Biennial curators have increasingly invoked "experience" as what they are offering in the sites they are attempting to charge with contemporary meaning. This is suggestive, since enduring his- torical links join the sites of the Grand Tour, package tourism, object-based art history, and museums. "Charged sites," in this context, provides a stimulating invitation to note larger idiosyncrasies in the "objects" of art history, in the sites of our disciplinary field. Built on a Baedeker-like armature, art history distills the heterogeneous experience and information of privileged travel into a canon – supported, of course, by the authoritative archival document. Yet the very touristic itineraries charted by proliferating contemporary biennali – Istanbul, Gwangju, Dakar, Shanghai – re-route art history’s normative Western mainstream. Recent tensions between art historical categories and contemporary biennial culture’s call to »experience« will be the focus of this paper, particularly in regard to Tino Sehgal’s "constructed situations." I will explore Alain Badiou’s "site événementiel" ("eventual site") as a way to think through the complexities of site, experience, and notation, theorized as spatial, interpersonal and discursive realms in which the new can come into being, but only through the rupture that is an event.
"[...] there can be no doubt that all our cognition begins with experience [›Erfahrung‹ versus ›Erlebnis‹]. For what else might rouse our cognitive power to its operation if objects stirring our senses did not do so?" (Kant, 1790)