Continuing our week highlighting the work of Momus, today we bring you a selection by Senior Editor Casey Beal: “Momus contributing editor Saelan Twerdy covers a lot of ground in this thorough and theoretically rich exploration of art’s ‘morbid symptoms’ in this moment of late capitalism and decadent neoliberalism. He manages to do so without sacrificing close attention the subject at the center, the 2016 Montreal Biennial. But he asks important questions, and concludes that ‘contemporary art’s symptoms are beginning to look terminal.’” This article was originally published on November 22, 2016.
Tanya Lukin Linklater. He Was a Poet and He Taught Us How to React and to Become This Poetry, 2016. Courtesy of BNLMTL. Photo: Guy l’Heureux.
In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s nauseating election victory, hard on the heels of this year’s earlier Brexit vote in the UK, it has become clear that the post-1989 era of neoliberal globalization is over. Given that contemporary art as we know it has been defined in relation to this political–economic configuration, can we say that “contemporaneity” is ending, too? If so, what might art look like after “contemporary art”? The 2016 Montreal Biennale, presented in the midst of these upheavals, is symptomatic of this uncertainty.
In the press preview for the biennial, curator Philippe Pirotte was at pains to distinguish his exhibition from other recent large-scale exhibitions that, in his opinion, made excessively sweeping pronouncements about the contemporary moment and the likely future. In particular, he criticized the recent Berlin Biennial (“The Present in Drag”) and the 2015 Venice Biennale (“All the World’s Futures”). However, his implicit, unmentioned target was perhaps the previous installment of the Montreal Biennial itself, which was titled “L’avenir (Looking Forward)” and concerned itself with the broad question of “what is to come.”