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Crack Up - Crack Down, the 33rd Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts opens
Crack Up - Crack Down, 33rd Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts, curated by Slavs and Tatars, 2019, Installation view, Photo Jaka Babnik. MGLC Archive.

LJUBLJANA.- The Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts announced the opening of its 33rd edition, entitled Crack Up - Crack Down, on the 7th June in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Marking the curatorial debut of art collective Slavs and Tatars, Crack Up – Crack Down celebrates the legacy built since the Biennial’s formation in 1955 by exploring the work of both internationally recognised and emerging contemporary artists across nine different venues within the city.

Crack Up – Crack Down takes an expansive view of the genre of satire; curators Slavs and Tatars propose to consider ‘the graphic’ not as a medium, but as an agency, particularly how graphic language engenders a form of infra-politics such as irony or ridicule, as a particularly resilient and contemporary form of critique.

As well as major works by renowned international artists such as Nicole Wermers and Martine Gutierrez, the Biennial welcomes new commissions from Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Hamja Ahsan, Pablo Bronstein, Cevdet Erek, Arthur Fournier, Raphael Koenig, Flaka Haliti, Zhanna Kadyrova, Dozie Kanu, Marlie Mul, Woody De Othello, Alenka Pirman and KULA, Amanda Ross-Ho, Endre Tót, Martina Vacheva, Xiyadie and Honza Zamojski.

Alongside an impressive selection of new and major commissions, the public programme of Crack Up – Crack Down explores the performative and discursive iterations of comedy and satire through historical, contemporary, regional and international contexts. Satire, comedy and humour are explored in a series of talks as a forum for the limits of language, affect and criticism.

The Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts, the third oldest biennial in the world, was founded in 1955 and led by Zoran Kržišnik. The Biennial established itself as an event that presents art in a “global” context during the post-war decades, regularly hosting artists from both sides of the Iron Curtain and very early on, transcending the Eurocentric viewpoint by showing art works from the Third World, in particular the non-aligned countries.

At a local level, the Biennial has been a significant inspiration and support to Slovene artists, bringing them closer to international cultural developments. It was in the context of such close ties that the Ljubljana Graphic School developed.

The Biennial took shape during a period when Pop art was coming to the fore in both Great Britain and the United States when printmaking and its reproductive techniques perfectly captured the disposition of art and society in general. Post-war capitalism, consumer society and the loose division between so-called “high” and “low” culture greatly affected the production of art.

In the 1990s, as the global and local political landscape changed, as well as new cultural and technological developments, the Biennial extended beyond the boundaries of the printmaking medium and today includes various modes of artistic expression.

Slavs and Tatars is an internationally-renowned art collective devoted to an area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China known as Eurasia. The collective’s practice is based on three activities: exhibitions, publications and lecture-performances. Their work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, NY; Salt, Istanbul; Vienna Secession, Kunsthalle Zurich; Albertinum, Dresden; and Ujazdowski Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw; among others.

Their public lectures have been presented at leading universities including Stanford University, Princeton University, University of Warsaw, Columbia University, and Leibniz University of Hannover. In addition to their translation of the legendary Azerbaijani satirical periodical Molla Nasreddin (currently in its 2nd edition with I.B Tauris), Slavs and Tatars have published ten books to date, most recently Wripped Scripped (Hatje Cantz, 2018) on the politics of alphabets and transliteration. In 2018, Slavs and Tatars launched two mentorship-residency programs for young practitioners, researchers, and curators from their regional remit.

Slavs and Tatars’ work is currently included in the main exhibition of the 58th Venice Biennale “May You Live in Interesting Times” curated by Ralph Rugoff. The 33rd edition of the Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts is their curatorial debut.

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