STIRring Dreams: Best of the Venice Art Biennale 2022

STIR brings you a series of articles that investigate some of the best presentations at this year's edition of the 59th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia.

by Rahul KumarPublished on : Apr 20, 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. 

More than 1,400 works and installations will be presented in the historic Pavilions, the Giardini, the Arsenale and in the historic centre of Venice.

1. Venice Biennale 2022 awards Golden Lion to artists Katharina Fritsch and Cecilia Vicuña

Central Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2022 | La Biennale di Venezia 2022| STIRworld
Central Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2022 Image: Francesco Galli, Courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia

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."

2. STIRring Dreams: Cecilia Alemani on the 59thVenice Art Biennale's international exhibition

Venice Biennale book cover renders | La Biennale di Venezia 2022| STIRworld
Venice Biennale book cover renders Image: Courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia

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". 

3. STIRring Dreams: Rony Plesl's 'Trees Grow from the Sky' introduces Vitrum Vivum

Detail of the Installation Trees Grow from the Sky, 2022, Glass | La Biennale di Venezia 2022| STIRworld
Detail of the Installation Trees Grow from the Sky, 2022, Glass Image: Anna Pleslova, Ⓒ Rony Plesl

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.

4. Hermann Nitsch's demise leaves a legacy of works being shown at the Venice Biennale

20th Painting Action, 1987, Art Performance, Hermann Nitsch | STIRworld
20th Painting Action, 1987, art performance Image: Heinz Cibulka

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.

5. STIRring Dreams: Christina Li curates Pilvi Takala's work for the Finnish Pavilion

The Finnish Pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale 2022 | Close Watch | Pilvi Takala | STIRworld
The Finnish Pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale 2022 Image: Pilvi Takala

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.

6. STIRring Dreams: Chun Kwang Young's mulberry paper reliefs at Venice Biennale

An installation view of Chun Kwang Young’s exhibition at Venice Art Biennale | Chun Kwang Young | Venice Art Biennale 2022 | STIRworld
An installation view of Chun Kwang Young's exhibition at Venice Art Biennale Image: Alice Clancy, Courtesy of CKY Studio

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.

7. STIRring dreams: Latifa Echakhch’s The Concert weaves elements of art & music

Installation view of The Concert by Latifa Echakhch, Swiss Pavilion at the 59 The International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, Plywood, 2022 | Latifa Echakhch | STIRworld
Installation view of The Concert by Latifa Echakhch, Swiss Pavilion at the 59 The International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, Plywood, 2022 Image: Samuele Cherubini, Courtesy of Latifa Echakhch

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”.

The Venice Biennale is on view from April 23 till November 27, 2022. For more details please visit www.labiennale.org/en/art/2022

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