57th Venice Biennale

Walking and boating through tourists-saturated Venice to catch as much as possible of the Biennale exhibitions, openings and parties is a tall order. The feeling of having missed too much despite the effort is overwhelming, as the event seems to be growing exponentially with each edition.

As any large exhibition, the current Biennale shows an array of very good works. Remarkably so, it also proposes the affirmative inclusion of prominent senior artists, which reveals much needed due respect to essential contributions to contemporary art languages. However, the central exhibition curated by Centre Pompidou curator Christine Macel seems to reenact old curatorial formulas -read Magiciens de la Terre’s ambivalent inclusion of wrongly labeled ‘shamanistic’ works – and a literal association of works by material and formal qualities that sadly result in a highly museistic and unoriginal proposal.

In regards to the politics of representation, some critics have pointed out that the good intentions of the Venice Biennale curatorial project have backfired. A sort of pedantic Eurocentrism seems to  have guided the problematic inclusion of a couple of ‘human zoos’ set up by Olafur Eliasson and Ernesto Neto, which seemed to attempt to tick some boxes rather than address any radical proposition to the urgent problems of our time: the refugee crisis and the indigenous people’s struggle for land rights, linked to the depletion of our environment.

As a positive outcome, it was reassuringly novel to see national representations opting for non-western epistemologies and displaying versions of history articulated by artists of indigenous descent. However late this might be, such development is indeed promising. With excellent works, New Zealand presented Lisa Reihana’s film piece commissioned by curator Rhana Davenport , Tracey Moffat featured in the Australia pavilion and Chile’s Bernardo Oyarzun installation curated by Ticio Escobar.

As a conclusion, the Biennale’s agenda to satisfy too many stakeholders inevitably dilutes focus on the nature of contemporary art’s relevance today, entailing the risk of superficiality while becoming unsustainable as a global exhibition. One wonders if all efforts to be the major – and glitzy – world art event by the mother of all Biennales have not fallen into a simple replication of predictable curatorial models.

7.000 Mapuche family names. Led projection on the walls of the Chilean Pavilion. Work ‘Werken’, by Bernardo Oyarzun.

Juan Downey, ‘El círculo de fuego’ and Rasheed Araeen, ‘Zero to Infinity in Venice’

Kader Attia, ‘Narrative Vibrations’ cous cous on trays, motor, video projection.

‘Werken’ by Bernardo Oyarzun at the Chilean Pavilion

Lee Mingwei, ‘The Mending Project’ 2009 – 2017

Javier Salazar, ‘Land of Tomorrow’ Peruvian Pavilion

Thu Van Tran, ‘Only Forced Gestures, from Harvest to Fight’

Kiki Smith

Martin Cordiano, ‘Common Places’ 2017

Claudia Fontes, ‘El problema del caballo’, Argentine pavilion.

Jelili Atiku, installation of objects after the performance ‘Mama Say Make I Dey Go, She Dey My Back’

Lisa Reihana, ‘Emissaries’ New Zealand pavilion

Leonor Antunes subtle architectures at the Arsenale

Olafur Eliasson, ‘Green light – An artistic workshop’ 2017

It is worth noting some independent shows and pavilions (Taiwan, Cuba, Azerbaijan, Zimbabwe among other highlights) that seemed to hold more relevance. And a jewel: the ambitious and  stunning ‘Intuition’ exhibition curated by Daniela Ferretti and Axel Vervoordt at Palazzo Fortuny.   

Argentine artist Chino Soria among British pavilion artist Phyllida Barlow’s works

Hassan Sharif Studio (Supermarket) 1990 – 2016

Dana Whabira ‘Black Sun Light’ at the Zimbabwe pavilion

Georges Adeagbo, installation at the exhibition of video artists from Benin at Giardini’s green house

Installation view of Shirin Neshat’s ‘The Home of My Eyes’ exhibition at the Museo Correr

‘Intuition’ exhibition at Palazzo Fortuny Work by Jean-Michel Basquiat

‘Intuition’ exhibition at Palazzo Fortuny Work by El Anatsui

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