We Are Our Infrastructure, Argues Newly Announced Shanghai Biennale Chief Curator
13 December 2019
The Power Station of Art will make a fitting location for Andrés Jaque, whose past projects expose the politics concealed by buried pipes and managed cables.
Andrés Jaque. Courtesy of the curator. Photo © Miguel de Guzmán.
Spanish architect, writer, and curator Andrés Jaque has been named the chief curator of the 13th Shanghai Biennale, which will take place at the Power Station of Art (PSA) from 13 November 2020 to 28 March 2021.
Jaque (pronounced 'HA-kay') is the founder of architectural practice Office for Political Innovation and director of Columbia University's Advanced Architectural Design Program. His works have been collected by The Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Asked if architects make good curators, Jaque said, 'My work moves in the boundaries of different disciplines. I believe art has the capacity to gain specificity precisely by becoming part of the climactic, ecological, and social worlds.'
While the Biennale's theme will not be announced until January, Jaque's past projects give an indication of his chief concerns. He often interrogates the politics of the built environment, all the way down to the water and energy infrastructure we take for granted.
This biennale can be a game-changing moment for many people and many collective dynamics
In COSMO (2015), for instance, he created a water purifier composed of circular pipes set in a web of plastic tubes, bringing typically buried water systems above ground. In Spirits Roaming the Earth (2018)—an installation he created in collaboration with video artist Jacolby Satterwhite—he meditated on how fracking for natural gas allowed pollution at the site of extraction to be divorced from pollution at site of use, compared to burning coal or wood. Cleaner burning fuel drove up real estate prices in the city, contributing to the break-up of what he calls Manhattan's 'queerhoods'.
'It's time to discuss the forces that constitute the ecosystems in which humans and non-humans exist, and the huge divides that separate these ecosystems,' Jaque told Ocula Magazine. 'How could the Shanghai Biennale, which occupies the site of a former power station—grounded literally in the engine of the city, its industry, the making of its territories—not be part of these ecosystems?'
China is a fitting, if politically challenging, location for Jaque to expand on earlier themes. Few people are openly gay, it is the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses, and it's the biggest luxury market in the world, seemingly meeting the definition of a 'highendcracy' where, Jaque says, 'cheap forms of exclusivity [have] replaced society's pursuit of fairness.'
'That is why this biennale is so important,' Jaque said. 'This biennale can be a game-changing moment for many people and many collective dynamics.'
Jaque was selected by the ten members of the PSA's Academic Committee, which includes Shanghainese painter Ding Yi; art critics Gao Shiming and Homi K. Bhabha; curators Hou Hanru and Chris Dercon; architect Mark Wigley; Dia Art Foundation's Donna De Salvo; and PSA Director Gong Yan.
Asked why Jaque was chosen, the PSA said in a press release that he 'excels at establishing connections between art and the public through his frequent interdisciplinary collaborations with artists, scientists, architects, historians, ecologists, and other like-minded individuals.'
'Furthermore, the concept of spatial interventions and development of historical depth naturally connect the PSA with Shanghai's civic infrastructure,' they said. —[O]