he Syrian Biennale is the first mobile exhibition showcasing Syrian and international artists within the framework of a biennale, taking place every second year. The Syrian Biennale will change its location with every edition, following the route of Syrian refugees from Lebanon to central Europe and elsewhere around the world.
During the last 7 years, given the worsening political and social situation, the majority of artists were forced to flee Syria. Before the war, Damascus used to be the cultural capital of the country, but then it shifted alongside the creators of Syrian culture – as of today, it’s cities such as Beirut, Istanbul or even Berlin that are considered to be new representatives of Syrian art. Some Syrian artists who fled the country reached Central or Northern Europe, but due to different restraints, some ended up in various countries considered to be part of the so-called “refugee route” which are not always their desired destinations. With the whole world somehow involved in the Syrian case, we find it crucial to give an opportunity to the Syrian community to be actively involved in the global art scene. As it is impossible to freely organise an exhibition of this scale in Syria, we decided to carry our culture, experience and collective memory wherever we go.
Hoping to counteract the defragmentation and displacement of the Syrian identity, the Syrian Biennale serves as a contribution to a much-needed conversation around Syria’s media-generated image; through supporting, empowering and connecting Syrian cultural producers around the world it represents and preserves Syria’s cultural heritage beyond national borders. We aim to introduce Syrians to their new societies and vice versa, encouraging a dialogue between cultures and building international networks for cultural producers of various backgrounds. The project is committed to representing an equal balance of Syrian artists (inside and outside their country), artists coming from the Biennale’s host country and internationally acclaimed artists. The extensive research and databases contained within the Syria Cultural Index framework will be applied to develop a Syrian Biennale that is as complete, responsive, and aware as possible. At the same time, the experiences gained through producing the Biennale will continue to enrich and inform Syria Cultural Index.
The Biennale aims to be more than just another exhibition of contemporary art or refugee-oriented project – it will be a high-end art event accompanied by lectures, performances, music and debates that will benefit the local community and build a sense of belonging for the newcomers.
Through the art lens, the Biennale will explore current socio-political issues and enhance creative integration of the Syrian and refugee communities within their local communities while still nurturing and preserving their cultural identities; it will empower all parties by raising complex issues of today – such as themes of migration and the ever-changing socio-political situation in Europe – creating an open space for international discussion, not limited to any standpoint and celebrating diversity. People of diverse backgrounds, religions and even opposing ideologies and political views will come together in search of an active exchange of varying viewpoints, leading to a more creative and innovative thinking.
We are especially pleased to have been able to engage Nadim Julien Samman as a researcher for the Syrian Biennale.
This project is currently under development, please check this space regularly for updates.
We are seeking feedback on our initial Syrian Biennale concept from experts in the art scene. This includes meeting with key figures and institutions in Berlin, Beirut and Istanbul to gauge local interest and to begin conceptulising a Syrian Biennale in each of these locations. We will feed this insight into a Symposium in Berlin, in which key players come together to discuss the feedback and research and to collectively agree on the shape of the final Syrian Biennale Concept.
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