videoart Festival. The members of the jury are all members of the Association of Visual Arts, Civ-Oeil and they have participated actively in the preparation of the 4th biennial. Of note,

I, myself, in the role of co-curator, consulted many professionals in the field of contemporary art, concerning the choices for the 4th biennial (outside of the jury itself) and with Sadek Rahim, we made a final selection taking into consideration the context of contemporary Algerian artists (integrating the works of some young emerging artists) who were included at the end with the selected artists.

Murray: What particularly surprised you about the submissions this year?

Ali Chaouche: This year, many artists surprised us with the context of their works :

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Photo credit Djamel Benchenine, Installation, Exodus Cigarette by Djamel Benchenine

BENCHENINE Djamel, with his installation, Exodus Cigarette: this recent graduate of the Fine Arts School of Oran, made a connection with the younger generation of artists searching for liberty and discovery, he started by making graffiti on the walls of Oran (he draws, paints, and writes poetry to express himself and communicate a message) …with this installation, he delivers to us a strong and expressive message of Exodus in relation to cigarettes (youth smoke Kif or hashish for their specific Exodus)…through these drawings on cigarette papers, he tells us of the daily life of all youth who are forgotten in the shadows of the exodus of the cigarette (he cites 3 stages of the trip for young people : 1st trip towards God (with the worst and the best… to meditate), 2nd is a trip across Europe (immigration or exile), 3rd a trip through the cigarette papers (his drawings on these little translucent papers, but it’s also a trip into recklessness from the effects of hashish used to forget all of life’s daily problems).

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Photo credit Tewfik Ali Chaouche, artist Reyna (Renée Rey) performing Les Naufragés at the Mediterranean Biennial of Contemporary Art of Oran

Renée Rey (Reyna): This French artist is personally engaged in the theme with her performance art connecting photo-video and installation with paintings of drowned people, she presents to us a different way of participating in a biennial of contemporary art, where her way of sharing with the public of Oran engages the audience, quickly. Her section at the exhibition was the most visited and achieved the greatest interest and curiosity from the public.

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Photo credit Sofiane Zouggar, Stories/Moving Objects by Sofiane Zouggar,

Sofiane Zouggar : who made up part of the young contemporary Algerian artists, in this biennial, he presents his reflection in Exodus through a work entitled, Stories/Moving Objects, a beautiful story of a Syrian refugee from Aleppo, exiled to Algiers through the melodies of reed instruments that he makes and plays…this video shows us the drama of the Syrian Exodus from a different artistic angle with musical harmonies of the Ney (an oriental flute made of reeds)

Murray: Were there interpretations of the theme, Exodus, that were different than one would expect?

Ali Chaouche : Yes, there were some artists whose works interpreted the theme of Exodus in a very different way- that is what makes contemporary art so rich, the video art was more present in this biennial, which was a new thing for the MAMO

(Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Oran) which was, recently, inaugurated in March 2017 and did not always have the technical requirements for video projection.

One specific interpretation that caught our attention in terms of the technical and the artistic features, is without a doubt, your (Anne Murray) performance video, Exquisite Exodus. As an American artist, and global citizen, your work was quickly noticed for your beautiful performance video and photo installation highly enhanced by the technique and style of the interpretation of the theme of Exodus, which takes a dimension more psychological in the video accompanied by a narrative text … I see it as a professional work, which makes us proud to have you among the selected artists.   

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Photo credit Anne Murray

Exquisite Exodus by Anne Murray, watch the video here: (pictured above is fellow artist participant, Sihem Salhi, watching the video)

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Photo Credit Anne Murray, video Exquisite Exodus by Anne Murray

Murray: What were the last three biennials like? What venues? How many artists? How were they selected?

Ali Chaouche: The three previous biennials were at the Oran Cathedral (Médiathèque). The 1st Biennial theme was, Contemporary Art in Every State, and it took place from November 27-29, 2010. There were thirty artists who participated hailing from four countries, with 120 works of plastic art and 30 videos. We had 1200 visitors, and it was curated by HACHEMI AMEUR, Director of the Fine Arts School of Mostaganem.  

The 2nd Biennial theme was, Young Contemporary Creation, and it was from March 29-31, 2012 with fifty artists, 15 were foreigners. We had 2 artists-in-residence: Samta Benyahia  and Flaye. There were 3000 visitors and I was the curator. (Tewfik ALI CHAOUCHE, artist/painter –Founder and President of Civ-Oeil)

The 3rd Biennial theme was, The Other, and it was from June 8-10, 2014, also with 50 artists including 15 foreigners and we also had the same 2 artists-in-residence: Samta Benyahia  and Flaye. We had less visitors that year because the timing was during the Baccalaureate exams, around 1500 visitors. We also has a an art intervention by the collective  BOX 24 (Algiers) and had a video projection, a selection fo the international festival, Five. The curator was Karim SERGOUA (artist –teacher at the Fine Arts School).

Murray: What do you plan for the upcoming biennial?

Ali Chaouche: Everything depends on finances: if our association sustained financial support from the ministry of culture for this event it would have been different: We would have an open call to find an event agency that could create the programming for this international event a year in advance. We would choose 3 independent professional curators, with each proposing a different theme: 1 curator for the Algerian diaspora abroad, 1 curator to choose the local artists, 1 curator to choose the foreign artists. The biennial would extend to other spaces around the city of Oran and we would create a catalogue before the opening of the exhibition and other brochures to share around the city and to attract tourism. There would also be guided visits for students and scholars with mediators of contemporary art

Murray: How much do you think the venue and the support of the organizations involved has affected the outcome of the biennials of the past and the current biennial?

Ali Chaouche: Without a doubt, the place of exhibition and the support of state institutions plays a crucial role in the continuation of this art event: previously we had no financial support from the Ministry of Culture, and yet, thanks to various sponsors and partners, we were able to mount this biennial anyway (in the basement of the Mediateque (former Cathedral of Oran, which is currently empty). Now with the new Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, the director is in favor of a partnership and so the financing for the next edition is open to possibilities and we have an optimistic vision for the future.

Murray: Tewfik, what do you as a curator and/or artist bring to the biennial that is unique?

Ali Chaouche: As the curator and artist founder of this biennial, I do everything I can with the organization, administration, and the making of the different exhibitions. There are multiple objectives for this biennial: to create a platform of contemporary art for exchange between artists of the Mediterranean region, also to create an Algerian art market in partnership with the international art market, to make the work of contemporary Algerian artists known internationally, to participate in the confrontation of some of the themes that unite us, and also to participate in the evolution of contemporary art in the Mediterranean region with conferences and round tables, as well as to create catalogues and brochures.

Murray: How do local artists feel about the Venice Biennial? Is it a goal to be represented there?

Ali Chaouche: The Venice Biennial remains the principal frame of reference for excellence for every artist in the Mediterranean region and, most certainly, for Algerian artists in their quest for international recognition, knowing full well that after having exposed their work in the ‘oldest biennial of the world’ its fame will move an artist further up the list of notoriety; some of the artists who have benefited from this recognition and opportunity are French-Algerians, who have had the opportunity to show in other national and curated pavilions, which are not labeled as Algerian, thanks to the help of their galleries, examples are Kader Atia and Adel Abdessemed.

Murray: Sadek, as an Algerian artist with growing distinction in the world, especially after your recent participation in Art Dubai, what are your thoughts and goals and are they related in any way to the Venice Biennial?

Rahim: Even though one’s chances are slim, with my gallery owner in Algiers, Amal Rougab, and the president of the Biennale of Oran, Tewfik Ali Chaouche, we are setting up a project and hoping that the Ministry of Culture will finally make a contribution to try to have a space in the next edition of the Venice Biennale.  We are very motivated since for a very long time artists of Algerian origin participated in the Venice Biennial under so many other flags other than the Algerian one:Kader Attia, Zineb Sedira, Samta Benyahia… in 2015 Massinissa Selmani presented with curator Okwui Onwezor the project 'All the world's future' which had a ‘Special Mention’ during the 56th Biennale Of Venice.

Murray: What are some of the similarities and connections between Venice and Oran historically and in contemporary times?

Ali Chaouche: Oran and Venice are both Mediterranean cities, which have experienced a rich history of cultural and artisanal exchange since the time of the Ottoman empire, when the governor of Oran, Mohamed Kebir, employed some Venetian artisans for the decoration of his palace and vice versa, some Andalusian artisans from Oran, passed their knowledge and skills to Venice. From previous Venice Biennials, one has seen some connections made to Algeria-  in the French pavilion, most notably with the architecture in the balconies of the architect Pouillon (from the period of colonization)…

Murray: What is it that attracts Algerian artists to the Venice Biennial, is there an interest in its connection to the art market?

Ali Chaouche: The Venice Biennial is the tipping point of contemporary art; it is of major importance in the world art market with its reputation and above all, it is the meeting place for art enthusiasts and collectors, from which stems, the interest of curators and Algerian gallerists to eventually have representation with an Algerian Pavilion in Venice.

Murray: How do you see the attraction of Algerians to the Venice Biennial and what are some of the issues related to the contemporary art scene in Algeria that you see manifesting themselves?

Rahim: Many artists leave Algeria because there is a great lack of galleries, museums, art fairs and above all the art market here is at its very infancy. Most of these artists leave the country for Europe or the USA, like Yazid Oulab, Massinissa Salmani or Adel Abdessemed. Artists who are still in the country bet on international events to show their work, to make a living and especially to prove to all the world that there is a consequent art production in the country. So, events such as the Venice Biennial are the ideal opportunity for Algerian artists to prove themselves and their very artistic existence.

Murray: The development of national pavilions has been a large part of the history of the Venice Biennial, how does that relate to Algeria historically and the desires of Algerian artists?

Rahim: In Algeria since its independence in 1962, protectionism, populism and above all nationalism are strict in the country; I wonder how the Algerian state resisted an opportunity like the Venice Biennial to show its power and greatness as is often done during military parades and other nationalist occasions.

Murray: What makes the biennial in Oran distinct from other biennials in the world?

Ali Chaouche: It’s the people and the city, who are open to Mediterranean cultures and to the world, the people are welcoming and curious about contemporary art. On the economic plane, Oran is the 2nd largest city in Algeria after the capital, with its oil port of Arzew and its industrial zone; it has been in a state of urban expansion since 2010 and there is an awareness of that it is still in an adolescent stage (Metro-with the formation of new networks of roads and urban spaces, etc.)… from this, the interest springs to create a new contemporary art space like the Museum of Modern and Conteporary Art of Oran, where the biennial is held this year, and for the work of the organizers of the creation of the network of art lovers and emerging collectors, businessmen like Mr. Dillali Merhi who owns a collection of Dinet, which he donated a part of to the Royal Hotel of Oran, an art space where many art enthusiasts who are investors in Oran in the domain of art and culture can meet up ; it is a city that flourishes day by day with its youth population very focused on new mediums of contemporary expression (photo, video, installation).

Murray: What makes this year’s biennial  in Oran important?

Ali Chaouche: In our eyes, the 4th edition of the biennial in Oran is important because it confirms how unique this union of contemporary art of the Mediterranean is, unique because it is created by an artistic and cultural association (Civ- Oeil glalery). For this reason, one can not simply compare it to other biennials that are run by state authorities and ministries (where politics lays a hand on art). Also, another imporant element of the 4th edition, is the theme, Exodus, which tips its hat to humanity, which, in my opinion, remains the center of interest of authentic and sincere contemporary creation. This is especially true with regard to the artists of Mediterranean countries.

Murray: How is Oran influenced by tourism and what does this mean for the role of visual arts professionals?

Ali Chaouche: Yes, it is influenced tremendously by tourism. During the holiday season, 8 million tourists come to enjoy the spas with their natural springs in the city. It is important for visual arts professionals to invest in the creation of galleries and contemporary art exhibition spaces connected to tourist sites, in order to magnify the exhibitions and festivals in this domain to ensure a creative and dynamic environment, in the sense that it is the tourists, who are in a way the ones who can help launch the art market, as I said before, (this implies both art enthusiasts and collectors).

Murray: Why do it? What makes you put the time in to create a large-scale exhibition like this in Algeria?

Ali Chaouche:  Our association, Civ-Oeil, was created in August of 1997.  For 20 years, we have, myself and some other founding members, organized the 1st National Salon of Fine Arts of Oran. In 2000, we followed with several editions in partnership with the director of culture of the city of Oran, but our ambition grew beyond the scope of the Mediterranean in 2005, and since then many countries have participated. The 5th Mediterranean Salon of Fine Arts, was a complete success in terms of artistic exchange and culture, and let’s not forget to mention that at the time we organized, simultaneously, the Mediterranean Salon of Visual Art and the International Rai Festival of Oran(another level of sharing between visual artists and musical artists). Since 2010, we decided to create this biennial, thankfully with the encouragement of many partners, who have promised us their help (it is only that we had some financial problems relating to our commitments, which are neutral and non-political).  We maintain our freedom in our choices and ideas with respect to the founding principles of the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria. Our Biennial is a biennial founded and created by an artistic and cultural association independent of any guardianship. In the end, what really brings us to realize the magnitude of the impact and importance of this biennial, is our success in the previous editions, which makes our commitment to sharing and creating exchanges between other countries and artists of the Mediterranean and the world, a key factor in creating a message of peace for a better world.

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Photo credit Anne Murray, Guided visit with curators and artists to the Institut Français of Oran

Murray: I also want to mention that there were and continue to be, great things happening for both the public and the participating artists in the biennial. Several of the artists gave artist talks and also met and interacted with the other artists, including going on a guided visit with both of you to an exhibition at the Institut Français, Also, there have been poetry slam events, musical events, author events, with much more to come. Congratulations to you both on a very successful biennial with such tremendous attendance on a daily basis from the public!


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