WHAT IS OFF

OFF-BIENNALE BUDAPEST
Independent. Contemporary. Art.
24 April – 31 May 2015

What is OFF?

OFF-Biennale Budapest is a series of exhibitions and art events in and beyond the city of Budapest. The first edition of the OFF-Biennale Budapest is conceived to act as a game-changer in the cultural sector of Hungary and includes more than 160 projects, 200 artists, 180 events, 130 venues, and 600 stakeholders (artists, curators, gallerists, organizers, cultural workers, supporters etc).

Its concept is different from traditional biennials as we know them. Not affiliated with any institution, it is a voluntary collaborative initiative of artists, groups of artists, curators, art managers, gallerists and collectors. OFF-Biennale Budapest is a civil initiative, whose aim is to bring a segment of culture, contemporary art, closer to the public at large. OFF proclaims the importance of independent thinking and action, breaking away from clichés and habitual routines. It is meant to demonstrate that contemporary art can foster and catalyse this kind of activity – in other words, that contemporary art is much more than mere luxury and a source of aesthetic pleasure.

Structure

OFF-Biennale Budapest is based on self-organisation and collaboration in a network. It is a kind of umbrella organisation: active and authentic players on Hungary’s contemporary art scene organise their own programmes to be presented by OFF as a series of events, for which OFF provides coordinated communication. The funds come from foundations, and private and non-governmental entities. Neither OFF nor the participating programmes have applied for government funding, and will not use government-run locations. All curators commit themselves to the OFF-Biennale Budapest without being paid for it. Their passion comes from the profound belief in the case and in the common mission they can achieve only together.

Programme

OFF-Biennale Budapest will showcase a wide range of contemporary works and projects, from painting to photography; sculpture to installation; experimental film to youtube video; edition-of-one graphic works to multiple-copy fanzine; music performance to sound installation; traditional exhibition to public space action; performance to political karaoke. Besides renowned actors of the global contemporary art scene, legendary neo-avant-garde artists of the 1960s and 1970s, and Hungarian artists frequently shown in major international exhibitions, OFF-Biennale Budapest will also present works by the youngest generation of artists. OFF will provide an opportunity for the public to become more familiar with contemporary art through lectures, presentations and workshops, as well as various educational programmes related to the projects, and subjective guided tours across the venues. The OFF programmes will serve as a kind of immersion course for the public to encounter the sensitive, creative and often highly critical thinking and attitudes that characterise contemporary art.

Venues

OFF-Biennale Budapest programmes will be presented across Budapest, in other Hungarian cities and abroad at a wide variety of venues: not only in art galleries but also in artists’ studios, vacant buildings, private apartments, bars, theaters, public spaces and even in a power plant. OFF’s pop-up centre in Henszlmann Imre Street 9, offers a selection of programmes, as well as a chance to meet the organisers and the artists during the biennial. OFF’s press office is also located there.

The aim?

To acquaint the broadest possible public with the variety, energy and potential of contemporary art for collaborative thinking and joint action. To demonstrate that a collaborative effort and an international programme of this magnitude is possible to pull together via self-organisation. To encourage and strengthen the independent players in this field and to create, through a joint effort, the basis for a sustainable art scene. Furthermore, to offer an alternative to the network of government-funded art institutions.

Why OFF?

‘OFF’ stands for similar values and qualities as in the case of Off-Broadway. It is not ‘anti-‘, i,e. it is not aimed against anyone or anything. It simply diverts from the mainstream, from solidified routines, and ventures to find its own path, establishing its own form of operation. It finds its own drivers, resources and locations. It may be smaller, more spontaneous and have a tighter budget, but it makes no compromises in quality, and is less constrained by unchallengeable protocols. In other words, going off does not mean turning off. Quite the contrary: it means the start of something different.

Instead of fast-changing prepositions – “post”, “anti”, “neo”, “trans”, and “sub” – that suggest an implacable movement forward, against and beyond, and try desperately to be “in”, I propose to go “off”: “Off” as in “off quilter”, “off Broadway, “off the path,” or “way off”, “off-brand”, “off the wall”, and occasionally, “off-color.” – wrote Svetlana Boym, whose Off-Modern theory served as inspiration for naming the project.

Who is OFF for?

OFF-Biennale Budapest’s purpose is to demonstrate that contemporary art is sensitive and open, has a clear vision, and is replete with critical voices. It is an exciting field worthy of attention, which can significantly contribute to the quest for answers to topical questions that concern us all. Therefore, OFF targets all open and conscious consumers of culture. OFF’s educational programmes will also aim to bring the processes and trends of contemporary culture closer to those who have thus far followed this field from a distance only.