WHAT IS THE GHETTO BIENNALE?
The Ghetto Biennale is a cross-cultural arts festival held in two adjacent informal neighbourhoods in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, called Lakou Cheri and Ghetto Leanne. It is hosted by the artists’ collective, Atis Rezistans, and has taken place every two years starting in December 2009. The Ghetto Biennale is attempting to momentarily transform spaces, dialogues and relationships considered un-navigable and unworkable into transcultural, creative platforms. The Ghetto Biennale has realised a 'chaotic, amorphous, de-institutionalised space' for artistic production that attempts to offer a vibrant creative platform to artists from wide socioeconomic classes.
The Ghetto Biennale is about challenging and hopefully transcending ghettoization in all its forms.
HOW IT WORKS
The Ghetto Biennale issues an international call for artists to apply to come to Port-au-Prince to make work, over a period of three weeks, and exhibit alongside work made by Haitian artists. The work is made and exhibited in the Lakou Cheri and Ghetto Leanne neighbourhoods traditionally noted for craft production but more recently as the crucible for a rebirth of radical and contemporary popular arts in Haiti. In the words of the writer John Kieffer, it was hoping to be a “'third space'...an event or moment created through a collaboration between artists from radically different backgrounds”.
The Ghetto Biennale wants to raise funds to produce a multi-authored catalogue, which documents the first four editions of the biennale, from the initial event in 2009 and including the upcoming 4th Ghetto Biennale 2015 in December.
There have been some incredible projects made in often extremely adverse conditions. The Ghetto Biennale by its nature is transient and ephemeral and after only four days of exhibition the works are rapidly deconstructed and re-appropriated as raw materials back by the neighbourhood. This catalogue will be invaluable in that it will bring all these works back together, reflecting on the process and hearing from the artists themselves.
We want this catalogue to contribute to the debates around global art. This catalogue will be an important addition to critical resources exploring the scholarship and art history of transculturalism, and hopefully lead to a deeper understanding of marginality in the art world.
But finally like the Ghetto Biennale itself, the catalogue will look and feel unlike any other. This will be a visual and written document of the amazing work made, the conversations held and articles written, during and in response to the Ghetto Biennales. It will include statements from artists, project details, critical articles, radio transcripts, local recipes, song lyrics and some newly commissioned texts. The catalogue will be illustrated with drawings, photographs and paintings. Additional content including audio and video files will be available online. This will be a sumptuous document of one of the most radical art happenings in the last decade.
THE HOSTS - ATIS REZISTANS
Atis Rezistans is a dynamic and grassroots group of artists working in the Grand Rue neighbourhood. This is a shifting and expanding community which contains a number of experienced, mature artists, and also a range of younger emerging artists working in sculpture, painting, photography, video, music, writing and performance.
The idea for the Ghetto Biennale came from conversations between the artist and curator Leah Gordon and members of Atis Rezistans about mobility and exclusion for Haitian artists. There have been many times that members of the collective have not been able to attend private views of their own work in major museums due to visa refusal. The Ghetto Biennale has been a dynamic, often unstable, entity ever since its inception and a mechanism through which Atis Rezistans could have more control over the distribution of their works and ideas within the art world.
The networks created through the first three Ghetto Biennales have enabled over 20 members of Atis Rezistans to take part in residencies in Brooklyn, Vermont, Kingston, San Francisco, Venice, Gothenburg and Copenhagen, and exhibit their work internationally including at the Venice Biennale, Italy; the Etnografiska Museet, Stockholm; the Fowler Museum, Los Angeles and at Nottingham Contemporary, UK; and show in commercial spaces in Milan, Berlin, San Francisco, and London. One member has had a book published in the UK and another has been accepted in a global video art festival. Before this only three members had ever left Haiti.
THE VISITING ARTISTS
Since it’s inception in 2009 the Ghetto Biennale has welcomed and hosted over 150 visiting artists from over 25 countries including Australia, Barbados, Belgium, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Sweden, Trinidad, the UK, the USA and Zimbabwe. The 2015 open call to artists has been translated into Chinese, French, Kreyol, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish to further widen the potential demographic of the visiting artists.
For the visiting artists the creativity of the Ghetto Biennale is as much about broken dreams as realised fantasy. There is a rapid entropy and deconstruction of ideas, projects, ideals that takes place on entry to Port-au-Prince and the Ghetto Biennale and it is at this level creativity has to really take place to struggle against the disorder and chaos.
Some of the artists’ projects engaged deeply with the local culture and history, others engaged with the critical political discourse of the Ghetto Biennale and many projects engaged with the material entropy of the site.
This December we have an onsite radio collaboration with Brooklyn's Clocktower Radio, the production of a new Kreyol version of La Bamba, the screening of a film depicting the performance of a Polish opera in a remote Haitian village, sustainable urban garden production, a Mongolian shamen working with a Vodou priest, a performance of a Sun Ra classic by a Haitian Rara band and many other projects that consider global territorial struggles, forms of linguistic friction, and esoteric forms of intransigence. The catalogue will allow international art lovers to see and learn more about these transformative and highly creative projects.
The catalogue will be edited by Leah Gordon and John Kieffer in collaboration with Andre Eugene.
John Kieffer is a writer, cultural critic and consultant who has worked in the arts for 30 years in senior positions with funding bodies and arts organisations, in the UK and internationally. John has worked with and for the Arts Council, the BBC, Artangel, the British Council and many others. He has edited After The Crunch, Creativity/Money/Love and Where Does it Hurt? with Shelagh Wright, John Holden, and John Newbigin (aka Three Johns and Shelagh). In March 2015, John worked with Creative Partnerships Australia on a masterclass series to challenge traditional assumptions about the sustainability, resilience and relevance of the arts.
Andre Eugène was born in the Grand Rue neighbourhood of downtown Port-au-Prince in 1959. He is a leading figure in the artists’ collective known as Atis Rezistans. In 2006 Andre Eugène contributed to a large-scale collective sculptural work, which is a permanent exhibit at the International Museum of Slavery in Liverpool. His work has been shown at the Parc de la Villette, Paris; the Fowler Museum, UCLA, Los Angeles; Nottingham Contemporary, UK and at the Grand Palais, Paris. His work was included in both of the Haitian Pavillions at the 54th Venice Biennale. Andre Eugène is the co-director of the Ghetto Biennale, which has been held in Port-au-Prince since 2009.
Pledge £10 - signed retro 70s Haitian postcard posted in Haiti.
Pledge £15 - receive a potluck limited edition artist-created postcard made during the Ghetto Biennale
Pledge £20 - receive a knitted candy from artist Thomas C Chung
Pledge £30 - receive 25 vinyl stickers of Tom Bogaert's altered 'Prestige' beer labels made for the 3rd Ghetto Biennale.
Pledge £40 - special edition Trance Music Cassttes made for the 4th Ghetto Biennale by Berlin-based artists Bastian Hagedom and Henrike Naumann.
Pledge £50 - limited edition Skype visualisation with Irina Contreras
Pledge £55 - signed copy of the wonderful Ghetto Biennale catalogue posted to you.
Pledge £60 - Lazaros will perform a ritual addressing any concern of the donor (warding off evil, hexing an object or entity, invoking wealth, healing, etc.).
Pledge £70 - a hand-pulled woodblock print of portraits of Haitian street vendors by Ghetto Biennale participant Lee Lee each paired with a Haitian recipe sourced in the Atis Rezistans neighbourhood.
Pledge £80 - set of Soul Jazz Records Haitian CDs and DVDs signed by Stuart Baker.
Pledge £100 - a unique tyre cut from the Atis Rezistans ateliers and your name included in the list of funders in the catalogue.
Pledge £120 - a 45-minute consultation with award-winning London-based architect and former Ghetto Biennale participant Vivian Chan, CEO of Studio Verve.
Pledge £150 - a complimentary night in the best suite (sleeps 6 easily) at the infamous Oloffson Hotel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Pledge £350 - a limited edition print by Laura Heyman from the Pa Bouje Anko series taken in the Atis Rezistans neighbourhood.
Pledge £400 - a limited edition print "Dusty Road, Haiti, Leah Gordon" by Ranu Mukherjee
Pledge £500 - a limited edition of a Tom Bogaert work in collaboration with Michel Lafleur: versions of murals made for the 3rd Ghetto Biennale.
Pledge £750 - pair of VIP tickets to your chosen location on next Arcade Fire world tour including meeting with the band at the after party.
Pledge £1500 - a specially created limited edition photographic print by Leah Gordon, the co-director of the Ghetto Biennale.
Pledge £2000 - Bill Drummond, artist and musician, will come to your house anywhere in the world and make soup for you, your family and your close friends.
Risks and challenges
The Ghetto Biennale is an audacious experiment and consequently is always developing and evolving. It has been at times a contested site due to the proximity of artists from such diverse backgrounds. We welcome those interactions and are excited that this catalogue can document the amazing, sometimes conflicted and difficult narrative of this unique event, which has led to the creative development of everyone involved through the relationships, dialogues and networks which form the core of the event.
And in the interest of expanding those networks even further, we have just been offered a great distribution deal by Central Books who distribute to art book outlets worldwide...so we can be sure that this catalogue will bring wider visibility to Atis Rezistans and the Ghetto Biennale.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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