Thessaloniki Biennale: Short on cash, big on ideas

Even though it is scheduled to start on September 18, the 3rd Thessaloniki Biennale is on shaky ground as it has so far received just 13,000 euros of its approved 1-million-euro budget.

The cultural event?s funding is drawn from the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF), which means that every installement has to be approved by regional administration, agencies renowned for their red tape and lack of knowledge when it comes to cultural events.

This bureaucratic deadlock is putting at risk the huge efforts made by staff members of the State Museum of Contemporary Art, the institution in charge of the biennale?s overall planning and organization.

According to the museum?s director, Katerina Koskina, the delay in funding is due to various technicalities, but the museum?s staff is continuing to make a tremendous effort to have everything ready on time.

?I?m optimistic that a solution will be found within the next few days because there are good intentions on both sides,? Koskina told Kathimerini. ?After all, there is no way you can put together an international biennale on a budget of 13,000 euros.?

This year?s event, titled ?Old Intersections — Make It New? and running to December 18, comes with a specific target: to bring viewers closer not only to the current contemporary art scene, but also to the political and cultural realities of a broad geographical region, which includes the Arab world.

Besides the event?s principal organizer, a number of Thessaloniki-based cultural institutions will also be participating in the event with a series of exhibitions. These are the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, the Museum of Byzantine Culture, the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art and the Teloglion Foundation of Art.

Curating the event?s main exhibition, ?A Rock and A Hard Place,? are Paolo Colombo, Marina Fokidis and Mahita El Bacha Urieta.

According to the curators, the pieces to go on display were selected because they reflect the new sociopolitical balances emerging in the broader Mediterranean region.

The idea preceded the so-called Arab Spring, as the Biennale?s theme had been decided well before social unrest erupted in countries like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.

It is an interesting coincidence, however, that will give audiences a chance to take a closer look at an altogether different reality, as seen through the eyes of artists who are active in the area, as well as in other countries around the world.

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