The epilogue of the 11th Berlin Biennale, titled ‘‘The Crack Begins Within”, has opened to the public following its postponement due to Covid-19. Beginning in September 2019, this edition of the biennale has taken a process-based approach, unfolding in three previous ‘experiences’ at ExRotaprint and now reaching its conclusion.
The curatorial concept of the biennale, which largely examines structures of oppression, bringing to the fore stories and voices that have been systematically excluded, while looking at ways of building community, is in many ways re-signified by the current context, becoming all the more timely.
Collectively identifying as female, the team of four, mostly South American, curators — María Berríos, Renata Cervetto, Lisette Lagnado and Agustín Pérez Rubio — initiated a slowed down approach to what is typically a short-term exhibition format. ExRotaprint, a first-time biennale venue, was the site of the first three experiences, which began last year and ran through this spring, as well as a meeting place for the curators and the local community throughout the process. Part of the epilogue is also housed at ExRotaprint, with three other ‘chapters’ housed at KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Gropius Bau, and daadgalerie — given the titles ‘The Living Archive’, ‘The Antichurch’, ‘The Inverted Museum’, and ‘Storefront for Dissident Bodies’.
‘The Living Archive’ brings together material from the experiments, encounters and conversations collected over the course of the three initial experiences, offering an opportunity to revisit and approach them from a new perspective. One such material is the Feminist Health Care Research Group’s zine, Being in Crises Together (Vol. 3), which has been produced within the frame of the epilogue and is featured at ExRotaprint. The publication is based on the workshop Encountering Each Other in Crises, which took place at the end of last year in tandem with experience two: ‘Virginia de Medeiros — Feminist Health Care Research Group’. Reflecting on this exhibition, curator María Berríos brings up one of the shifts that have taken place in thinking about topics and conversations that were initiated last year, as part of the earlier sequences of the biennale. “The discussion then was ‘but how is healthcare political?’, and now this question seems so absurd,” she says.
In spite of the obvious complications and practical concerns that go along with organizing a biennale during a pandemic, the postponement and the nature of opening an exhibition with social-distancing regulations in place can perhaps also be seen in a constructive way. As the curators’ initial approach not only emphasized slowing down, but also taking the time to build sustainable relationships.