Creating an Emotional Biennial

– Let’s try to feel the exhibition. Then we might be able to see history from a different angle, says Marti Manen, who will curate the 10th Momentum biennial.

Marti Manen. Photo: Konstfack.

Marti Manen will curate the tenth instalment of Momentum – The Nordic Biennial of Contemporary Art, opening in Moss in June 2019. For the first time in the biennial’s twenty-year history, a single curator holds complete artistic responsibility for the exhibition, which will be called Momentum 10 / The Emotional Exhibition. For all previous incarnations of the biennial, the organiser, Punkt Ø, has put together curatorial teams that cut across the Nordic countries.

The curator and critic Marti Manen was born in Barcelona in 1976 and lives in Stockholm, where he holds a position as curator for the Public Art Agency Sweden (Statens Konstråd) and for the degree shows held at Konstfack in recent years. He launched his curatorial career back in the 1990s while still a student by hosting exhibitions in his own flat. He has curated exhibitions at Konsthall C in Stockholm and the Miró Foundation in Barcelona. In 2015 he curated the Spanish pavilion at the Venice Biennale, and he was co-curator of the Finnish Turku Biennial in 2011. Manen has also published several books, including Salir de la exposición (To Leave the Exhibition) from 2012.

Manen tells Kunstkritikk that he, in his former projects, was interested in reformulating traditional exhibition formats. For example, the dual exhibition project Telling Everything, Not Knowing How (2012) consisted of an actual exhibition at Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo in Madrid and an exhibition in the form of a novel in which sixty works of art constituted the mainstays of a fictional narrative written by Manen himself. The Momentum exhibition will also take an experimental starting point, says Manen.

Cabello y Carceller The State of the Art – A Performative Essay, 2015. Site-specific installation in the Spanish Pavilion during the 56th Venice Biennale.

– With 10 editions of Momentum over a period of 20 years, there is a history to revisit. Momentum has been with us for a long time, it has offered us experiences and has been defining the works of many artists. I think that we need to stop every now and then to observe what has been said in previous “present times”. I have specific works in mind that I want to approach from the perspective of “today” and put into dialogue with new productions, says Manen, who does not wish to specify the previous Momentum works in question.

You’ve given the exhibition the title Momentum 10 / The Emotional Exhibition. How do you envision these emotional aspects emerging in the exhibition?

– This too relates to a particular idea of history. Traditionally, history has been written while avoiding the emotional. Emphasising the emotional might let us approach history more critically. For example, I really enjoy the queer theoretical approach taken by the historian Elizabeth Freeman. I think that it’s very interesting how art often plays an important role within this type of alternative history writing. And this is because art does not offer clear-cut messages, but rather opens up opportunities for leaping between our present, past and future. Feminist history writing also provides a way to reformulate a genealogy for our times. It’s interesting to consider the criticism of historiography in relation to the history writing coming out of the white cube. Let’s try to feel the exhibition. Then we might be able to see history from a different angle.

Rosana Antolí, The First Dinner, 2012. From the exhibition Telling Everything, Not Knowing How, CA2M, Madrid, 2012.