Monday, March 16, 2009

Post Biennial Facebook Interview with Lauri Firstenberg: Curator of the California Biennial

The following interview was conducted via Facebook between March 2, 2009 and March 16, 2009. Lauri Firstenberg was the curator for the 2008 California Biennial.


Mario Vasquez
March 2 at 7:44pm

Hi Lauri, Here is the first question.
Let's first start with the critical reception of the Biennial, what surprised you about the response to the

Lauri Firstenberg
March 2 at 9:47pm

not a surprise but perhaps curious that a model of expansion - a curatorial concern for expanding context and
expanding audience was taken by selected critics as chaotic - since they themselves were not going to see the
biennial as a totality - without examining the politics of site and our desire to open up the biennial to disparate
it is interesting that the biennial was deemed by selected critics as solely of the art world for the art world
particularly when the biennial opened at such a crucial moment in our social and political history

Mario Vasquez
March 2 at 9:54pm

Do you see this as a contradiction? On one hand the biennial was intended to be a biennial to be seen by a wide
arrangement of audiences. But at the same time, the biennial could not be seen by everyone since geographcally it
was so spread out throughout California.

Lauri Firstenberg
March 4 at 12:18am

not at all
there are a series of intimate encounters in various locations
oftentimes experimental locations
to create interaction and dialogue with a host of individuals outside of the museum context
audiences have choices in a dispersed situation like this
i found the response to be quite conservative in this regard

Mario Vasquez
March 4 at 7:40am

Thank you for addressing that issue regarding the sites for the biennial. Here is my next question. Since the
Biennial opened, California and the nation has gone through some dramatic changes both economically and
politically. Did anything in the way you see the show change as a result of these events? Were there any particular
artist in the biennial where their work was enhanced in the way you saw them as they related to all the changes?

Lauri Firstenberg
March 4 at 12:02pm

I think that there is a tone to the exhibition and to many of the artist's work that speaks to an anxiety and
urgency of what was to come relative to this election and the concerns around the political climate ...since the
exhibition was deliberately non thematic and responded to concepts and concerns taken up in selected artists's studios.
I think the exhibition responded to these tensions and political concerns and the discussions that resonated
between artists and artworks...
Reading and meaning of works may change according to ones own political leanings - for example the signification of
Felipe Dulzaides V for victory - a graphic appropriated from sixties and seventies Cuban propaganda - on the facade
of the museum stood as a provocation of potential before the election when the show opened and now has multiple
meanings for different viewers.

Mario Vasquez
March 4 at 12:20pm

One last question. As a curator, now that the biennial is about to end in the next few weeks, what have you learned
as a curator for a biennial? Is there anything you would have done differently? Finally, are there any artist that
you look back on that you would have added?

Lauri Firstenberg
Today at 10:02pm

i wish i could answer your question fully
how i feel about biennials should be better left unsaid at this moment, perhaps more distance is necessary
but more productive, perhaps is to ask artists about their biennial experience and if such an endeavor has value
for them...
i think many lessons were learned all around
i have so much respect for so many of the artists involved and the work they produced was extraordinary on multiple

Mario Vasquez
Today at 10:09pm

Lauri, Thank you.


2008 California Biennial
Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach and Orange Lounge, South Coast Plaza

Closed March 15, 2009. Other venues maybe open. Please see the Orange County Museum of Art's website:

The 2008 California Biennial continues the Orange County Museum of Art’s four-decade long history of presenting new developments in contemporary art. This year’s biennial is guest-curated by Lauri Firstenberg, founder and director/curator of LAXART in Los Angeles. Firstenberg’s approach to the 2008 California Biennial is expansive—the exhibition includes works by more than 50 artists and, for the first time, incorporates off-site projects with collaborating venues from Tijuana to Northern California. The 2008 California Biennial is on view at the Newport Beach and Orange Lounge galleries from October 26, 2008–March 15, 2009.

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