DECENTERING THE MARKET AND OTHER TALES OF PROGRESS
In December 2009 Atis Rezistans, the Sculptors of Grand Rue, hosted their first Ghetto Biennale. They invited fine artists, film-makers, academics, photographers, musicians, architects and writers, to come to the Grand Rue area of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, to make or witness work that was made or happened, in their neighbourhood. In the words of the writer John Keiffer, it was hoping to be a “'third space'...an event or moment created through a collaboration between artists from radically different backgrounds”. The 2nd Ghetto Biennale took place in December 2011 and seemed, in a contradiction to its aims, to reveal contextual, internal and institutional vulnerabilities to the inequalities that run across race, class and gender, provoking further questioning of the way these dynamics play out in an increasingly globalized art world.
While the Ghetto Biennale was conceived to expose social, racial, class and geographical immobility, it seemed to have upheld these class inertias within its structural core. The Ghetto Biennale is looking for balance amongst the multifarious and often contradictory agendas underpinning the event. Are we institutional critique or a season ticket to the institution? Are we poverty tourism or an exit strategy from the ghetto? What was the effect of the earthquake and the ensuing NGO culture on cross-cultural relations in Haiti?
We decided to respond to the challenges posed by the previous incarnations of this event by giving the 3rd Ghetto Biennale a theme. We sought artistic projects which investigate or respond to ‘The Market’ from the local to the Global. We also decided to make it a lens free Biennale to partially resist both the ethnographic gaze and the commodity fetishism that the lens can engender.
The 3rd Ghetto Biennale 2013 took place from 26th November through the 16th December 2013. All works were made and exhibited in Haiti. Artists were invited to pass one to three weeks in Haiti before presenting their work in the neighbourhood to an audience of local people, Port au Prince neighbourhood communities, arts collectives and arts organisations. The 3rd Ghetto Biennale was co-curated by Andre Eugene, David Frohnapfel, Leah Gordon and Celeur Jean Herard.