The 33rd Biennial of Graphic Arts was curated by the Slavs and Tatars art collective. It should not be forgotten that the central role of the curator as the selector of the presented works at the 32nd Biennial edition entitled Birth as Criterion acquired a chain mechanism in which the choice was left entirely to artists. As Slavs and Tatars participated in that Biennial, Birth as Criterion influenced the concept of this Biennial in a very special way.
Comedy, irony, criticism, protest – satire, has taken on various roles in the past, from the form of popular philosophy to biting critique, from relaxing entertainment to hard-hitting activism. Today, as the totalitarian mindset is on the move in Western society, we are again witnessing the blossoming of various forms of comedy. Considering the functions of satire in the past, the main exhibition Crack Up – Crack Down triggered a reflection on the forms of this genre at the present time. But is each joke, as George Orwell maintained, really a tiny revolution? Or do laughter and satire release the pressure that would otherwise lead to political upheaval?
The curators of the Biennial thought about satire from a specific perspective. They were interested in the intersection between satire and printmaking, which were in the past linked to the belief that they are the tools of democracy, that they are the genre or medium through which the voice of the people trickles into society. The Biennial thus attempted to highlight how to understand graphic language as a tool for transmitting satirical content, or how the graphic can instigate the emergence of this highly resilient and topical form of criticism through the use of irony and ridicule. If the accessibility of printing at the beginning of the 20th century led to the unexpected expansion of the satirical press, then new aesthetic languages have emerged from the visual saturation of our time. The fertile ground of the graphic shows itself in the digital era in the form of the meme, the protest poster and similar virtual expressions, as mass communication takes place primarily through social media. This production is often marked as lacking in taste and quality, yet it cannot be circumvented.
In line with its global orientation, the Crack Up – Crack Down Biennial of Graphic Arts presented a selection of artists from the region (Slovenia, Poland, Ukraine, Georgia and Bulgaria) as well as wider (China, Iran,
Great Britain and the United States) that use their own unique graphic languages as part of their diverse practices. In addition to the historical part, the exhibition also presented works by contemporary artists, publishers, theoreticians, activists, new media personalities, stand-up comedians and others. The graphic image of the Biennial was designed by Nejc Prah, the recipient of the Prešeren Fund Award, who was also awarded the Brumen Award for it, together with his design and commissioning team.