Entrance to the Ghetto Biennale painted by Michel Lafleur and commissioned by John Cussans, 1st Ghetto Biennale 2009, Port-au-Prince, Haiti Photo: Chantal Regnault
The Big Chair by Joe Winter at 3rd Ghetto Biennale 2013, Port-au-Prince, Haiti Photo: Lazaros
Michel Lafleur working on project X-CLUB with BLOT collective at the 3rd Ghetto Biennale 2013 Photo: Lazaros
Project by Emilie Boone about Port-au-Prince photo studios at 2nd Ghetto Biennale 2011 Photo: Emilie Boone
The tent that housed Andre Eugene for one year after the earthquake was turned into an altar as a memory of Louko, his friend, 2nd Ghetto Biennale 2011, Port-au-Prince, Haiti Photo: John Cussans
Museum of Trance at 4th Ghetto Biennale 2015, Port-au-Prince, Haiti Photo: Lazaros
Screening of the Arcade Fire film ‘Planet Earth’ at the 2nd Ghetto Biennale 2011, Port-au-Prince, Haiti Photo: Jason Metcalf
The installation of the Viv Timoun project, My Haiti at the 2nd Ghetto Biennale, Port-au-Prince, Haiti Photo: Liz Woodroffe
Procession with sculpture by Andre Eugene, 3rd Ghetto Biennale 2013 Photo: Lazaros
Annette Elliot’s installation in Lakou Twoket at 3rd Ghetto Biennale 2013, Port-au-Prince, Haiti Photo: Lazaros
Jean-Claude Saintilus aka Claude playing drums with Jean-Louis Huhta from Dungeon Acid on Rue du Magasin de l'Etat, 3rd Ghetto Biennale 2013, Port-au-Prince, Haiti Photo: Per Huttner
Installation shot of ‘Conversing in Art’ by Nastasia Meyrat (CH) & Katrina Meyrat (CH), at the 4th Ghetto Biennale 2015 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo by Lazaros
Member of Fungus Collective working on wall installation at 2nd Ghetto Biennale 2011 Photo: Peter Anderson
Entrance to the Ghetto Biennale painted by Michel Lafleur and commissioned by John Cussans, 1st Ghetto Biennale 2009, Port-au-Prince, Haiti Photo: Chantal Regnault
The Big Chair by Joe Winter at 3rd Ghetto Biennale 2013, Port-au-Prince, Haiti Photo: Lazaros
Michel Lafleur working on project X-CLUB with BLOT collective at the 3rd Ghetto Biennale 2013 Photo: Lazaros
Project by Emilie Boone about Port-au-Prince photo studios at 2nd Ghetto Biennale 2011 Photo: Emilie Boone
The tent that housed Andre Eugene for one year after the earthquake was turned into an altar as a memory of Louko, his friend, 2nd Ghetto Biennale 2011, Port-au-Prince, Haiti Photo: John Cussans
Museum of Trance at 4th Ghetto Biennale 2015, Port-au-Prince, Haiti Photo: Lazaros
Screening of the Arcade Fire film ‘Planet Earth’ at the 2nd Ghetto Biennale 2011, Port-au-Prince, Haiti Photo: Jason Metcalf
The installation of the Viv Timoun project, My Haiti at the 2nd Ghetto Biennale, Port-au-Prince, Haiti Photo: Liz Woodroffe
Procession with sculpture by Andre Eugene, 3rd Ghetto Biennale 2013 Photo: Lazaros
Annette Elliot’s installation in Lakou Twoket at 3rd Ghetto Biennale 2013, Port-au-Prince, Haiti Photo: Lazaros
Jean-Claude Saintilus aka Claude playing drums with Jean-Louis Huhta from Dungeon Acid on Rue du Magasin de l'Etat, 3rd Ghetto Biennale 2013, Port-au-Prince, Haiti Photo: Per Huttner
Installation shot of ‘Conversing in Art’ by Nastasia Meyrat (CH) & Katrina Meyrat (CH), at the 4th Ghetto Biennale 2015 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo by Lazaros
Member of Fungus Collective working on wall installation at 2nd Ghetto Biennale 2011 Photo: Peter Anderson

Featured

Talk by Leah Gordon, Co-founder of the Ghetto Biennale

In 2023 the Atis Rezistans | Ghetto Biennale exhibition at St Kunigundis Church at documenta fifteen was awarded the Exhibition of the Year award by AICA Germany.

In this recent talk artist, curator, writer and co-founder of the Ghetto Biennale, Haiti, Leah Gordon gave a talk about the biennale, originally conceived to expose social, racial, class and geographical immobility.

Part of a series of talks; Lewis Biggs, Founding Director of Liverpool Biennial, Shubigi Rao, Curator of Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2022-23, Fram Kitagawa, General Director of Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale exploring Bienalisation and related developments in the art world, such as the emergence of global curatorial discourse, the vanishing boundaries between art and non-art categories, and the rise of contemporary art from non-Western countries such as Africa, Asia, and Latin America, all prompting an explosion of periodic international exhibitions. How the biennial model grew as the world became increasingly interdependent through rapid connections across vast distances that communication networks and information technology enabled, international economic exchanges relying on money markets, banking systems, and stock exchanges further facilitated globalisation. 

An outcome of which has been the growth of biennials and international art fairs, art from emerging markets received increasing attention as stakeholders and investors searched the globe for untapped talent, and the curator as arbiter and emblem of taste in the global art world. During the talk, Gordon discussed one of the original strap lines of the first Ghetto Biennale: “What happens when first-world art rubs up against third-world art? Does it bleed?” The line is a transmutation of a quote from a book about the maquiladoras in Juárez, Mexico. The original quote, by Gloria Anzaldúa, states, “The U.S.- Mexican border es una herida abierta (is an open wound) where the Third World grates against the First and bleeds.” (Anzaldúa 1987, 3). She explored what new practices, processes and relationships could emerge from these, often uncomfortable, entanglements.

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The 2nd Biennale was held in December 2011. Yet while the Ghetto Biennale was conceived to expose social, racial, class and geographical immobility, it seemed to have upheld these class inertias within its structural core. Gordon addresses the contradictions and challenges posed by the event, and how subsequent Ghetto Biennales sought to confront them. Leah Gordon also talked about the current political crisis and insecurity in Haiti and how the Ghetto Biennale has responded to the situation. Concluding by reflecting on how the Ghetto Biennale produce meaningful discussion about sameness and difference in an allegedly de-centred art world that transcends different models of ghettoisation?

After the success of Atis Rezistans | Ghetto Biennale at documenta fifteen, and the subsequent AICA.de award for best exhibition of 2022, and finally the recent triumph at RISING festival, Melbourne the Ghetto Biennale team held the 8th Ghetto Biennale in 2024 from mid-Feb until early March in the city of Jacmel, Haiti. Extremely disappointed not to be returning to the original site but due to the continuing insecurity in Port-au-Prince, especially close to the Grand Rue/Portail Léogâne area, the Ghetto Biennale team made the decision to move the event, for this year only, to Jacmel. There were undoubtably considerable differences from the original location of Grand Rue, and they hope to embrace these through discovering other Haitian artists, venues, and art forms.

Leah Gordon (born Ellesmere Port, UK) is an artist, curator, and writer. Her work explores the intervolved and intersectional histories of the Caribbean plantation system, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the Enclosure Acts and the creation of the British working-class. In the 1980s she wrote lyrics, sang, and played for a feminist folk punk band. Gordon’s film and photographic work has been exhibited internationally including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; the Dak’art Biennale; the National Portrait Gallery, UK and the Norton Museum of Art, Florida. She is the co-director of the Ghetto Biennale in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; was a curator for the Haitian Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale; was the co-curator of ‘Kafou: Haiti, History & Art’ at Nottingham Contemporary, UK; and was the co-curator of ‘PÒTOPRENS: The Urban Artists of Port-au-Prince’ at Pioneer Works, NYC in 2018 and MOCA, Miami in 2019. In 2015 Leah Gordon was the recipient of the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Travel Award for Central America and the Caribbean. In 2022, her award-winning feature-length documentary Kanaval: A People’s History of Haiti in Six Chapters was broadcast in selected cinemas and on BBC 4’s Arena. In 2022, Gordon also exhibited in and curated the Atis Rezistans | Ghetto Biennale exhibition at St Kunigundis Church at documenta fifteen, Kassel; her work showed at MOCA North, Miami; Power Plant Gallery, Duke University, NC, USA, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany. 

Curated by Keith Whittle in partnership with ArtLink and hosted by Void Gallery