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The Thessaloniki Biennale: The agendas and alternative potential(s) of a newly-founded biennial in the context of Greek governance

Karavida, Aikaterini (2014). The Thessaloniki Biennale: The agendas and alternative potential(s) of a newly-founded biennial in the context of Greek governance. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


This thesis explores two main hypotheses: the first is that the Thessaloniki Biennale fulfils an instrumental role linked to financial and political interests, particularly tourism and cultural diplomacy. The second hypothesis concerns the possibility that the Thessaloniki Biennale may have alternative potential(s), and explores to what extent and in what ways this was realised.

This thesis draws on the debates raised in the literature on art and culture’s instrumentalisation for ‘non-artistic’ purposes, art and culture’s potential for ‘subversion’, and the burgeoning literature on the biennial exhibitions of contemporary art. The analysis is interdisciplinary, applying a broad range of methodologies and theories: semiotics, social history of art, social theory of art and culture, the analysis of cultural policy formulation, and discourse analysis. The aim of this thesis is to synthesise these different methodologies to provide a rich, multi-faceted account of the Thessaloniki Biennale.

In this thesis, I contend that the Thessaloniki Biennale attempted to ‘re-brand’ Thessaloniki as historical and multicultural, as well as a centre of contemporary art. In this way, it contributed to enhancing the city’s competitiveness and attractiveness as well as its influence in the broader area. Thus, the art event became entangled to official Greek cultural policy, and the agenda of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture.

At the same time, the Thessaloniki Biennale challenged stereotypical interpretative frameworks as regards art practice in regions outside the so-called West, and avoided exhibition practices which commercialise ‘cultural difference’. Also, certain artworks undermined the privileged narrative on the city’s identity, by highlighting aspects of the city and its history which were largely ignored in the official written texts of the art event. The ‘subversive’ potential of the art event could be deepened and expanded by democratising the processes of selection of participating artists, and by working more closely with independent artistic groups, citizen and activist groups.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
School of Policy & Global Affairs > School of Policy & Global Affairs Doctoral Theses
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