Monday, December 30, 2013

The Many Contradictions of a 'Ghetto Biennale'

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — In 2011, for the second Ghetto Biennale, artist Jason Metcalf hired a Haitian translator to translate the chapter on creolization from Nicholas Bourriaud’s The Radicant into Creole and distributed it throughout Port-au-Prince, the location of the biennale. When I read about that, after the fact, I became interested in visiting. Then I read that Bill Drummond, of 1980s avant-garde pop group The KLF, was involved in the Ghetto Biennales of 2009 and 2011, and I knew I was definitely going in 2013.

This year, Tom Bogaert, an artist who’s currently one of my favorites, was participating. Also for this edition, the band Arcade Fire commissioned a work by Haitian sculptor André Eugène, which became part of a procession that kickstarted the biennale. It consists of a coffin decorated with old CDs, from which a double-headed, skulled metal snake emerges. The procession took off from the Oloffson Hotel, which is featured prominently in The Comedians by Graham Greene. That’s where I stayed during my visit.

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