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It was clear when rabble-rousing Polish filmmaker Artur Żmijewski stepped to the helm that this year’s Biennale would be a political one, blurring the line between art and action. Upon invitation from Żmijewski and co-curator Joanna Warsza, for the duration of the exhibition Occupy activists are taking over the entire first floor of the KW building, which will also house Occupy’s ‘General Assembly’, the horizontal decision-making process favoured within the leaderless movement.
Ambitiously, Żmijewski and Warsza have also invited the founders of TheGlobalSquare.org, a decentralised, open-source network of activists that endeavours to unite all social networks into one seamless global collaboration, eventually evolving into an online platform for worldwide self-governance.
But the Biennale is tapping other means to promote participation as well. In 2010, over 5000 applicants responded to the open call to join an ‘artwiki’ and now, as participants in Artwiki.org, they are part of a platform for sharing profiles, biographies, portfolios and expressing political opinion. The process also lends transparency to the curatorial process as a freely accessed, user-controlled database.
Then there’s Tomas Rafa’s homepage project Art Covers Politics. He has issued the following open call for participation: “Is there any political event, action or incident that you can record? Do it and send us the image indicating your name, event, its location and date to the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org. com’. So that the homepage will be a responsive site dedicated to representing the wider world and changing accordingly.”
Back in the corporeal realm, for his project The Draftsmen’s Congress, Polish artist Pawel Althamer will cover the walls and floors of St. Elisabeth-Kirche in Mitte with white paper and encourage artists to use visual mediums to converse about religion, politics, economy and other charged issues by drawing instead of talking. People are even encouraged to initiate image battles by commenting on and challenging the works of others.
If there’s one thing the Biennale doesn’t want this year, it’s passivity. Forget wandering around dewy eyed and slack-jawed. Participation, it would seem, is key. The time has come to roll up your sleeves – virtual or otherwise – and get involved.
7TH BERLIN BIENNALE FOR CONTEMPORARY ART Apr 27 – Jul 1| Full programme and other details at www.berlinbiennale.de