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COSMOS CINEMA: The 14th Shanghai Biennale 

Chief Curator: Anton Vidokle

Curators: Zairong Xiang, Hallie Ayres, Lukas Brasiskis

Publications editor: Ben Eastham

Exhibition architects: COLLECTIVE

Art direction: Mengyi Qian & NONPLACE Studio


We have always looked to the night sky to make sense of ourselves, as we might look to a screen onto which the past and the future is projected. Titled Cosmos Cinema, the 14th Shanghai Biennale will offer visitors a spacetime in which to reflect on the operations of the universe and our place within it. The Greek word from which “cosmos” derives connotes not only the universe but also beauty and harmony; the Chinese term yuzhou connotes infinite time and space, resonating strongly with the cinematic.

The cosmos shapes every aspect of our lives, whether wittingly—the interpretation of stars and planets, after all, gave rise to our origin stories, religions, systems of time, economies, means of navigation, agricultures, sciences, and social orders—or unwittingly, in the movement of the tides or the effects of solar flares. Cosmos Cinema considers how the terms of our relationship with the cosmos condition all life on earth. The principles on which cinema is built—light, shadow, and encounters with images over time—are inherent to the human experience of the cosmos. Indeed, Alexander Kluge suggests that the universe is the original cinema, in which all past events are stored as visible “tracks of light.” André Bazin states that cinema “has not yet been invented,” and so contains boundless potential. Combining these two perspectives—one looking to the past, the other to the future—Cosmos Cinema posits that cinema is not only a medium for storytelling but a cosmic phenomenon, with the potential to change our understanding of the universe and our place within it.

The works included in the exhibition are as various in their forms and approaches as are readings of the constellations. They reflect on diverse cosmologies and microcosmic realities, indicating the different ways in which humanity interacts with and understands the universe. But they might all be said to begin from a point of wonder: how do we fit into the systems that govern time and space? Do the same principles operate at every scale, and how might our understanding of the cosmos change our terrestrial behavior? How do we live together, as a species and with nonhuman others, on earth and beyond?

Cosmos Cinema proposes that contemplations of the cosmos—ancient and modern—might work against the alienation that is endemic to our historical moment: alienation from each other, from nature, and even from time itself.  As no part of our world can be separated from the effects of the sun, the moon, and the heavenly bodies, the 14th Shanghai Biennale will suggest that seeking to understand the cosmos might encourage more complex ways of thinking about the ever-more entangled challenges that face the world today.

That we are all equal under the stars and in front of the screen does not mean that we are all the same, as the diversity of work included in this exhibition will attest. Every culture interprets the universe differently and builds from those interpretations their identifying philosophies. If it is a marker of human similitude that we all look to the skies in awe, then it is a marker of our difference that we each discover different affiliations in them. Cosmos Cinema will present a wide spectrum of propositions and responses, from the urge to explore outer space to reflections on the origins of consciousness, realized as sculptures, films, installations, performances, and paintings.

A constellation of artists from China and around the world will explore these histories, reflecting Shanghai’s position as a cosmopolitan city and heartland of cinema, in a country with a long philosophical and artistic engagement with the cosmos. Cosmos Cinema aspires to contribute to that tradition.

(Burial of an Undead World)


Haus der Kulturen der Welt


Berlin, Germany


23 Oct - 31 Dec 2022


We live in the decaying ruins of the modern and colonial world-system. All around us we encounter the undead institutions that structure systemic inequality, border regimes, and subject forms. To make different futures possible, this undead world—which violently resists change in its refusal to die—must be laid to rest.


[1] Peter Minshall, Sketch for the Adoration of Hiroshima, 1985. Courtesy of The Callaloo Company, Chaguaramas, Trinidad. [2] Stan Douglas, Deux Devises (still), 1983. © Stan Douglas. Courtesy of the artist, Victoria Miro and David Zwirner. [3] Cecilia Mangini, Stendalì suonano ancora (still), 1960. Courtesy of Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna. [4] Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, This Is Not a Burial, It's a Resurrection (still), 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Memento Film International. [5] Tabita Rezaire, Fertility altar, 2022. Courtesy of the artist and Amakaba. [6] Jane Jin Kaisen, Burial of this Order (still), 2022. Courtesy of the artist. 

We live in the decaying ruins of the modern and colonial world-system. All around us we encounter the undead institutions that structure systemic inequality, border regimes, and subject forms. To make different futures possible, this undead world—which violently resists change in its refusal to die—must be laid to rest.


Ceremony (Burial of an Undead World) is an exhibition that speaks of continuities among cosmologies and origin myths across space and time, only to upset, against this backdrop, the standard narratives of the modern era and its place in history. Ceremony refers to the writings of Jamaican theorist Sylvia Wynter, for whom the “underside costs” of modernity, from dispossession and slavery to extractivism and climate change, are intimately linked to the “mutations” of Christian cosmology into the secular discourse of modernity. 


Ceremony brings together works of various genres and time-periods as well as historical documents with multiple interlocutors. It also includes an extensive program of live events and a publication. 


Curators: Anselm Franke, Elisa Giuliano, Denise Ryner, Claire Tancons, Zairong Xiang

Exhibition with contributions by Leo Asemota, Shuvinai Ashoona, Richard Bell, Raymond Boisjoly, Gaëlle Choisne, Pauline Curnier Jardin, Alice Creischer & Andreas Siekmann, Mario Cresci, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Mariana Castillo Deball, Stan Douglas, Albrecht Dürer, Léon Ferrari, Jermay Michael Gabriel, Luigi di Gianni, Yervant Gianikian & Angela Ricci Lucchi, Leah Gordon, Nicolás Guillén, Ho Rui An, James T. Hong, Huang Yong Ping, Dapper Bruce Lafitte, Carlo Levi, Jane Jin Kaisen, William Kentridge, Will Kwan, Mary Reid Kelley & Patrick Kelley, Titina Maselli, Cecilia Mangini, Guadalupe Maravilla, Peter Minshall, Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, Ernest Nash, Le Nemesiache, Rachel O’Reilly, István Orosz, Rosa von Praunheim, Tabita Rezaire, Elza Soares, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet, Kidlat Tahimik, Rosemarie Trockel, Joyce Wieland, Tania Willard, David Wojnarowicz, Xiyadie, Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, and many more.


Ceremony (Burial of an Undead World)

Edited by Anselm Franke, Elisa Giuliano, Claire Tancons, Denise Ryner, Zairong Xiang, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt
In English
Released in December 2022

How can modernity, and the developments of global capitalism, be described in the same terms as “other cosmologies”, which are commonly understood as pre-modern belief systems? This publication responds to two seminal texts by Sylvia Wynter, “The Ceremony Must Be Found” (1984) and “The Ceremony Found” (2015), using them as the basis to provoke a discussion of cosmology beyond the modern order of knowledge. The book includes several commentaries upon these two texts exploring the role that origin stories play in conditioning the categories of our thought, as well as our language and perception. The editors are particularly interested in demonstrating how Wynter’s paradigm of a “human ecumene” establishes a counter-universalism capable of unhinging modernist and capitalist modernity. For this, Wynter argues, a ceremony is needed.


Publication with contributions by Mario Bellátin, James Burton, Alice Creischer & Andreas Siekmann, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Giulia Damiani, Maria José de Abreu, Mariana Castillo Deball, Esther Figueroa, Anselm Franke, Cécile Fromont, Elisa Giuliano, Ayesha Hameed, Whess Harman, Aaron Kamugisha, Catherine Keller, Joshua Chambers Letson, Canisia Lubrin, Leora Maltz-Leca, Felix Mayer, Patricia Reed, Rachel O’Reilly, Denise Ryner, Ho Rui An, Jon Solomon, Kerstin Stakemeier, Ana Teixeira Pinto, Claire Tancons, Elena Vogman, Michael Washington, Zairong Xiang, and Dorothy Zinn.

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