by Devanshi ShahJul 05, 2022
The world's most prestigious art event, also referred to as the Olympics of the art world, the Venice Biennale, is launching this week. The biennale skipped a year owing to the global pandemic conditions. Traditionally organised every two years, the biennale features artists from around the world engaging with a specific theme. The 2022 edition is curated by the New York-based Italian curator, Cecilia Alemani.
"As the first Italian woman to hold this position, I intend to give voice to artists to create unique projects that reflect their visions and our society," said Alemani, who has previously organised many exhibitions of emerging and contemporary artists. She also curated the Italian pavilion at the 2017 Venice Art Biennale.
Alemani's vision to focus on young artists and women practitioners is evident from her selection for the international exhibition. Out of 213 artists from 58 countries, 191 are female and 22 male; for 180 of them, it is the first time at the Biennale. She says, "For the first 100 years of this prestigious institution, the percentage of women artists in the show was less than 10 per cent, and in the last 20 years it was around 30 per cent."
Titled The Milk of Dreams, this year's main exhibition takes its name from a children's book by British painter and writer, Leonora Carrington (1917–2011), "in which the Surrealist artist describes a magical world where life is constantly re-envisioned through the prism of the imagination," says Alemani.
Recently, German artist Katharina Fritsch and Chilean artist Cecilia Vicuña were announced as the recipients of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement award of the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia - The Milk of Dreams. The awards ceremony and biennale inauguration will be held on April 23 at Ca' Giustinian, the headquarters of La Biennale di Venezia.
Born in 1956, Fritsch lives and works in Wuppertal and Düsseldorf, Germany. Since 1979 she has concentrated on multi-scaled, boldly hued sculptures that according to her, should instead be seen as three-dimensional pictures.
A poet, artist, filmmaker, and activist, 1948-born Cecilia Vicuña lives and works in New York and Santiago. Born and raised in Santiago, she was exiled in the early 1970s after the violent military coup against President Salvador Allende. Vicuña coined the term "ArtePrecario" in the mid-1960s in Chile, for her precarious works and quipus, as a way of "hearing an ancient silence waiting to be heard."
STIR speaks with the curator Cecilia Alemani on the 2022 edition of the Venice Art Biennale as she discusses her references for the curatorial theme, the urgency of it in our contemporary times, and her views on initiatives to democratise access to art. The overarching theme that ties the event conceptually takes its title, The Milk of Dreams, from a book by Leonora Carrington (1917–2011) in which the surrealist artist describes a "magical world where life is constantly re-envisioned through the prism of the imagination".
The Czech artist and sculptor Rony Plesl's exhibition Trees Grow from the Sky is an official collateral event of the 59th Venice Biennale. For the exhibition, the site-specific four large-scale glass sculptural installations by Plesl are unveiled in the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Visitazione in the Dorsoduro district with views of the Giudecca Canal. The art exhibition, curated by Lucie Drdova, Prague-based art historian, gallerist, and author, rightly coincides with the proclamation by the United Nations of the year 2022 as the International Year of Glass. Pushing the technology of glassmaking to an unprecedented scale, the grand sculptures are a result of unique casting technology - Vitrum Vivum. To mention, now for past many decades Plesl has been on a continuous journey to experiment with the many possibilities the materiality of glass has to offer.
Hermann Nitsch passed away on April 18, 2022 due to a serious illness. Aged 83, the Austrian artist made history with his radical 1960s Avant-garde movement, leaving the audiences thunderstruck with the use of blood, carcasses, and viscera in his ceremonial art performances. Unfortunately, the artist would not be able to experience one of his greatest successes, which is the art exhibition of the 20th Painting Action, on view as part of the 59th Venice Biennale. For the first time, all the 20th Painting Action works will be seen at the Biennale together in Italy until July 20, 2022 at Oficine 800 on the island of Giudecca, Venice.
Venice Art Biennale's Finnish Pavilion presents video artist Pilvi Takala's work, curated by Christina Li and produced by Frame Contemporary. Takala's work relies on a deep immersion, and slow unraveling of societal layers. This process also engages the curator and viewer in a deeper conversation around the role of an artist, as Takala shatters any notion of the artist as an objective spectator or passive onlooker. In a conversation with Li, a Hong Kong and Amsterdam based writer and curator, she talks to us about the process of curating and presenting Takala's work.
La Biennale di Venezia 2022 is presenting a series of collateral events at the 59thedition of the international art exhibition, one of which is the work of Korean artist Chun Kwang Young. Young's art is presented at Hanji House, a site-specific, commissioned pavilion designed by Italian architect and urban planner Stefano Boeri. Hanji House is located at the Palazzo Contarini Polignac in Venice, visible from the Grand Canal. The exhibition, titled Chun Kwang Young: Times Reimagined, features 40 large scale installations, sculptures and mulberry-paper reliefs. The exhibition is curated by Youngwoo Lee, with Manuela Lucà-Dazio as curatorial advisor. We caught up with the artist to learn more about his practice, and the oeuvre presented at Hanji House.
Latifa Echakhch's premise at the beginning of the project was to ask herself: Is it possible to come out of an exhibition with the same sensations as when coming out of a concert? The large-scale immersive installation is produced in collaboration with percussionist and composer Alexandre Babel and curator Francesco Stocchi. Babel summarises the installation by saying, "The Concert attempts to answer this question, in particular through its ambulatory quality. The visit begins with the end: we first discover the calcinated rests of sculptures, the testimony of a past event. In the course of the visit, we go back in time and discover the intact sculptures in the heart of the exhibition, animated by the rhythm of the light".
This year's edition of the Venice Art Biennale marks the 10th year of participation by the Singapore Pavilion. Presenting at the pavilion is artist Shubigi Rao with Pulp III: A Short Biography of the Banished Book. Her exhibition, curated by Ute Meta Bauer, also includes a film titled Talking Leaves and a paper maze. The space is designed in collaboration with exhibition designer Laura Miotto. Although Rao is a member of the Indian diaspora, her roots belong to the Singaporean soil. She showcases proudly at VAB as the first solo female artist to represent Singapore. STIR speaks with the artist to learn more about her practice, as well as the work on view, in a more intimate way.
Berlin-based artist Monira Al Qadiri is presenting Orbital, a triptych of 3D-printed sculptures as part of the 59th Venice Art Biennale, in the international exhibition titled Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani. The kinetic sculptures take the form of rotating oil drill heads, an extension of the series of works presented by Al Qadiri over a period of 10 years, that have included monumental permanent and semi-permanent public sculptures in different parts of the Gulf region. In conversation with STIR, she describes her dream as an artist to make a public sculpture in every city in the Gulf region, so that when the oil market collapses, there'll be something to commemorate it by, artistically as well as culturally.
The Venice Biennale 2022, after a gap of one year due to the global pandemic induced crisis, opened in the milieu of an on-going war between Russia and Ukraine. The 59th edition of the prestigious biennale on contemporary art has added several firsts to its name. To begin with, in the long 127-year history of the biennale, the Italy-born artistic director, Cecilia Alemani, the director and chief curator of New York's High Line Art, is its first female curator. Alemani has titled her biennale The Milk of Dreams after a book of the same name by Surrealist writer Leonora Carrington. She revisits the feminist theorist and activist Silvia Federici and sci-fi author Ursula K Le Guin in her curatorial essay. Only 21 artists among the 213 participating artists in the biennale are men, which rightly makes the Venice Biennale celebrate the power of artistic expression practised by female, non-binary and trans artists. Supplementing the visible female presence, the new participation of the key nations – from the continent of Africa, Asia and the region of Euro Asia - has imperatively raised the bar of biennale's critical visual appeal. The countries including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are participating for the first time with their national pavilions, and Cameroon, Namibia, Nepal, Oman, and Uganda are the new participants at the art biennale.
The Venice Art Biennale (VAB), a festival on the frontline of the global art landscape, has acted as a portal for tremendous movement, collaboration and creation. Despite the overwhelming conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the VAB team ploughed through, managing to present us with a magnificent display this year. Through this process, the pandemic also inadvertently initiated the birth of Cypher Art Collective. The group of artists make their first-ever presentation at the Grenada National Pavilion at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. STIR spoke with the curator of the pavilion, Dr. Daniele Radini Tedeschi, about his own practice, as well as the unique process of putting together a creative collective.
Arcangelo Sassolino was born in Vicenza, a city in north eastern Italy, where the artist continues to live and work. However, his work has been carried across the globe at venues including Grand Palais (France), Tinguely Museum (Switzerland), Palais de Tokyo (France), Swiss Institute (USA) and several others. The artist explores formats like sculpture and installation, with a driving interest in mechanical behaviours contextualised in both industrial and environmental phenomena. His work brings together art and physics, initiating investigation into the spaces of overlap between the two. While Sassolino’s practice leans on research and conceptual design, it manifests in large constructions with a heavy-handed focus on its materiality. The artist represents Malta at the Venice Art Biennale (VAB) with Diplomazija Astuta (2022), a work that re-imagines The Beheading of San Giovanni Battista (1608), Caravaggio’s paramount masterpiece. He speaks to us about his process, practice and presentation at VAB 2022.
Curated by Reem Fadda with Assistant Curator Rotana Shaker, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale features a large-scale installation, titled The Teaching Tree by multidisciplinary artist Muhannad Shono. The Teaching Tree takes up the length of the pavilion, an installation made of palm leaves or fronds covered in black pigment, accompanied by a metal structure and pneumatics that animate the 40-metre-long sculpture. The title is a reference to the role that knowledge and resilience play in the relay of human history, conveyed through the immersive installation. Inclined towards a naturalistic view, the large formation, through the incorporation of pneumatics, expands and contracts, as if breathing, gesturing towards the continuation of life and all its forms.
While the Venice Biennale, as its name suggests takes place every other year, the truth is that between art and architecture versions of the biennale, the archipelago of Venice is an important cultural hub between the months of April and November every year. This year New York-based curator Cecilia Alemani spearheaded the curation of the Art Biennale with its theme The Milk of Dreams. The international exhibition is on display between the Central Pavilion of the Giardini, and at the Arsenale complex. Both these spaces are enormous volumes that require a very strategic and careful exhibition design intervention. This is where research-based design studio Formafantasma played an important role in how one experiences Alemani’s curation.
South Korean visual artist and music producer Yunchul Kim is presenting four installations at this year’s Venice Art Biennale. In his glorious chromium cyberpunk, Isaac Asimov meets Dune aesthetic, Kim brings an edgy and mysterious quality to the 2022 Korean Pavilion. The works on view include Argos - The Swollen Suns (2022), Chroma V (2022), La Poussière de Soleils (2022), Impulse (2018) and Flare (2014). The large kinetic sculptural installations are accompanied by a site-specific wall-drawing also made by Kim.
China is presenting an exhibition as part of the 59th Venice Art Biennale, titled Meta-space, curated by Zhang Zikang, and showcasing the artists Liu Jiayu, Wang Yuyang, Xu Lei, and AT Group. As the name of the exhibition suggests, there is an exploration of digital reality in interaction with spatial conditions, through various art installation projects that take the route of technology in order to explore.
The Metaverse ecosystem platform Arhead is participating in the 59th Venice Biennale, where it presents an AR project titled Pseudo-Territory. The project has been undertaken in collaboration with The Yiddishland Pavilion, which is independent and transnational, and has facilitated the presentation of Pseudo-Territory from April to November 2022.
Biennale Danza 2022, as part of the 59th Venice Biennale, presents five sets of programs that look at the interdisciplinary nature of dance, the body, and movement, through the lens of technology, active participation, workshops, films and collaborations. As part of Biennale Danza, German-born practitioner Tobias Gremmler presents an immersive installation of larger-than-life sized human-inspired anatomical variations and constructions in movement.
In this maze-like city of alleyways and canals, the Venice Biennale is a curated world of mystery, awe and magic. Amidst multiple artful moments popping up all across the floating city, one of the not-to-miss highlights is Raqib Shaw’s solo exhibition in Ca' Pesaro - a mid 17
A strange silence welcomes you to the German Pavilion 2022 at the Venice Art Biennale. It makes you question where the “artworks” are. Shouldn't there be objects on pedestals or on the floor, hanging off the walls and ceilings? It is a strange claim to make but if one were to look closer, the ‘artwork’ is revealed through the act of uncovering and exposing. German artist Maria Eichhorn’s project Relocating a Structure consists of numerous components to dissect in spite of its supposed emptiness. The pavilion's curator, Yilmaz Dziewior, spoke to STIR and commented on inviting Eichhorn for a solo exhibition, saying, "I started to think about the format of the show and the special context that the German Pavilion is. I looked at who I could invite, but in the end, it was very clear to me that I wanted to invite Maria Eichhorn. The situation with the German Pavilion, it is very loaded and very special.” He continued, “Eichhorn in her artistic practice very often analyses the context she exhibits. I knew I would not show art for art's sake. I would not just put paintings on the wall.”
An exhibition of works by Hong Kong-based multidisciplinary artist Wallace Chan, titled Totem, is being presented as part of the 59th Venice Art Biennale. A self-trained sculptural artist, whose material-focused practice encompasses jewellery, sculpture and carving, Chan finds his works moving across disciplines. The art exhibition consists of a set of scattered parts of a disassembled 10-metre-long sculpture, the artwork being titled A Dialogue Between Materials and Time (Titans XIV). Taking from the title, the materiality of the sculpture becomes important to take into consideration. In conversation with STIR, Chan speaks about the time it took to “tame” the material, that being titanium, through his own spiritual journey.
I was still reconstituting myself after having been swallowed by Bendígame Mamita (Bless me Mommy),Cecilia Vicuña’s oil on canvas portrait of her mother,painted in Bogotá in 1977, when my milk let down. I should have been besotted by the more obviously arresting detail—the maternal eye that occupies the guitar’s sound hole, the abstracted form of which has been reproduced countlessly, reappearing all over the Venetian lagoon as though it were a panopticon, serving as the graphic identity of the 59th edition of the Venice Art Biennale, curated by Cecilia Alemani. What had consumed me, instead, was the figurative assemblage in the top-right corner. Its sighting had baited, hooked, and lined not only my gaze but my entire being, enveloped as it was in the aura of what Amber Jamilla Musser refers to as brown jouissance. A maternal body lies on surgical white sheets in the throes of birth, blood oozing into a pile that contrasts against the painting’s aqueous-blue background. A still un-severed umbilical cord connects this body to the infant that has been delivered, face down, through the vaginal canal, that is in the process of being received by a uniformed nurse; implying an invisible, yet-to-be-expelled placenta is still performing its nutritive, immunological function.
The Venice Biennale is on view from April 23 till November 27, 2022. For more details please visit www.labiennale.org/en/art/2022