At the Venice Biennale, a new humanity dream

Visiting the Venice Biennale of Art, it occurred to me that during a meeting with Cecilia Alemani in Tuscany (here), we had commented on the ludicrous appearance of manhood by Jeff Bezos, who had shot himself into space (and unfortunately returned) with her rod-shaped missile. It was the summer of 2021 and the weather seemed less heavy than it is today. The coronavirus epidemic – which forced the curator, or rather the “first Italian curator of the Venice Biennale”, to organize everything from behind the screen, from studio visits to selection of works – seemed to be breathing its last, defeated by human intelligence. For many it was the summer of the second dose, full of hope and a desire for lightness, and perhaps also a timid and renewed confidence in ourselves, you poor little mortals. The exhibition is titled dream milkIt would have somehow celebrated our ability to adapt, transform, and transform, Al Yamani explained to me, and it could have been “a path based on the representation of bodies and their transformations, the relationship between individuals and technologies, and the connections between bodies and the Earth.”

The title comes from a book by Leonora Carrington, a surrealist painter and writer unknown to most people, who serves little as a patron saint and testament to the exhibition (along with the personal invitation, some received the cheerful Adelphi as a gift). dream milk It is a children’s book, born from the stories the artist wrote and painted on his children’s bedroom walls: educational stories, in a sense, because they taught children the freedom of imagination and the limitless possibilities to reinvent our identity. . As Cecilia Alemani writes: “To the idea of ​​enlightenment for modern man—and particularly of males, white and European—as the fixed fulcrum of the universe and the measure of all things, [gli artisti e le artiste] They encounter worlds made up of new alliances of different species and populated by permeable, hybrid, multiple beings, such as the wonderful creatures invented by Carrington.” respecting these terms, dream milk It is the first art biennial in history featuring the majority of artists and non-binary people.

Who would have thought, however, that the previous edition would have brought such bad luck (or would have been so prophetic, depending on your point of view). May we live in interesting timesCurator Ralph Rogoff, director of the Hayward Gallery in London, wished us to choose a title that today seems a bleak omen. Long attributed to an ancient Chinese curse, the phrase “I wish you have a good time” is interpreted as an ironic wish that requires periods of uncertainty, crisis, and turmoil. The title reflects a biennale dominated by a dark atmosphere and the end of the world (I wrote about it here, with the naive title of our article “The Art of Our Horror Present: In 2019!”). Then came Covid, which for the third time since the First and Second World Wars brought the Venice Biennale to a halt. Then came the war in Ukraine, of which we feel, inevitably and for arguable reasons, that we are more involved than other conflicts in other parts of the world. During the opening, an armed guard stood in front of the stately Russian pavilion, closed and empty. In front of the Ukrainian pavilion – which is not even a pavilion, but a wall – it was inevitable to show respectful silence, as in a church, and treat Pavlo Makov’s The Fountain of Exhaustion (1995) as if crucified in front of it were to invoke some desperate prayer.

Pavlo Makov, The Fountain of Exhaustion (1995)
Russian Pavilion closed

dream milk It opens to the public on April 23 at a time when our confidence in the glorious transformation of man is zero or less. We are the victims of the dementia of a “white and European man” who does whatever he wants and no one can stop him. But here we are in Venice to visit the exhibition, which is open until November 27. We try to fend off despair and absorb some of the power and persistence of Simone Leigh’s majestic sculptures of the United States Pavilion for Black Women.) The arrangement of the works (again in Arsenale, where it is easier to create a linear path, which the central pavilion of the gardens prevents due to its irregular structure) follows the development of this perfect transformation: the powerful black and white artist Ion Belkis is the precursor to a series of colorful artworks, tapestries, sculptures, and drawings Masks, often based on original knowledge, attempt to re-establish our relationship with nature, others and our bodies, in a new communion with non-humans. The animal and the earth. Through a gradual transformation that also includes the course of the exhibition, we arrive at works in which the amalgamation of the inorganic and the organic, the animate and the inanimate continues, including a new element, the technological element, as in the artificial viscera somewhat disgusting and somewhat exciting of the creativity of Korean artist Mire Lee, sculptures that look like they came out of a science fiction movie by French artist Marguerite Humeau or video game-like videos by Chinese artist Luyang. Much simplified, we can summarize the following: a journey into the potential transformation of the object, from the natural (with all its magic, myths and fundamental relationship with nature and animals) to the artificial, punctuated by what Al Yamani calls “historical ‘capsules'”: some lovely little exhibits in the gallery that enrich the Biennale with an episodic approach. Through a selection of historical works that deepen our contemporary experiences in the adjacent spaces.The titles say it all: they start from cradle of the witch to cyborg seductionPassing through body orbit. In general, a triumph for female artists: past and present, dead and alive, young and very old, unknown or famous as Niki de Saint Phalle, Paula Rego or Miriam Cahn. I once heard a male “fellow” exclaim: “I’ve never seen so many embroideries, so many breasts and so many vaginas!”.

Nikki de Saint Phalle, Gwendolyn (1966-1990)
Toa Lewis, Fina Cava (2021)
Margaret Homo, El Nino (2022)
Andra Ursota, Second Personal Growth, 2020, (Central Wing, Gardens)

Another note from the preview: On April 19, the first day the Insiders opened, Raf Simons was cruising between the wings. The designer’s physical presence at the Biennale was the vivid manifestation of the closer relationship between art and fashion (and also between literature and fashion: a few days ago). The New York Times Talking about the new character of “Designer Books”), Burberry curated the UK Pavilion (where the voices of British black singers are resounded by artist Sonia Boyce) and Valentino Italian Gian Maria Tosatti, curated by Eugenio Viola, an exciting collection of dark, mysterious and depressing scenographies, Suite A finally coherent Italian in which self-pity is possible in silence (the mediator at the entrance reminds us that it is forbidden to speak). The history of the night and the fate of comets It traces the rise and decline of the Italian industrial miracle, providing a moment of epiphany that is not easy to Instagram and perhaps also emotionally powerful for that reason. As much as they can please the lights that twinkle in the dark: a bit like the fire raining from the ceiling in the Malta Pavilion (“Diplomazija Astuta” by Arcangelo Sassolino). “Immersive” business, a term very popular with those who write press releases, but perhaps revealing the need we have developed due to the pandemic and screens, or perhaps simply a manifestation of how much attention has been forever jeopardized: this year I found it strange and unnatural that I live in front of paintings, drawings, sculptures and antiques. An unprecedented feeling of frustration that I felt even in front of the work of Marilyn Dumas A Palazzo Grassi (An unmissable exhibition of the best living painter). My damaged brain found it much easier to watch videos or “get into” the business. Not all videos and not all works of course: the archaeological excavations and subtraction carried out by Maria Escor in the German Pavilion (similar to the 10-degree rotation of the Spanish Pavilion) for example, are deja vu which makes one regrettable strong performance Anne Imhoff 2017 (about art and fashion).

Gian Maria Tosatti, The History of the Night and the Fate of Comets
Gian Maria Tosatti, The History of the Night and the Fate of Comets
Gian Maria Tosatti, The History of the Night and the Fate of Comets
Diego Marcon, Parents’ Room
Luke Alfano. Oedipus in search of Colonus

But the beauty of the Biennial also lies in this: no matter which path the curator sets, you can choose to wander randomly in search of works that best suit your needs. My deceptive gaze in front of paintings and sculptures is revived thanks to Diego Marcon’s disturbing and tragic video of “The Parents’ Room” and the augmented reality of the Greek Pavilion (there is a queue but it’s worth it), where headphones are used and the viewer enters the film of artist and director Lucia Alfano “Oedipus in search of Colonos”.And Which connects Greece’s past with the present, and takes us to the gypsy camp in Nea Zoe, west of Athens. Strange feelings are also felt in front of the video – you can recognize it by the huge, hairy tail sticking out of the curtains (and continuing inside: you can lie on it to watch the movie) – by Mariana Semnet, “The Severed Tail”, also well promoted via Instagram. Hence the other works that I have identified in the version for the poor (18 euros) of the catalog, a booklet that insiders ignore, but in fact it is very well organized and written and helps to orient yourself while visiting the exhibition, deepening the various sections, remembering your favorite works after seeing them or discovering to others that you were tired Too much to look at.

View of the installation of the Uzbekistan Pavilion © gerdastudio

Even the Uzbek pavilion, for the first time in the Biennale, satiated my stupid annoyance with immutable things. It is an environment recreated by a reflective floor reminiscent of water, punctuated by a strong scent of seaweed (due to vegetation hanging from the ceiling) that reinterprets the Islamic tradition of the garden as a place of meeting and intellectual exchange. is called Algorism Dixit – The Garden of KnowledgeCurated and designed by architecture and research studio Space Caviar and Sheida Ghomashchi, it is an environment that will host throughout the Biennale a rich program of talks, seminars and musical performances that will include world-class artists and thinkers. A process that we can extend to the entire Biennale: a large “knowledge garden” that must truly be explored and understood, also thanks to the works of the past, and also thanks to doubts, contradictions and misunderstandings, what we feel about this hopeless present and what we dream about in the future.

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