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Conceived with the aim of measuring itself against a specific geo-historic context, and proposed as a form of minor language within the biennale system, Starting from the Desert seeks to respond to contemporary urgencies (not only in China) by adopting an 'archaeological method'. Northwest China is still considered a remote corner, but one which, owing to the historic Silk Road, has been defined through time as a place of great flows, hybridizations and exchange of people, knowledge, languages, technologies, religions, animals, spices and goods.
In relation to the possibility of reducing the Eurasian continent to simple geo-economics, which could well be implied in current large-scale projects, the Second Yinchuan Biennale seeks to read the modalities of 'group-being' at the crossroad of heterogeneous components, as indispensable to a new ecology that intends to emancipate all forms of life. In the search for eco-logics as a new paradigm of transversal thought, the Second Yinchuan Biennale attempts not to reduce these elements to the subject matter, but to utilize them in order to question the limits of the exhibition format, and thus to eventually produce a new eco-model of exhibiting.
Curators and artists during the survey of the countryside
The Biennale’s framework is articulated over four, interdependent (and often overlapping) thematic areas that, without seeking to limit or circumscribe, attempts to visualize their material and immaterial aspects. In the same way, these areas try to question the contradictions of the dualistic systems that have accompanied the rise of Modernity and Capital, positioning them as limits to the realization of an ecosocial program for our time.
This thematic area is concerned with the interaction of the physical environment with forms of life. It proposes less the different natures of the two spatial types, than their reciprocal meeting points, their intersections, and the passage from the one to the other. If it is true that the desert of sand is not an area designed exclusively by geology and the climate, it is equally true that rural spaces are not created solely by humans but also by a series of natural constraints and opportunities. The social, economic, cultural and political implications linked to the figures of the nomad and the peasant are seen as the semiotics of subjectification.
Labor-in-Nature and Nature-in-Labor, a coinage taken from Jason W. Moore, focuses on forces of production (commodification) and on the relations of production (appropriation, exploitation, accumulation) linked to modern ideas of nature. It is only by overcoming the hegemonic vision of nature as separate from humankind (that has been the lifeblood of capitalism) that we can acknowledge how, production forces –historically determined– have encompassed human (women, slaves, children) and extra-human (animals, forests, waterways, the land) nature.
This area intervenes at the level of mental ecology deconstructing the opposition between phonemes and graphemes, orality and writing, and the prejudices of a logocentrism, which in the West has defined what takes place in and beyond history. Considering voice without language a language without a voice, directly involves the questions of the production and reproduction of knowledge and, as a consequence, the dimensions of politics.
This thematic approach discusses associations and the associative forms of living beings: from the micro-social to the institutional scale. The concept of community on which modernity is founded (and through which extra-human nature is also considered) is based on the idea of a common and shared world in which the condition of equality is indivisible from that of identity and belonging. For this reason, the relation between minorities and a majority does nothing but infinitely reproduce the dialectics between integration and exclusion. The idea of multiplicity, at the base of social ecology, does not permit, on the contrary, any concept of a majority.
With newly commissioned works alongside ancient artistic relics from public museums and private collections, the Second Yinchuan Biennale has selected the 90 participating artists from over thirty regions, paying particular attention to the western borders of China (from Mongolia to Central and Southeast Asia) in a way that is consistent with the exhibition’s geopolitical, investigative methods. Starting from the Desert. Ecologies on the Edge announces its final list of artists.
Marco Scotini, Andris Brinkmanis, Zasha Colah, Paolo Caffoni, Lu Xinghua
From press information.
© Images: Courtesy of Yinchuan Biennale