The 35th Ljubljana Biennale of Graphic Arts: From the void came gifts of the cosmos opened to the public on 15 September with a programme of events that ran throughout the weekend, including guided tours, artist talks, performances and concerts, as well as announcements of this edition’s prize winners. Unfolding beyond the gallery walls of the International Centre for Graphic Arts and the former sugar factory Cukrarna, this edition extended to an abandoned boiler house, a former people’s kitchen and a temporary production space created from an abandoned crater-like construction site.
Under the artistic direction of Ibrahim Mahama, the 35th Ljubljana Biennale of Graphic Arts’ curatorial team (Exit Frame Collective, Alicia Knock, Selom Koffi Kudjie, Inga Lace, Beya Othmani and Patrick Nii Okanta Ankrah) invites artists and collectives from Africa, Europe and beyond, working in printmaking, film, installation and performance, to present newly commissioned and existing works alongside material from the Biennale archive. Exploring the ecosystem of connections, solidarities and histories of resistance that emerge from post-independence Ghana and the former Yugoslavia, it considers the emancipatory vision of Ghana’s pan-African theorist and first president Kwame Nkrumah. His vision birthed the intellectual, cultural, scientific and economic infrastructure that gave shape to Ghana’s first republic. From the void came gifts of the cosmos looks to the connections between contemporary art and printmaking in the fields of architecture, design, agriculture and botany, and reflects on the proliferation of visual culture as a way of creating spaces of potentiality that transcend borders.
The Grand Prize of the 35th Ljubljana Biennale of Graphic Arts was awarded to printmaker Tejswini Narayan Sonawane for her woodcut prints on cloth from the series Femininity (2015) and A Migrant (2017). Sonawane’s works reveal personal stories, emotional states, relationship dynamics and transformation. She particularly explores how inhibition of the self can manifest as a loss of self-ownership: a reality felt by many women in South Asia whose lives are largely determined by their male counterparts.
‘We believe that strong image-making and beautiful storytelling within this work speaks to the history of printmaking in the tradition of the Biennale and beyond. We wanted to acknowledge the complexity of the spiritual dimension of this work and the epistemologies that it manifests,’ the jury explained.
Each edition of the biennale presents a solo exhibition from the Grand Prize recipient of the previous edition, with 2021’s winner JP Raether now presenting Transformella: Cinis’ Forking [220.127.116.11.1] – Die Schützlinginnen and Neverlife in Symbolic Terrain: a shrine to a psycho-real ritual of so-called “Ikeality” in local shops, where household goods and family models are mass-reproduced.
Furthermore, The Jury Prize was awarded to the School of Mutants for I Am My Own Sun (2023). Across Senegal and West Africa, School of Mutants takes as its point of departure the role of universities, public school projects and academic utopia in the post-independence
processes of nation-building. For the Biennale, the artists turned their attention to the practice of translation as an act of hospitality. The jury elaborate on their decision:
‘Convinced of the importance and radical approach to collective school-making, we have unanimously decided to award the Jury Prize to the School of Mutants. The history and legacy of the Non-Aligned Movement in Slovenia will be of great value to the artists’ future mutant manifestations. The work channels an important message that we are all here for: I am my own sun’.
Special Mentions were given to Krater for their community-engaged work Feral Occupations: ‘Our labour is our infrastructure!’ and the collective’sfight against gentrification and the abstraction of structural violence. Kraterincludes:Danica Sretenović, Gaja Mežnarić Osole, Andrej Koruza, Anamari Hrup, Eva Jera Hanžek, Louisa Selleret, Rok Oblak, Amadeja Smrekar, Sebastjan Kovač, Primož Turnšek, Edern Haushofer, Altan Jurca Avci, Juan José López Díez.
Soghra Khurasani also received a special mention for her powerful etchings that depict emotional landscapes. Regularly using natural forms as a grounding framework, the jury praised her skillful execution which expresses both the fragility and the strength of the human body.
Anita Afonu, Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, Yasmina Benabderrahmane, Assadour Bezdikian, Max Cegielski and Janek Simon, Virginia Chihota, Galle Winston Kofi Dawson, Nolan Oswald Dennis, Nabil Djedouani, DNLM (Danilo Milovanović), Jihan El Tahri, El Warcha in dialogue with PLAC (Participatory Ljubljana Autonomous Zone), Beti Frim and Ines Sekač, Helga Griffiths, Christian Guerematchi, Eric Gyamfi, Sonia Kacem, Mohammad Omar Khalil and Abed Al Kadiri (in dialogue), Soghra Khurasani, Kolektiv Krater / Krater Collective, Kvadratni meter / Square Meter, Lalitha Lajmi, Malle Leis, Silvi Liiva, Kagiso Patrick Mautloa, Raul Meel, Amina Menia, Yussif Musah, Medhat Nasr Ali, Ilona Németh, noks collective, Nonument Group, NPR., Henry Obeng, Temitayo Ogunbiyi, Thierry Oussou, Krishna Reddy, Tjaša Rener, Martyna Rzepecka, Duba Sambolec, Jaanus Samma, School of Mutants (Hamedine Kane, Stéphane Verlet-Bottéro), Mori Sikora, Aldona Skirutyte, Sanaz Sohrabi, Tejswini Narayan Sonawane, Selasi Awusi Sosu, Sreda v sredo (SVS), Tracy Naa Koshie Thompson, Marje Üksine, Tõnis Vint, Ala Younis, Lara Žagar, Manca Žitnik.
Symposium & Biennale Reader
The Biennale is accompanied by an extensive symposium from 16 to 18 November. The three-day programme includes film screenings, presentations, talks, lectures, panel discussions, exhibitions, guided tours and social gatherings following the curatorial concept of the 35th Ljubljana Biennale of Graphic Arts.
The main exhibition and public programme of the 35th Ljubljana Biennale of Graphic Arts is accompanied by a Biennale reader that offers critical insight and questions the complex nature of the emancipatory undertone of this year’s edition of the Biennale. The publication brings together texts and experimental contributions by a wide range of authors, from curators, architectural historians, critics to theorists and artists. The volume is edited by Kwasi Ohene-Ayeh, Kelvin Haizel, Patrick Nii Okanta Ankrah and Selom Kudjie.
Press release from 35th Ljubljana Biennale of Graphic Arts