The 2nd Ghetto Biennale is due to take place from 28th November until 18th December 2011. The 1st ‘Ghetto Biennale’ was held in December 2009 and was hosted by the Atis-Rezistans, the Sculptors of Grand Rue. They invited fine artists, film-makers, academics, photographers, musicians, architects and writers, to come to the Grand Rue area of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, to make or witness work that was shown or happened, in their neighbourhood. In the words of the writer John Keiffer it was a “’third space’…an event or moment created through a collaboration between artists from radically different backgrounds”. Artists from many countries including Australia, Italy, the UK, Jamaica, the USA and Cuba came to Haiti to participate in the Ghetto Biennale.
This is not in reality a Biennale, as traditionally conceived, rather an invitation by a group of Haitian artists to visiting Western and non-Western artists to come to Haiti and “make work” with them to produce a show at the end. There are a number of complex and over-lapping motives for this event.
The lack of formal arts training in Haiti, whilst possibly liberating in many ways, leaves youths and artists sometimes very frustrated in their thirst for new ideas, influences, mediums and aesthetics. The Ghetto Biennale is an arena within which the visiting artists and academics can share philosophies, ideas and aesthetic practices with Haitian arts practitioners.
Presentation is an important aspect of the work of Atis-Rezistans and they have created a unique and local site specific installation in their own neighbourhood. This project has allowed Haitian artists to expose their work, in situ, to the visiting artists, curators, journalists and academics. This has given Haitian artists’ the chance to reach a far wider audience, make important contacts and integrate with wider arts networks.
Atis-Rezistans also want to use the Ghetto Biennale to portray a more creative aspect of Haitian reality, to counterbalance the current, dominant negative portrayal of the country. The Ghetto Biennale is an alternative model of tourism which brings visitors who can have positive and creative experiences in Haiti and learn about the rich cultural heritage.
The Ghetto Biennale attracted a large local audience for the final exhibition which significantly broadened the national demographic for arts event attendance.
This project highlights issues of migration and global freedoms of association and gives collaborative and creative possibilities between artists from radically different backgrounds to explore and address these issues. This project is also about institutional critique which will question the advancement of globalisation and Western hegemony. We envision this as the first of many conversations.
The Ghetto Biennale will be holding a congress at the end of the event for the Haitian artists, the visiting artists, Haitian and visiting academics to formally express their experiences and create a dialogue which will hopefully contribute to a debate on the globalisation of art history and the positioning of non-Western art. We hope to use it as a basis to interrogate many terms, cultural positions and arts practices.
The Ghetto Biennale is due to take place between the dates 28th November until 18th December. There will be an event displaying the works created during the process on 16th December and all the artists will be present for a final conference on the 17th December. The Ghetto Biennale is organised and curated by Andre Eugene, Leah Gordon and Celeur Jean Herard.