Thessaloniki Biennale 3


The 3rd Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art under the title Old Intersection-Make it New, introduces itself to the public from September 18 to December 18, 2011 in Thessaloniki, Greece.

The Biennale of 2011 differs from the previous ones, not only in the area of interest and its realization time, but in its collaborating institutions as well. The State Museum of Contemporary Art is the leader of the team which is comprised by museums-members of the “Thessaloniki – 5 Museums Movement” (5M): Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Museum of Byzantine Culture, Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, State Museum of Contemporary Art, Teloglion Foundation of Art AUTH.

The 3rd Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art under the general title Old Intersection-Make it New focuses on the Mediterranean region and is framed by a main and a parallel programme of artistic events, such as exhibitions by the “5M”, the International Workshop of Young Artists “Domino”, the Performance Festival, and a symposium.

The 3rd Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art is funded under the Operational Programme Macedonia – Thrace 2007-2013, implemented by the SMCA and co-financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund).

The Biennale is also part of the “Thessaloniki: Cultural Crossroads” programme of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Tourism, focussing this year on the Middle East, and running under the Municipality of Thessaloniki, Department of Culture, Education and Tourism, the 9th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities and other cultural and educational partners jointly.

  • Director: Katerina Koskina, SMCA President
  • International Advisory Committee:
    • Catherine David
    • Maria Rosa Girace Pieralisi
    • Jannis Kounellis
    • Jessica Morgan
    • Denys Zacharopoulos
  • Main programme curators: Paolo Colombo, Marina Fokidis, Mahita El Bacha Urieta


In the current climate of gathering instability that holds great promise as well as danger, this title, A Rock and a Hard Place, resonates powerfully. It captures the sense of fragility and jeopardy that looms over the wider politics of the Mediterranean and the psychology of the individual. The title refers to the expression “Being caught between a rock and a hard place” which indicates psychological, social, and political dilemmas that often present painful alternatives. The saying originates in Greek mythology, in “The Odyssey”. In his efforts to return home, Odysseus must pass between Scylla and Charybdis. Scylla was a horrible man-eating monster that struck from above the cliffs – the “rock” – while Charydbis was a treacherous whirlpool – the “hard place”. Humanity is capable of both great joys and great miseries. There are no easy solutions as all possible outcomes generally entail a degree of discomfort or a price to pay. The space between a Rock and a Hard Place is indeed a precarious trajectory which, paradoxically, also has the potential to become a positive and productive transition in hindsight.

Affected by a sense of impending danger and ‘Hamletic’ doubt, contemporary artists produce work that is often characterised by a defensive, ironic stance. Leaving behind the strong, iconic gestures and sweeping political statements of the past, A Rock and a Hard Place examines the changes, the shifts, and the different perspectives of more than 50 artists with a special focus on the Eastern Mediterranean. Engaging with the historical significance of the venues and of Thessaloniki — a crucible of cultures for the past 2500 years — the Biennial explores a number of topical issues ranging from social conflict to the quandaries of the individual caught in an economic and existential crisis in the context of the Eastern Mediterranean.

A Rock and a Hard Place will take place in historical buildings of the city: Alatza Imaret, Bazaar Hamam, Bey Hamam, Casa Bianca, Yeni Djami, The Old Pumping station at the port, as well as in five museums: The State Museum of Contemporary Art, The Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, The Teloglion Foundation of Art, The Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki and The Museum of Byzantine Culture, which are part of the consortium that organises the Biennial.

The Biennale will relate to the city of Thessaloniki as a metaphor for its vigorous multicultural character of the past. Each of the buildings, which will house Biennale exhibitions, will form single episodes of the Main Programme’s overall narrative. These episodes will be inspired from the past and present usage of these buildings: their past and contemporary contributions to the social life of the city and to its political under-skin. Current trademarks of specific local neighbourhoods of the city, each of these buildings and their specific character will together determine the content for this biennale.

A Rock and a Hard Place will consist of a historical prologue (prodrome) at the Casa Bianca, a rehearsal for a “futuristic pluralism” at the Alatza Imaret and a polyphony that references the multiple lives of Yeni Djami.

Casa Bianca will be turned into a house for reflection and for conversation: a salon which lifetime spans from the period of its construction until our present day. It will be a place where the history of Thessaloniki will have a bearing and will usher a number of contemporary works that examine the tradition of writing and of narrative in literature: an “ideal library” for artists and visitors alike.

Alatza Imaret will be re-transformed to a colourful “hostel”, as its name indicates (alatza means colourful, and Imaret means house of the poor): A place where a variety of voices-even conflicting ones -will coincide vivaciously , eliminating ostensible discrepancies. The city ‘s hybrid past will resonate through a number of contemporary works. A backyard of relief, Alatza Imaret will grow to be a rehearsal for meaningful conviviality for both the artists and the visitors .

The Yeni Djami will become an anachronistic space where several site-specific artist interventions will create a poetical polyphony where different periods of the city of Thessaloniki – which can all be seen referenced in the Yeni Djami today – will simultaneously resound: Spanish, Moorish, Islamic, Turkish, Ottoman, Jewish…

These three exhibitions will form the heart of the Main Programme, which will also include displays in the five collaborating museums, installations in a number of Islamic monuments, and an information centre that will be an integral part of the exhibition. In addition, a series of performances and interactions will address cultural and popular issues in the Mediterranean area and several artist interventions will link up the buildings that form the constellation of the different parts of the Biennale.

Paolo Colombo, Mahita El Bacha Urieta, Marina Fokidis

The artists

98 Weeks, Mounira Al Solh, Archive (Francesca Boenzi, Paolo Caffoni, Chiara Figone, Ignas Petronis), Francis Alÿs, Arab Image Foundation, Rasheed Araeen, Athanasios Argianas, Katerina Athanasopoulou, Alexandra Bachzetsis, Manfredi Beninati, Christoph Büchel, Pierpaolo Campanini, Vlassis Caniaris, Spartacus Chetwynd, Cinemathèque de Tanger, Keren Cytter, Christina Dimitriadis, e-flux project (Julieta Aranda & Anton Vidokle), Yasmine Eid-Sabbagh (in collaboration with Arab Image Foundation), Thomas Dworzak, Andreas Embirikos, Mounir Fatmi, Emmanuel Finkiel, Penelope Georgiou, Steven C.Harvey, IKONOTV, Mahmoud Kaabour, Dionisis Kavallieratos, Ali Kazma, William Kentridge, Khatt Foundation, Alexander Kluge, Panos Koutroubousis, Nikolaj B.S. Larsen, Solon Lekkas, Sifis Likakis, Katariina Lillqvist, Zeina Maasri, Margherita Manzelli, Irini Miga, Nasreldin Moataz, Bruce Nauman, Pavlos Nikolakopoulos, Olaf Nikolai, Jockum Nordström, Pantelis Pantelopoulos, Alessandro Pessoli, Michail Pirgelis, Angelos Plessas, PRISM TV (Nikos Katsaounis & Nina Paschalidou), Imran Qureshi, Jean-Marc Rochette, Marwan Sahmarani, Yiorgos Sapountzis, Hrair Sarkissian, Yehudit Sasportas, Alberto Savinio, Tayfun Serttas, Ahlam Shibli, Slavs and Tatars, Socratis Socratous, Christiana Soulou, Naoko Takahashi, Ryan Trecartin, Kostas Tsioukas, Andreas Vais, Nanos Valaoritis, Kostis Velonis, Pae White, Constantinos Xenakis, Akram Zaatari.

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