Informations and abstract
Keywords: Biennale; festival; policy; culture; public sphere.
The article proposes a cultural sociology of the Venice Biennale as a case study providing insights into what is often termed 'global culture', but is rarely empirically studied in clearly defined contexts. In Venice, the original format of national pavilions competing for a prize has characterised it since its inception in 1895, and is maintained but also increasingly challenged by the Biennale's own expansion and diversification. The politics of display in international cultural diplomacy has become just one of the possible narratives of an increasingly transnational, global public sphere. By looking in-depth at the Biennale and its evolution it is possible to probe into the rise and fall of these competing narratives that provide a content for current, globalised trends in cultural production and participation. This article will first trace the genealogy of the Venice Biennale from 19th century world fairs as providing an important interpretative key to the Biennale, as well as to the so-called more recent biennalization of contemporary art well beyond - but originally out of - the Venice Biennale and the World expo concept. On that basis, the article then considers the Biennale's relevance for contemporary cultural policy and politics: from the analysis of direct cultural policy aspects such as urban regeneration aspirations and the relationship with place and publics, to how wider issues of cultural politics are raised and reframed within the evolving Biennale format. The article draws on ongoing research on festivals and public culture in Europe; it reports on the case study of the Venice Biennale, based on historical and documentary sources, fieldwork observation and interviews with key informants.