In September, the 12th edition of the Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art will open. Curated by João Laia, the theme is centred on how queerness can challenge norms and create hope for the future. Expect the unexpected at this year’s compelling GIBCA.

Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art (GIBCA) is a platform for the presentation of international contemporary art, taking place every two years in Gothenburg. “GIBCA is one of Sweden’s biggest art events and, since the beginning in 2001, has been dedicated to presenting art that address issues of urgent collective interest,”says Sarah Hansson, artistic director. “It aims to be a junction between local, national, and international discourse.”

Each biennial consists of exhibitions and a programme hosted by established art institutions in Gothenburg. The theme of the 12th edition is titled forms of the surrounding futures and curated by João Laia. “This year’s theme reacts against the current state of permanent crisis in society,” explains Hansson. ”Previously, we have focused on the past, unearthing suppressed local and global historical events, which has deepened our understanding of the present time. Now, we want to dig into the present and search for ways of living today that can enable a more sustainable future for all, and by embracing the notion of queer as a means to challenge boundaries and norms, we might just rediscover hope and find a way out of the crisis.”

12th edition of GIBCA, the international contemporary art biennial

Skadi by Rasmus Myrup. Photo: Ander Sune Berg

International curator and queer perspective

João Laia is chief curator for exhibitions at Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki. With a background in social sciences, film theory and contemporary art, Laia has covered the queer perspective before. Instead of speculating about utopias and dystopias, he reasons that the future already exists. According to Laia, queer is not just about gender and identity; there are many nonconforming groups and behaviours in Western society, such as different ethnic groups, cultural expressions, and ways of living in harmony with nature.

“It is an honour to contribute to the biennial’s narrative which has recently highlighted silenced transnational perspectives, addressed monolithic conceptions of society and analysed the current echoes of Gothenburg’s participation in the global slave-trading circuit,” says Laia. “I look forward to presenting an event which examines the now, aiming at queering hegemonic understandings of the social and disseminating alternative narratives to celebrate our collective ability to imagine and rehearse worlds to come.”

12th edition of GIBCA, the international contemporary art biennial

Yabba, animated installation by Maria Jerez. Photo: ©bernhardmuller

Nordic mythology and fear of the unknown

One of the participating artists is Rasmus Myrup. His work explores major narratives of human existence, evolution and history through the lens of small, personal and intimate emotions. For this year’s exhibition, the Danish artist is creating a new piece based on mythology and history from the region, with a queer perspective. “You might recognise some characters from Nordic mythology, but they will look and behave in an unexpected way,” says Hansson, smiling.

Another exciting installation is by Spanish artist Maria Jerez. Her constantly changing sculpture includes sounds, lights and smoke and describes our fear of the unknown. Jerez communicates that what is hidden and foreign might scare us at first, but if you move closer it can be fun and enjoyable to explore. “With this pulsating landscape, she addresses how we can approach the queer concept,” says Hansson. “It might start with fear and ignorance, but if you dare to approach with an open mind, it can be alluring.”

London-based artist Prem Sahib also works with social norms, that which is in the centre and in the periphery, and the clashes and tensions in between. His installation Liquid Gold will be shown in Hammarkullen Konsthall, which is located in Gothenburg’s only underground tram stop. The golden light will fill the station including platforms and escalators, raising questions about the fluidity or tangibility of value. The intention of this work, whose presence grows more palpable as it gets darker in the day, is to deliberately engage audiences during hours when museums and art spaces are usually closed.

12th edition of GIBCA, the international contemporary art biennial

Yong Xiang Li participates in GIBCA 2023. Photo: Filmstill Yong Xiang Li

GIBCA Extended and busy opening weekend

GIBCA 2023 offers a packed programme with exhibitions and events at Röda Sten Konsthall, Göteborgs Konsthall, Gothenburg City Library and Hammarkullen Konsthall. The festive opening takes place on Saturday 16 September, with seven artists performing throughout the day.

The day before, on 15 September, GIBCA Extended premieres. This is a collaboration that brings together the regional and local art scene. Under this umbrella, artists, galleries and other art platforms are invited to create their own program and exhibitions based on the main theme of GIBCA. Established in 2013, GIBCA Extended now includes more than 75 participating actors.

12th edition of GIBCA, the international contemporary art biennial

Sarah Hansson, artistic director. Photo: Ellika Henrikson

forms of the surrounding futures marks the 12th edition of Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art, which will take place at art centres in Gothenburg from 16 September to 19 November 2023.


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