by Alain Chivilò
Prize winners and new details, appointments at The 35th Ljubljana Biennale of Graphic Arts, from 15 September 2023 to 14 January 2024. As reported:
the Grand Prize of the 35th Ljubljana Biennale of Graphic Arts was awarded to printmaker Tejswini Narayan Sonawane for her woodcut prints on cloth from the series Femininity (2015) and A Migrant (2017). Sonawane’s works reveal personal stories, emotional states, relationship dynamics and transformation. She particularly explores how inhibition of the self can manifest as a loss of self-ownership: a reality felt by many women in South Asia whose lives are largely determined by their male counterparts.
Statement from the jury: “We believe that the strong image-making and beautiful storytelling within this work speaks to the history of printmaking in the tradition of the Biennale and beyond. We wanted to acknowledge the complexity of the spiritual dimension of this work and the epistemologies that it manifests”.
Each edition the biennale presents a solo exhibition from the Grand Prize recipient of the previous edition, with 2021’s winner JP Raether now presenting Transformella: Cinis’ Forking [126.96.36.199.1] – Die Schützlinginnen and Neverlife in Symbolic Terrain: a shrine to a psycho-real ritual of so-called “Ikeality” in local shops, where household goods and family models are mass-reproduced.
The Jury Prize was awarded to the School of Mutants for I Am My Own Sun (2023). Across Senegal and West Africa, School of Mutants takes as its point of departure the role of universities, public school projects and academic utopia in the post-independence processes of nation-building. For the Biennale, the artists turned their attention to the practice of translation as an act of hospitality. The jury elaborate on their decision: “Convinced of the importance and radical approach to collective school-making, we have unanimously decided to award the Jury Prize to the School of Mutants. The history and legacy of the Non-Aligned Movement in Slovenia will be of great value to the artists’ future mutant manifestations. The work channels an important message that we are all here for: I am my own sun”.
Special Mentions were given to Krater for their community-engaged work Feral Occupations: ‘Our labour is our infrastructure!’ and the collective’s fight against gentrification and the abstraction of structural violence. Krater includes: Danica Sretenović, Gaja Mežnarić Osole, Andrej Koruza, Anamari Hrup, Eva Jera Hanžek, Louisa Selleret, Rok Oblak, Amadeja Smrekar, Sebastjan Kovač, Primož Turnšek, Edern Haushofer, Altan Jurca Avci, Juan José López Díez.
Soghra Khurasani also received a special mention for her powerful etchings that depict emotional landscapes. Regularly using natural forms as a grounding framework, the jury praised her skillful execution which expresses both the fragility and the strength of the human body.
The Biennale is accompanied by an extensive symposium from 16 to 18 November. The three-day programme includes film screenings, presentations, talks, lectures, panel discussions, exhibitions, guided tours and social gatherings following the curatorial concept of the 35th Ljubljana Biennale of Graphic Arts.
The main exhibition and public programme of the 35th Ljubljana Biennale of Graphic Arts is accompanied by a Biennale reader that offers critical insight and questions the complex nature of the emancipatory undertone of this year’s edition of the Biennale. The publication brings together texts and experimental contributions by a wide range of authors, from curators, architectural historians, critics to theorists and artists. The volume is edited by Kwasi Ohene-Ayeh, Kelvin Haizel, Patrick Nii Okanta Ankrah and Selom Kudjie.
©AC, NDSL, AM, Alain Chivilo