Your Biennial Cheat Sheet

03/01/2006 12:00 AM |

It’s Whitney Biennial time again, so brace yourselves for a flood of cynical criticism and a parade of new art stars. This year’s incarnation promises novelty if nothing else — the co-curators Chrissie Iles, of the Whitney Museum, and Philippe Vergne, of the Walker Art Center, are placing a big emphasis on film and video art, featuring masters such as Kenneth Anger and Michael Snow as well as youngsters like Anthony Burdin, Aaron Young, and Paul Chan. For the first time, the exhibit will also include non-American artists and will have a title, Day for Night — a reference to the English translation of Truffaut’s film La Nuit Americaine and a nod to the dark mood of much contemporary art. Here are some of the highlights. Whitney Museum,945 Madison Ave.

5 Themes of the Show


It’s all about getting along this year, as the Biennial features half a dozen artist collectives that downplay the whole ego thing.

Musicians are the new artists, with Jim O’Rourke, Momus, and Daniel Johnston all contributing to the show.

Thank god! No more butterflies and frolicking children, there’s nothing but destruction and gore this year.

I know, Biennials are always political, but this time everybody’s really pissed off.

There’s nudity, there’s ornament, there’s glitter — more is more!

5 Must Sees

Pierre Huyghe
The culmination of a three-part project, A Journey That Wasn’t is a film of Huyghe’s journey to Antarctica and his spectacle at the Wollman Rink in Central Park.

Don’t Trust Anyone Over Thirty
This collaboration between Dan Graham, Tony Oursler, Rodney Graham, Laurent P. Berger, and the hipster band Japanther, is an inflammatory puppet show.

The Wrong Gallery
The founders of the Wrong Gallery, including Maurizio Cattelan, are curating Down By Law, a show within the show.

Rodney Graham
The oddball video artist is turning away from his usual inscrutable narratives and offering us a single, spinning chandelier.

Rirkrit Tiravanija and Mark di Suvero
In a recreation of di Suvero’s Peace Tower from 1966, the two are soliciting panels from hundreds of artists to construct a tower in the Whitney courtyard.

5 Under the Radar

Jay Heikes

This jack-of-all-trades makes paintings, sculptures, and videos about the pop icons who live and die for us.

Paul Chan
The politically minded video artist, originally from Hong Kong, treads new ground with an ominous projection of light and shadows.

Zoe Strauss
Strauss’ wacky photographs of people and their bad accessories will make you laugh out loud.

Martha Colburn
Absurd and grotesque collages come to life in Colburn’s animated films.

Yuri Masnyj
Masnyj’s sharp, black-and-white drawings incorporate Constructivist imagery in enigmatic scenes. 

5 That Beg the Question "Is This Art?"

Reena Spaulings
A fictional artist created in 2004 by a group of collaborators; they run a gallery and create art and music under the pseudonym.

Bernadette Corporation
This collaborative group has generated a fashion line, a magazine, a novel, and several films.

Critical Art Ensemble
This group of five radical artists writes books and organizes biotech projects to challenge “authoritarian culture.”

Natalie Jeremijenko
Her Bureau of Inverse Technology is a database of the government’s anti-terror actions.

Center for Land Use Interpretation
A research organization that studies the effect of human development on the natural landscape.

5 Heaviest Hitters/VIPs

Kenneth Anger

This experimental film guru is showing a trippy Mickey Mouse adventure.


A contemporary of Warhol’s, she’s been making copies of other people’s work for 40 years.

Robert Gober

The master of quirky, sassy, and totally inexplicable sculptures.

Richard Serra

Lemme guess, another black square on paper. Can’t we see some more steel?

Taylor Mead

One of Warhol’s Factory boys, Mead was born in 1924! He’ll be reading his poetry and exhibiting some drawings.

5 Political Crusaders

George Butler
His film Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry traces the presidential candidate’s war years and political ascendance.

Deep Dish Television Network
This grassroots satellite network broadcasts left-leaning programming about our government’s bad decisions.

Jimmie Durham
A Cherokee artist, Durham makes work about the heritage of American Indian culture.

Dominic Angerame
His recent film Anaconda Targets documents the bombing of a military target in Afghanistan.

Robert Pruitt
His drawings and sculptures confront racial tensions with unflinching honesty.