Pavilioning Manchester: boundaries of the local, national and global at the Asia Triennial

Beccy Kennedy


Responding specifically to the Asia Triennial Manchester (established in 2008), this article locates the triennial’s title theme of ‘Asia’ within the historical and cultural locale of the city of Manchester, and considers the conceptualisation of categories such as exhibition, festival, pavilion, city and continent, and divisions of ‘east’ and ‘west’ within this cultural landscape. It offers some alternative approaches to the presentation of so-called global artworks in the local spaces of galleries and pavilions, evaluating the international tri/biennial in relation to market forces and notions of nationhood and authorship. Through two case studies – the Asia Triennial Manchester of 2008 and 2011 – highlight processes of categorisation and the difficulties these present for participating artists, explored from the perspective of the author’s own involvement as an academic and curator. Comparisons with approaches taken by curators at other such art events in Istanbul, Gwangju and Singapore, allow for an interrogation of the place of such large-scale festivals within global cities enabling considerations of how to represent art from different nations, with or without using pavilions. These analyses provide the scope for envisioning the potential creative format for Asia Triennial Manchester 2014.

Keywords: pavilion, biennial, global, local, space, city, identity, boundaries, periphery.

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Biographical note

Beccy Kennedy is lecturer in contemporary art history at Manchester Metropolitan University and a part-time journalist and curator. She is the co-editor of the forthcoming Triennial City published by Third Text and is on the editorial board for the Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art. She worked on both editions of Asia Triennial Manchester, in the area of conference organisation, lecturing and curating, working with the organisations Shisha, Cornerhouse and Madlab.