Berlin Biennale
6th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art
5th Berlin Biennale

5th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art
"When things cast no shadow"
– 15.6.2008

Here you can find the website of the 5th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art

On Sunday, June 15, 2008, the 5th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, curated by Adam Szymczyk and Elena Filipovic and entitled When things cast no shadow, closed after ten weeks. The biennial divided its time between day and night: By day it included an exhibition on view at four venues—KW Institute for Contemporary Art, the Neue Nationalgalerie, Skulpturenpark Berlin_Zentrum, and the Schinkel Pavillon—with mostly newly commissioned works by 50 artists. By night it featured over 100 artists and thinkers in 63 nightly events—performances, lectures, film screenings, and workshops—under the title Mes nuits sont plus belles que vos jours held throughout the city in cooperation with different institutions and with the support of the FABA Foundation. The Schinkel Pavillon was the site of five alternating artist-curated solo exhibitions, the last of which will remain on view until June 29, 2008.

The accompanying book as well as the short guide DAY and the NIGHT agenda were supported by the LUMA Foundation and were designed—with all printed matter—by Ludovic Balland.

The biennial attracted more interest in both national and international media than any of its predecessors. The 5th Berlin Biennale was again supported by the German Federal Cultural Foundation and welcomed around 100,000 visitors in all.
There have been over 900 reviews in daily and weekly newspapers and in specialist publications, from all around the world, with a circulation of many millions, as well as numerous international reports in the electronic media. Detailed information on the 5th Berlin Biennale—including the participating artists, the venues, the night program, and publications—continues to be available on our website under

The German Minister of State for Culture and Media Affairs, Bernd Neumann (CDU), highlighted the significance of this biennial: “With its fifth event, the Berlin Biennale has proven that it is a key and respected fixture in the national and international art world.”

In its meeting of December 2007, the Advisory Board of the German Federal Cultural Foundation decided to provide € 2.5 m for each of the 6th and 7th Berlin Biennale. This support from the German Federal Cultural Foundation ensures that Berlin’s “most important event for contemporary art” will enjoy secure finances until 2012.

The opening days of the exhibition from April 3 to 6, 2008, already gave an indication that the Berlin Biennale would again be a big success. On those days alone, approximately 20,000 guests were welcomed from Germany and abroad, including well-known museum directors, exhibition makers, media representatives, collectors, gallery owners, and artists as well as the polish cultural minister Bogdan Zdrojewski.
A 10-day workshop for young curators, organized by KW Institute for Contemporary Art and entitled Eyes Wide Open, was staged for a second time with the kind support of Allianz Cultural Foundation, the Goethe-Institut, and BMW. At the event, 13 curators from 13 countries discussed different forms of curatorial practice with the likes of Ute Meta Bauer, Galit Eilat, Charles Esche, Maria Lind, Hans Ulrich Obrist, the curatorial collective WHW, and the curators of the 5th Berlin Biennale, Adam Szymczyk and Elena Filipovic.

Agents of the Secret Service (the 5th Berlin Biennale public mediation program) spent over 400 hours conducting discussions and workshops at the venues, talking with over 3,100 visitors. A team of native speakers covered the languages German, English, French, and Polish.

During the exhibition opening and throughout the duration of the show, numerous international museum and trustee groups were guided around the exhibition. These included: Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna; Friends of the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cologne; Patrons of the Royal Academy of Arts, London; The Moore Space Miami; Tate Modern, Platinum Group, London; Friends and Patrons of the Kunsthalle Basel; and Art Partners Herzliya, Israel.
Many German museums and art associations visited with their members, including the Association of the Friends of the National Gallery, Berlin; Friends of Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg; Guggenheim Club, Berlin; Friends of Museum Weserburg, Bremen; Friends of Kunstsammlung Nordrhein Westfalen, Düsseldorf; Friends of Neue Museum, Nuremberg; Friends of Kunsthalle Hamburg; Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe; Friends of Wallraf-Richartz-Museum and Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Aargauer Kunsthaus; Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne; Braunschweig Art Association; Hanover Art Association; and the Association for the Promotion of Modern Art, Goslar.
In addition, we were pleased to welcome the Federation of German Industries (BDI), the cultural minister of Australia, and representatives from the Australian, French, Italian, and Polish embassies, as well as a number of Goethe-Institut directors, curator groups, and press representatives from various countries.
Universities and art schools made up another large group of visitors. Students came from such places as Amsterdam, Basel, Berlin, Bolzano, Bremen, Brussels, Florence, Frankfurt/Main, Halle, Hamburg, Karlsruhe, Kiel, Kopenhagen, Leipzig, Lillehammer, Lisbon, London, Paris, Vienna, and Zurich. Numerous school classes from Berlin and other German cities also visited.

Three weekends saw a particularly high number of visitors from Germany and abroad. These were the Gallery Weekend Berlin, organized by Berlin galleries from May 2 to 4, 2008, the Pentecost weekend public holidays, and the final weekend of the 5th Berlin Biennale.

Media resonance
Not only did the number of visitors exceed the expectations, reaction from the media and experts has also been plentiful and largely positive. As well as extensive reporting in all the important daily and weekly newspapers in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, media resonance in Poland was also particularly extensive, because of Polish curator Adam Szymczyk. There were reports in the likes of Gazeta Wyborcza, Dziennik, and Rzeczpospolita.

The German national news Tagesschau (ARD) and heute journal (ZDF) reported on the Berlin Biennale for the first time. Numerous cultural television programs in Germany and abroad such as arte Kultur, ZDF aspekte, 3sat Kulturzeit or TVP Kultura Poland as well as national and international radio programs have broadcasted extensively. In addition, there were numerous articles in international daily newspapers, including The Guardian (UK), Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, and The New York Times (U.S.), Il Sole 24 Ore (Italy), Aftenposten (Norway), Upsala Nya Tidning (Sweden), and El Pais (Spain).

Last but not least, the remarkable media interest in the 5th Berlin Biennale was also reflected in the large number of articles and often extremely positive reviews in German and international specialist publications. There were extensive articles in the big European and U.S. publications, such as Artforum International (U.S.), Art Monthly, ArtReview, Frieze (all UK), Exit Express (Spain), Flash Art (Italy), Artpress (France), art – das Kunstmagazin, and Kunstforum International (Germany), as well as in Artist (China) and Bijutsu Techo (Japan).

Here is a small selection of media reaction:

Artnet, April 3, 2008 (Belinda Grace Gardner)
“The curators were brazenly lying when they said at the press conference and in several pre-exhibition interviews that they were not pursuing a specific concept. Their concept is a true declination of the exhibition venues, and its great success is in fact its subtle and covert approach. It gives the works plenty of space and avoids easy recognition.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, April 5, 2008 (Niklas Maak)

“Nearly all the artists on show in the Neue Nationalgalerie look at the promises and false starts of modernism on the example of architecture which brings a welcome difference between this biennial and all other large-scale exhibitions.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung, April 4, 2008 (Holger Liebs)
“The 5th Berlin Biennial offers very ambivalent experiences. This art refuses to be extroverted, pompous and easily accessible, and cannot be understood quickly—gaudy familiarity is alien to it, not least because of its frequent historical subjects. It is the city of Berlin that is loud and gaudy, with its love of advertising itself. But perhaps this is precisely why BB5 will find its own way in the future; the exhibitions are only one part—the daytime. By night the biennial sends out its flares, organizing its “choirs of complaints,” daring psychoanalysis of the automobile, materializing “shadow twins,” offering lectures on dreaming when awake or on levitation, and all kinds of performances, films, and talks. That it really gets going in the evening is also somehow typical Berlin.”

Die Tageszeitung, April 5, 2008 (Brigitte Werneburg)
“When things cast no shadow—this is the poetic invitation extended by the 5th berlin biennial. Whatever this may mean, after going through the exhibition everyone will make up their own mind. But: here there were certainly a lot of eager beavers at work—wanting to get everything right and to please their teachers and professors, busy taking notes and remembering the themes, methods, materials, and theories that matter.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, April 6, 2008 (Peter Richter)

“It gets better and better, the more you look …”
“This is something really beautiful, when art takes on the function of a text marker making the city more legible. With their remarkably unpretentious approach, Filipovic and Szymczyk have achieved precisely this.”

The Guardian Weekly, April 18, 2008 (Adrian Searle)
“I was nervous that this latest, called When Things Cast No Shadow, would disappoint. It is less spectacular; there are fewer big-name artists. It proceeds by stealth, offering possibilities rather than answers, conditions rather than a theme. What is meant by the title? If art casts no shadow, it is either dead or without substance. More likely the curators Adam Szymczyk and Elena Filipovic wish us to cast our own shadows here. The result is a more generous and rewarding biennial than most.”

Artpress, 5/2008 (Aneta Panek)
“Avoiding the usual parameters—clearly defined theme and form, set dates—the Biennale has set out to engage critically with the work of the fifty invited artists and subvert the classical forms of such exhibitions… Those who enjoy the discreet charm of Berlin, a city in a state of permanent deconstruction, will appreciate this fifth Biennial, which is full of secrets, surprises and experiments, as its curators wanted it to be.”

Frieze, 5/2008 (Martin Herbert)
“Going to a town that has already been burnt down, [Szymczyk and Filipovic] torched the obviously shaky tenets of biennial making (oracular theoretical aspirations, parades of big-name artists, domineering regional specificity and static displays), but what remains – their internationalist taste, the lineaments of tone and associations—makes for a great show. Like few biennials in recent memory, it’s driven by mood: a mix of wiry and weary that feels wholly contemporary…”

New York Times, April 18, 2008 (Kimberley Bradley)
“All in all, the biennial is great for discovering work by some young, lesser known artists, and the show’s approach is a surprise in the Berlin art scene, which is increasingly about more, bigger, brasher. Visitors ‘should look at the work itself, not the shadow, not the hype’.”

art – Das Kunstmagazin, 6/2008 (Roger M. Buergel)
“What is an exhibition? What is art? This biennial takes a step backwards, to look behind its own preconditions. It explores the possibilities that result from putting these preconditions into abeyance, and it locates creativity in the non-event.”

Artforum, Summer 2008 (André Rottmann)
“If Szymczyk and Filipovic emphasize in their own contribution that their intention was not to organize their exhibition around content defined a priori, it nevertheless becomes clear that this Berlin Biennial—even though its title, “When Things Cast No Shadow,” summons a metaphorical suspension of historical indices—reflects above all contemporary art’s current interest in modernism’s formal languages and revisits the concomitant aspiration to artistic autonomy. These concerns were amply evident in last year’s much-debated Documenta 12, but whereas that exhibition for the most part emphasized morphological correspondences between the abstract forms of high-modernist art and premodern aesthetics, Szymczyk and Filipovic instead present projects that, by way of references to specific historical moments and aesthetic currents in artistic modernism and modernity at large, continuously link an engagement with this legacy to the sites of the exhibition.”

Kunst Bulletin, 6/2008 (Maren Lübbke-Tidow)
“Adam Szymczyk and Elena Filipovic’s exhibition works against fixed concepts and notions of direct consumption, and superficial reception generally fails to do justice to the exhibited works. This is an exhibition that seems to have no direct addressee, that refuses all kinds of categorization, and instead wishes to allow the works, by mainly still unknown artists, speak for themselves. The exhibition demands the deceleration of looking, and that every single position is taken seriously, and, ultimately, it still manages to come together as an ensemble of really well placed works.”

Texte zur Kunst, 6/2008 (Axel John Wieder)
“My impression of this 5th berlin biennial is that the aim is not to provoke violent reaction. But I do not mean to agree with the critique that Adam Szymczyk and Elena Filipovic’s exhibition is too tidy, too eager, too intellectual, or too restricted to the specialist art world. On the contrary, I really liked the quiet approach.”

Die Zeit, June 6, 2008 (Tobias Timm)
“The emptiness can be seen as a strategy, an attempt to give some space back to the inconspicuous, quiet and contemplative within an ever more hysterical art business. The comic and the absurd are also given a chance at this biennial …”

Here you can find the website of the 5th berlin biennial for contemporary art  

Kunstwerke Berlin

Kulturstiftung des Bundes

The Berlin Biennale is organized by
KW Institute for Contemporary Art and funded
by the German Federal Cultural Foundation.