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"Gwanjgu’s biennial feels theatrical and often macabre, while here in Shanghai, the prevailing mode is stoicism, punctuated by moments of manifest political and personal distress."

Kevin McGarry takes on Anselm Franke’s Shanghai Biennial, “Social Factory,” for Art-Agenda.

Was anyone at the Shanghai Biennial? I’m curious to hear more about the local reception of the exhibition, as well.

I saw the biennial, and indeed the mood has much to do with “political and personal distress”, which is not an easy thing to unveil in a state-run venue in China. Of course, the exhibition does suffer from the need to construct generalizations and to satisfy the official “request”. The main project at the Powerstation is quite a cohesive show, with a lot of good works, but it still feels like Franke has been giving the commissioners the finger behind their back.
The shows of the parallel programme, run by separate institutions and commercial locations in Shanghai, are extremely weak. It makes one wonder if the City Pavilions opening in December-January (hosted by gigantic business/shopping centres and the museum founded by the biggest Chinese bank) could provide any alternative voices.

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