The Biennial Form and the Narration of History: Thinking through “The Ghost Ship and the Sea Change"
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionParse. Spring 2021, 13.1.
Exhibitions are powerful tools for the staging of historical narratives. Since the 1960s, historiography through exhibition-making has undergone a re-conception through artistic and curatorial practice. Contemporary art biennials and other large-scale periodic exhibitions have provided important platforms for artists and curators to experiment with historical narration in ways distinctly different from historical museums, often placing an emphasis on context-specificity and the relationship between suppressed histories of the past and the political present. This article explores the potential of the biennial as a site of historical narration, using the curatorial process behind the 2021 edition of Göteborg International Biennial of Contemporary Art, The Ghost Ship and the Sea Change, as a case study. Proposing that the biennial form be used as a situated and poly-vocal countermodel to the master narrative of the historical museum, it argues for artistic and curatorial practices to be seen as continuations of ways of telling about the world preceding the modern discipline of History and the imperial boundaries between past and present, and fact and fiction.