Theme of the 5th Mardin Biennial is ‘The Promise of Grass’

The Promise of Grass

The forthcoming 5th edition of the biennial will explore the possibility for a mystical cosmopolitics or a social-ecology that is steeped in the notion of renouncement. This is being examined against the backdrop of the swelling tide of disenfranchised humanity (and more-than-humans) alongside a literal rise in the sea levels. The expansion of capitalist enclosure — perfectly illustrated by the pervasive phenomenon of gated societies as well as its auxiliaries such as luxury doomsday bunkers, floating sea barriers for mitigating movement of refugees as well as hostile public infrastructure and policies  — has managed to lock a vast majority of its subjects out, inadvertently collectivising the precariat from Chile to Hong Kong over their shared vulnerability. Indeed, globalisation—the universal outreach that sought to unite us across cultural and geographical differences—has been systematically discredited by nationalist governments, who use it as a sword to terrorise the masses with an image of invading hordes threatening their jobs, social security and way of life, in short all the things that the self-same governments then freely enact under its cover. Where do we go from this impasse between capitalist encroachments over peoples’ rights and resources, and the rising multitudes that are left dispossessed in its wake?

The exhibition will speculatively engage the counter-intuitive notion that globalised dispossession is not an existential dead-end but denotes instead the point where capitalist territorialisation having come a full circle, finds its logos and values reversed, to reveal in renouncement the building blocks for a new order based on the ideals of non-filial sociality, parcelized sovereignty, and creative commoning. If the hegemonic, monopolising tendencies of capitalism are to be blamed for poisoning the land and its various gifts, then it stands to reason that a propitiatory reclamation must proceed along Sufic lines of love, i.e., through deindividuation and deterritorialization of the self—losing parts to regain the whole. Returning to the idea of gift economies that function in the spirit of barter, largesse, and reciprocity, the exhibition will cumulate radical experiments that espouse alternative models of ownership, resource sharing, land-use and relationality.  

Indeed, such a moment is here already and we are witnessing glitches in a system that is showing signs of overload. These evanescent social ecologies have come to symbolise both the laboratories where new models of sovereignty and co-existence are being tested, as well as the focal points for state mobilised violence to preserve the status quo. Taking dispossession to be the pre-condition for liberation, one can slowly start mustering the ruins around us into a great spiritual resource for commissioning new ecologies of care that are infinitely more cosmopolitical, situated, empathetic and egalitarian. The latest edition of the biennial, with its focus on the Levant, the region known as the cradle of civilisation, will see a gathering of cultural practitioners from around the world who are at the forefront of this visionary proposition.