Ghetto Biennale: A Salon des Refusés for the 21st century.

What happens when first world art rubs up against third world art? Does it bleed?

The 2nd Ghetto Biennale is due to take place from 28th November until 18th December 2011. The 1st ‘Ghetto Biennale’ was held in December 2009 and was hosted by the Atis-Rezistans, the Sculptors of Grand Rue. They invited fine artists, film-makers, academics, photographers, musicians, architects and writers, to come to the Grand Rue area of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, to make or witness work that was shown or happened, in their neighbourhood. In the words of the writer John Keiffer it was a “’third space’…an event or moment created through a collaboration between artists from radically different backgrounds”. Artists from many countries including Australia, Italy, the UK, Jamaica, the USA and Cuba came to Haiti to participate in the Ghetto Biennale.

This is not in reality a Biennale, as traditionally conceived, rather an invitation by a group of Haitian artists to visiting Western and non-Western artists to come to Haiti and “make work” with them to produce a show at the end. There are a number of complex and over-lapping motives for this event. The lack of formal arts training in Haiti, whilst possibly liberating in many ways, leaves youths and artists sometimes very frustrated in their thirst for new ideas, influences, mediums and aesthetics. The Ghetto Biennale is an arena within which the visiting artists and academics can share philosophies, ideas and aesthetic practices with Haitian arts practitioners.

Presentation is an important aspect of the work of Atis-Rezistans and they have created a unique and local site specific installation in their own neighbourhood. This project has allowed Haitian artists to expose their work, in situ, to the visiting artists, curators, journalists and academics. This has given Haitian artists’ the chance to reach a far wider audience, make important contacts and integrate with wider arts networks.

Atis-Rezistans also want to use the Ghetto Biennale to portray a more creative aspect of Haitian reality, to counterbalance the current, dominant negative portrayal of the country. The Ghetto Biennale is an alternative model of tourism which brings visitors who can have positive and creative experiences in Haiti and learn about the rich cultural heritage. The Ghetto Biennale attracted a large local audience for the final exhibition which significantly broadened the national demographic for arts event attendance. This project highlights issues of migration and global freedoms of association and gives collaborative and creative possibilities between artists from radically different backgrounds to explore and address these issues. This project is also about institutional critique which will question the advancement of globalisation and Western hegemony. We envision this as the first of many conversations.

André Eugène

The Ghetto Biennale will be holding a congress at the end of the event for the Haitian artists, the visiting artists, Haitian and visiting academics to formally express their experiences and create a dialogue which will hopefully contribute to a debate on the globalisation of art history and the positioning of non-Western art. We hope to use it as a basis to interrogate many terms, cultural positions and arts practices. The Ghetto Biennale is due to take place between the dates 28th November until 18th December. There will be an event displaying the works created during the process on 16th December and all the artists will be present for a final conference on the 17th December. The Ghetto Biennale is organised and curated by Andre Eugene, Leah Gordon and Celeur Jean Herard.

For images, interviews or additional information please contact Natasha Hoare at or telephone 07825706698.

Ongoing Collaborations and Projects originating at the 1st Ghetto Biennale:

Made in Haiti - Carole Lung Bazile in an on-going collaboration with Jonas La Base.

Tele Geto - John Cussans in collaboration with Romel Jean Pierre, Alex Louis and Stevens Simeon which has been exhibited at a school in East London as a cross-cultural collaboration. and

Imagine – Bill Drummond in a year-long artist collaboration with Claudel Casseus which resulted in the publication of a book of Claudel Casseus' writing and a wall painting project which gave employment to local sign painters after the earthquake.

Pa Bouji Anko - Laura Heymans publication and exhibition of portraits taken in the Grand Rue neighbourhood during the Ghetto Biennale and after the earthquake. The project has been exhibited in Syracuse, New York and the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Death and Fertility Haitian Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale – curated by Daniele Geminiani of Island, which contributed a satellite Ghetto Biennale exhibition in London, of works by Andre Eugene, Celeur Jean Herard and Claude Saintilis of Atis-Rezistans.

XISM – site-specific exhibit by Andre Eugene, Celeur Jean Herard and Racine Polycarpe at the Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm curated by Roberto Peyre.

Roktowa, Jamaica – residency for 8 Haitian artists after the earthquake.

Sculpture by Jean Hérard Celeur

Selection of Projects for 2nd Ghetto Biennale

The Anderson Family- UK The Andersons will come to do two projects. Peter will travel up and down Grand Rue taking photographs on the street. The subjects will be invited back to the site to receive a print. This will work as a device to further publicise the Ghetto Biennale. He will also teach a group of local youth how to print in a darkroom. Clare is a textile artist who plans to run a workshop on textile design and printing which will enable local children to create t-shirts from their art.

Crystal Nelson, USA- Crystal will collaborate with young hip hop artists living in the Grand Rue neighbour to record and produce CDs and a music video. The rap songs will tell stories of the neighbourhood.

Edgar Young III, USA- Edgar took part in the first Ghetto Biennale and will return to make solar lanterns which will be exhibited in local neighbourhood houses.

Emilie Boone, USA- Emilie will create an installation from contemporary portraits obtained from local photography studios.

Gina Cunningham, USA- Gina plans to create an 'exquisite corps' drawing project with the children in the neighbourhood.

John Cussans, UK- John will return for his second Ghetto Biennale and work closely with Tele Geto (the children's video collective that emerged from the 1st Ghetto Biennale). He will commission a Tap Tap to be painted to advertise the Ghetto Biennale and employ Tele Geto to record the process and show the video at the final exhibition.

Karen Miranda Augustine, Canada- Karen plans to collaborate with local woman to create a work which will memorialise and celebrate the lives of three significant women in the community.

Kendra Frorup, Bahamas- Kendra will make paper on-site using traditional paper making methods. She will collaborate with local artists to enable them to make artists books from the handmade paper.

Natalia Matta, Chile- Natalia will create a sound piece from the sounds and noises of Grand Rue which will be exhibited at the Ghetto Biennale and then exhibited at a gallery in Chile.

Richard Fleming, USA- Richard will archive, using photography, the gingerbread buildings in Port-au-Prince. He will use the line drawings in the 1975 book 'Gingerbread Houses: Haiti's Endangered Species' by Anghelen

Arrington Phillips, as a starting point for his research. He will exhibit his photographs next to reproductions of the illustrations in the book.

Robert Gomez, Mexico- Robert will work closely with Ti Moun Rezistans, the children's collective, to create a website from their specifications. He will train them how to administer the website and use it as an ongoing resource and tool for them to expose their own art works.

Vivian Chan, Phang Yuk Yee, Macha Kasparian UK, Malaysia, Singapore and France- Vivian, of Studio verve architects will create a workshop and gallery for the local artists and children. She will work closely with a group of local children and artists to create a space which is specific to their needs. The children involved in the project will learn some technical drawing skills as part of the process.

Thank you to Leah Gordon and the organizers of the Ghetto Biennale for extending this information to ARC Magazine.