On Biennials

December 2018
The biennial as format and phenomenon was declared dead or obsolete time and again, it was discarded as commercial, promotional, touristic, capitalistic, wasteful, white supremacist and what not. In the end, that is not the issue.

The issue is the tension between expectations and pretension, between agency and result. In Volume 54 we look at what biennials promise and what we actually get; we look at who is pulling the strings and for whom they are made. But first and foremost we check what a biennial can do.

Next to the biennials in general with a focus on architecture and design biennials we are zooming in on the Shenzhen Biennale. In UABB 01-07 supplement we look back at seven biennials, their goals and how they transformed the city.


Charles Esche, Ole Bouman, Léa-Catherine Szacka, Brendan Cormier, Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, Francesco Degl’Innocenti, Gabrielle de Vietri, Marina Otero Verzier, Deniz Ova, dpr-barcelona, Tinatin Gurgenidze. Doreen Liu, Shaun Teo, Ou Ning, Juan Du, Meng Jan and an image essay by Charlie Koolhaas.


VOLUME 54: On Biennials
Editor in Chief: Arjen Oosterman
Designed by Irma Boom Office (I. Boom, Jan van der Kleijn)
56 Pages, 33 x 24 cm
Soft cover, stapled

Supplement: UABB 01-07
Edited by UABB Office and Volume,
Designed by Irma Boom Office
56 Pages, 33 x 24 cm
Soft cover, stapled

ISSN 1574-9401
ISBN 9789077966648


Arjen Oosterman
Editorial: Agency
Charles Esche
The Culture Shock Concept Interview
Ole Bouman
The Agency of Biennials
Léa-Catherine Szacka
Brendan Cormier
Imaginary Biennials
Ippolito Pestellini Leparelli
Work in Progress: On Manifesta 2018 Interview
Francesco Degl’Innocenti
Return on Investment
Gabrielle de Vietri
The Art of Boycotting Interview
Marina Otero Verzier
Work! A Curator’s Plea to the Audience
Deniz Ova
Reach Out Interview
Why We Publish (Books on Biennials)
Mila Bolt
Tinatin Gurgenidze
Buildings Are Not Enough