This is the age of "inalification". Every city, every form of creative practice – at vast expense and even greater effort – mounts gigantic productions that celebrate... well, what exactly?
Prefixed as Bienns and Trienns, these events marshall entire disciplines, command acres of physical space and even more media space. Who is showing what to who and to what end? Somewhere between trade fair and culture; between tourism, city branding and professional interest; between public outreach and academic study, these are events that wield a vast array of (often conflicting) interests under a single umbrella.
What, you wonder as you walk in a daze though another installation, is the point of another of these? Your feet hurt, your mind is numb and you can't find the way out. Acres of speculative projects of sometimes patchy quality stretch out before you.
And sure, there are moments as you wander through the grand spaces of Chicago's Cultural Centre this malaise mists your view. But that would be missing the point.
Sometimes it's not the detail, not exactly the content of these kinds of show. In their very nature they are uncuratable compared to traditional gallery shows. Unless that is you take the executive decision, as Rem Koolhaas did for much of the 2014 Venice Biennale, to author it all yourself.
Sometimes it's the umbrella itself that is the remarkable thing. So it is with the Chicago Biennial – a thing that should be understood more as platform than proposition. Or more exactly, a platform as proposition. Which is why, perhaps, it's confused some critics looking for the simple hook. Why it's provoked some architects who find the idea of the discipline as a discursive diaspora an anathema to their more traditional declamatory and adversarial modes.
Chicago boldly imagines its own definition of what a biennial might be. And its one that is deeply rooted in the visionary, imaginative tradition (rather than history) of Chicago itself.