by Rahul KumarApr 20, 2022
The Venice Biennale 2022, or the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, is set to open to the public from April 23-November 27, 2022, at the Giardini and the Arsenale. The exhibition titled The Milk of Dreams has been curated by Cecilia Alemani, and takes its moniker from the book by Leonora Carrington (1917–2011).
Founded in 1895, the international art exhibition featuring cinema, dance, music, architecture, visual arts, and theatre is held in the Castello district of Venice every two years during the summer. The 2022 exhibition focuses on many conversations with artists in the last few years, and the questions that kept emerging from these dialogues, summing up many inquiries that saturate the sciences, arts, and myths of our time, are - “How is the definition of the human changing? What constitutes life, and what differentiates plant and animal, human and non-human? What are our responsibilities towards the planet, other people, and other life forms? And what would life look like without us?” These are some of the guiding queries for this edition of the Biennale Arte, which concentrates on three thematic areas in particular: the representation of bodies and their metamorphoses; the relationship between individuals and technologies; the connection between bodies and the Earth.”
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. The 59th Venice Biennale curator, Cecilia Alemani, noted, “The first time I saw one of Katharina Fritsch’s works in person was actually in Venice, at the first biennale I ever attended, the 1999 edition curated by Harald Szeemann. The massive piece filling the main room at the Central Pavilion was titled Rattenkönig, the Rat King, a disquieting sculpture in which a group of giant rodents is crouched in a circle with their tails knotted together, like some strange magic ritual. Every time I encountered one of Fritsch’s sculptures in the years, I always felt the same sense of awe and dizzying attraction.”
Alemani states that Fritsch’s contribution to the field of contemporary art, especially sculpture, has been incomparable. “Fritsch creates figurative works that are both hyperrealistic and fanciful: copies of objects, animals, and people, faithfully rendered in every detail, but transformed into uncanny apparitions. Fritsch often alters the scale of her subjects, shrinking them down or vastly enlarging them, and coating them in disorienting solid colours: it feels like one is looking at monuments from an alien civilisation or artefacts on display in a strange posthuman museum.
Fritsch's world is populated by many things: saints, mice, architectural models and plans, shells, snakes, umbrellas, human figures, the sound of frogs croaking, and objects of everyday life. It's a place where life like intricacy and disorienting intangible finish liquefy the boundaries between the normal and the uncanny, causing a sensation of surprise and astonishment. In 2013 she created Hahn/Cock, a large sculptural installation of a vivid blue rooster, for London's Trafalgar Square. The work is made of fibreglass, and is 4.72 metres (15.5 ft) tall. Fritsch described the large-scale installation as a feminist art sculpture, stating that she is a woman depicting something male.
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.”
Talking about Cecilia Vicuña, Alemani states, “Vicuña is an artist and a poet, and has devoted years of invaluable effort to preserving the work of many Latin American writers, translating and editing anthologies of poetry that might otherwise have been lost. Vicuña is also an activist who has long fought for the rights of Indigenous peoples in Chile and the rest of Latin America. In the visual arts, her work has ranged from painting to performance, all the way to complex assemblages. Her artistic language is built around a deep fascination with indigenous traditions and non-western epistemologies. For decades, Vicuña has travelled her path, doggedly, humbly, and meticulously, anticipating many recent ecological and feminist debates and envisioning new personal and collective mythologies. Many of her installations are made with found objects or scrap materials, woven into delicate compositions were microscopic and monumental seem to find a fragile equilibrium: a precarious art that is both intimate and powerful.”
Her impermanent multi-dimensional works begin as a poem, or as an image that transforms into a film, a song, a sculpture, or a collective performance art. It is evolved by a desire to pay tribute to the indigenous history and culture of Chile. Talking about her win, Vicuña had mentioned, “It is a great honour and a joy for me to receive the Golden Lion Award - at a time when humanity is trying to keep peace and justice against all odds. I believe our art and consciousness can play a role in the urgent need to move away from violence and destruction, to save our environment from impending collapse.”
She further added, “Venice is particularly meaningful to me. Some of my paternal ancestors came to Chile from Northern Italy in the 19th century, so I learned to love its history and art as a child. My grandparents would be honoured to know of the award. My maternal line is indigenous, so I am very proud to be part of the Biennale Arte curated by Cecilia Alemani, which highlights “artists imagining a posthuman condition challenging the presumed western condition using the white man as a measure of all things.” I am joined by an extraordinary set of artists sharing in the spirit of The Milk of Dreams we badly need to find a new way of being on this Earth."
(Text by Vatsala Sethi, Asst. Editorial Coordinator (Arts))
The 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, titled The Milk of Dreams is open to the public from April 23-November 27, 2022, at the Giardini and the Arsenale, Venice.
Click here to read more about STIRring Dreams, a series of articles by STIR that explore some of the best presentations at this year's edition of the art biennale.