Biennales of a Fluxy Kind and Creative Citizenship

In Newcastle (NSW), October 2003, there is a proposed project, The Empty Show Biennale (ESB)… It will be the 4th Empty Show, the first 2 taking place in Melbourne, the 3rd Canberra, and the 4th in Sydney. It is a growing phenomenon, with artists taking over an empty building, “interior decorating it”, and then launching a clandestine opening party, some of which have been shut down by police. The ESB in Newcastle is designed to be “self organising” – anyone can be involved, groups of artists are encouraged to find their own venues and make their show happen, without worrying about where and what others are up to. The autonomous shows are connected by a publicity website. Nobody`s in charge, nobody can be held responsible, right?

Reminds me of when I was in London in 2000. There was a great “spoof” biennale called “The London Biennale” (LB) which sounds very impressive, London being a big city and all.

The LB was initiated by David Medalla, an ole Filipino-English Fluxus artist, so, being Fluxy, of course anyone who wanted to could be involved. This would definitely cause some anxiety in the parallel universe of Important Biennales, which are all about exclusivity and prestige.

We would meet each monday night in a bookstore, sometimes upwards of 60 bodies, all bristling with ideas for projects, exhibitions, and, mainly, performances somewhere in public space. info would be shared as to good locations, labour exchange, “i wanna get involved”.

The biennale ran for 4 months, may june july aug of 2000. A calendar was updated daily on a website and the readymade rent-a-crowd of biennale participants was always on hand for events.

For me, the best LB projects were those which actually used the sociability of those meetings to develop contacts and make work, rather than just advertise an event. in one of these, a german artist, Andreas Uhl, claimed a piece of antarctica which had broken off (due to global warming) as a sovereign nation, called “Fadeland”, which had an open citizenship policy. The project grew as more and more people signed up as citizens and ambassadors of Fadeland, a nation which, as its icebulk drifted north, was gradually melting and “fading”. Its borders were designed to shrink. Somebody wrote a national anthem (“our land is made of water” was my favourite line) and a choir was assembled to sing it in a proud ceremony, in which a huge block of ice was shipped up the london canals, melting all the while. It was a hoot. And in the context of the LB, which included dozens and dozens of non-english artists (who, like me, were hanging out in London because the place, while cold and grey, is so damn interesting), we already HAD our Fadeland – an association of individuals supporting each other, which transcended national borders. (ps, in case anyone needs to know, I am the official Australian ambassador to Fadeland).

I guess what I`m sayin is that autonomously “organised” projects (like the proposed Empty Show Biennale) can work. Ya dont need curators. Just energy and somebody who`s clever with websites. Which I see is already taken care of…at [postscript: this website is no longer there].

ps…just noticed another artist who has worked with passports, Tom Muller. His project, World Passport, has a different idea – to issue passports so that you are registered as a “World Citizen”. See It seems his production values are very high, and a passport costs $150 too (Fadeland citizenship registration, from memory, cost five pounds). Strangely, there is a site with a very similar idea (World Passports) which doesn’t seem to have any “art content” whatsoever (i could be wrong!)…

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