National Pavilions And Collateral Events: What To See At The 59th Venice Biennale

Rendering of the Ukrainian Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale. Photo by ФОРМА. Image courtesy of the artist and the Ukrainian Pavilion.
Pavlo Makov, Fountain of Exhaustion, 1996. Installation view in “Borderline. Ukrainian Art 1985–2004” at PinchukArtCentre, Kyiv, 30 May – 4 October, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist and PinchukArtCentre.
Uffe Isolotto, We Walked the Earth, 2022, concept art accompanying the hyperrealistic installation in the Danish Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale. Image courtesy of the artist.
Jakob Lena Knebl and Ashley Hans Scheirl. Photo by Christian Benesch. Image courtesy of the artists.
Marco Fusinato, a page from the score for DESASTRES, 2022, facsimile on Edition Peters manuscript paper, 45.5 x 30.3 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery.
Na Chainkua Reindorf, Evor, 2021. Image courtesy of the artist.
Simone Leigh, 2021. Artworks © Simone Leigh. Photo by Shaniqwa Jarvis. Image courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery.
VAL, Du chaos à la sagesse (From Chaos to Wisdom), 2016, bronze & stainless steel, 440 x 3600 x 235 cm, located in Taichung, Taiwan. Image courtesy of the artist.
Angela Su, The Magnificent Levitation Act of Lauren O (still image), 2022, video. Commissioned by M+; part of the artist’s solo presentation for Hong Kong’s Collateral Event in the 59th Venice Biennale. Photo by Ka Lam. Image courtesy of the artist.
ORTA collective, Alexandra Morozova inside the Circular Cardboard-Light Generator of Genius, 2022. © and photo by ORTA collective. Image courtesy of the artist.
Markus Lüpertz, Sebastian, 2020, mixed media on canvas in artist’s frame, six parts, 203 x 247 cm (overall). Image courtesy of the artist.
Anish Kapoor, Shooting Into the Corner, 2008-09, mixed media, dimensions variable. Photo by Dave Morgan. © Anish Kapoor. All rights reserved SIAE, 2021. Image courtesy of the artist.
TOP
1235
44
0
 
19
Apr
19
Apr
CoBo Social Design and Architecture

The wait is nearly over—the much-anticipated 59th Venice Biennale will finally open to the public this week. From Simone Leigh’s striking figurative works to Pavlo Makov’s installation with heightened global relevance, here are the national pavilions and collateral events you should try not to miss. 

TEXT: Herbert Wright
IMAGES: Courtesy of various

 

The title for this year’s Venice Biennale, which opens 23 April, is “The Milk of Dreams”. Chosen by Artistic Director Cecilia Alemani, Director and Chief Curator of New York’s High Line Art, it is taken from a book by 20th century surrealist Leonora Carrington, whose work will be included in the International Exhibition.

 

Rendering of the Ukrainian Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale. Photo by ФОРМА. Image courtesy of the artist and the Ukrainian Pavilion.
Pavlo Makov, Fountain of Exhaustion, 1996. Installation view in “Borderline. Ukrainian Art 1985–2004” at PinchukArtCentre, Kyiv, 30 May – 4 October, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist and PinchukArtCentre.

 

Dreams include nightmares, and none are as deep as what Ukraine is experiencing now. More than 70 national pavilions will open, except the Russian Pavilion, whose artists and curator resigned in protest against the invasion and suppression of protestors at home. But the biennale will see the participation of the Ukrainian Pavilion. Its centrepiece, The Fountain of Exhaustion. Acqua Alta by Pavlo Makov, is a wall of 105 funnels through which water steadily and endlessly descends. The work traces its roots to 1995, when it was originally a reflection on the confluence of rivers, and for the biennale it was intended to comment on environmental issues—but now, the context of the ongoing war will give it new meaning. The funnels have had quite a journey, transported by curator Maria Lanko through war zones to reach the safety of the EU.

While many national pavilions and the approximately 30 collateral events stretch right across the old city, Venice Biennales are always centred on the Giardini, where national pavilions are buildings, and the Arsenale, a vast, ancient complex of shipyards and workshops, in which a pavilion may be just a room. The International Exhibition curated by Alemani will take place in both the Giardini and the Arsenale, featuring 213 historical and contemporary artists, mostly women, including Carrington. The show stretches from classic surrealism to contemporary concepts that touch upon science fiction. In Alemani’s words, the exhibition offers an “imaginary journey through metamorphoses of the body and definitions of humanity.”

 

Uffe Isolotto, We Walked the Earth, 2022, concept art accompanying the hyperrealistic installation in the Danish Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale. Image courtesy of the artist.
Jakob Lena Knebl and Ashley Hans Scheirl. Photo by Christian Benesch. Image courtesy of the artists.
Marco Fusinato, a page from the score for DESASTRES, 2022, facsimile on Edition Peters manuscript paper, 45.5 x 30.3 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery.

 

The Danish Pavilion exhibition, “We Walked the Earth”, takes us into the world of a family of centaurs and transhumans (human-machine hybrids). Sculptor Uffe Isolotto’s team uses skills  from taxidermy to fashion design to bring hyperrealism to the installation. Fashion also plays a big part in “Invitation of the Soft Machine and Her Angry Body Parts” at the Austrian Pavilion, a sort of party zone with art in which Jakob Lena Knebl and Ashley Hans Scheirl explore the constructions of identity and desire. It may well be the biennale’s most fun space! 

Sound will drive the Australian Pavilion’s Desastre, a durational performance piece where noise-obsessed artist Marco Fusinato will play an electric guitar live every day during the opening hours of the biennale. That will be a big contrast to the multimedia meditative experience of Sigurdur Gudjonsson’s sculptural work, Perpetual Motion, in the Icelandic Pavilion.

 

Na Chainkua Reindorf, Evor, 2021. Image courtesy of the artist.

 

Technology has always assisted art, but of course now its progress is hyperaccelerated and that’s creating fear as well as possibilities. Things to come include robot painter Ai-Da, whose work will be featured in “Leaping Into The Metaverse” (23 April–3 July) at InParadiso Gallery, inside the restaurant at the entrance to the Giardini. Ai-Da’s creators say they raise the question “who are we, and what is art?”, but there is another question: As AI advances into creativity, will robotics ultimately render artists redundant? Very different robots create DRIFT’s Social Sacrifice (19 April–1 May), the Dutch artist duo’s first-ever indoor aerial drone performance. Through animating the swarming dynamics between a school of fish and a predator, the performance sheds light on the notions of individual autonomy and collective interdependence.

The NFT fad rears its head at Venice, with Global Crypto Art DAO staging an NFT-only show at the Palazzo ca’ Bernado. Oblivious to the eco-crime of exploiting blockchain technology, the show will feature 20 international artists. Co-curator Sandro Orlando Stagl previously curated Kenya’s Pavilion in 2015, which was accused of neo-colonialism and subsequently repudiated by the Kenyan government. What a contrast to other African pavilions such as Ghana’s. In “Black Star—Museum as Freedom”, three national artists express post-colonialist optimism using large-scale installations, designed by a Ghana and Texas-based architecture and design studio.

 

Simone Leigh, 2021. Artworks © Simone Leigh. Photo by Shaniqwa Jarvis. Image courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery.
VAL, Du chaos à la sagesse (From Chaos to Wisdom), 2016, bronze & stainless steel, 440 x 3600 x 235 cm, located in Taichung, Taiwan. Image courtesy of the artist.

 

The US Pavilion will feature bronze and ceramic sculptures by Simone Leigh, a major draw with her string of American museum shows, and whose striking figurative work dwells on the Black woman and draws on African tradition. On the other hand, Namibia is a newcomer of the biennale, and its featured artist RENN is described as “anonymous”. Their stone sculptures normally appear in the desert rather than shows, yet there is a resonance of materiality and humanity shared with Leigh’s work.

Amongst collateral events, Parasol unit’s “Uncombed, Unforeseen, Unconstrained” at the Palazzo Pisani has 11 artists offering an eclectic mix of works in different media, but all addressing our world of uncertainty and entropy. Despite the vastness of the biennale, at least one work has had to be shrunk down. The recreation of Du chaos à la sagesse (From Chaos to Wisdom) (2018), an epic hilltop sculpture in Taiwan with Modigliani-like figures by VAL (Valérie Goutard), had to fit into an old blacksmith’s workshop, La Fucina del Futuro (The Forge for the Future), for cultural foundation SUMUS’s collateral exhibition “From Chaos to Harmony” (on view until 17 July). Intriguingly, it is centred on the symbolism of the number seven.

 

Angela Su, The Magnificent Levitation Act of Lauren O (still image), 2022, video. Commissioned by M+; part of the artist’s solo presentation for Hong Kong’s Collateral Event in the 59th Venice Biennale. Photo by Ka Lam. Image courtesy of the artist.
ORTA collective, Alexandra Morozova inside the Circular Cardboard-Light Generator of Genius, 2022. © and photo by ORTA collective. Image courtesy of the artist.
Markus Lüpertz, Sebastian, 2020, mixed media on canvas in artist’s frame, six parts, 203 x 247 cm (overall). Image courtesy of the artist.

 

Hong Kong’s contribution will be featured in the Arsenale. Organised by M+, the collateral exhibition is a solo show by artist Angela Su, titled “Arise”. Hong Kong clearly relates to her interest in levitation, with the centrepiece being a new Su video about a fictional, levitating American woman. In the Kazakhstan Pavilion, transdisciplinary collective ORTA have created an installation that explores the work of forgotten local legendary artist Sergey Kalmykov, called LAI–PI–CHU–PLEE–LAPA Centre for the New Genius.

Several artists riff on Renaissance painting in solo shows. At the Museo di Palazzo Grimani, “The Flaying of Marsyas” shows American painter Mary Weatherford’s new canvases inspired by Titian’s 1576 masterpiece of the same name, while the Pavilion of Malta has three artists taking themes from Caravaggio’s The Beheading of St. John the Baptist (1708). At the Palazzo Loredan, veteran German artist Markus Lüpertz applies his painterly approach to engage with Old Masters and their different themes (19 April–7 August). 

 

Anish Kapoor, Shooting Into the Corner, 2008-09, mixed media, dimensions variable. Photo by Dave Morgan. © Anish Kapoor. All rights reserved SIAE, 2021. Image courtesy of the artist.

 

Threaded through the collateral events are several featured iconic artists, including Paula Rego’s works about the Virgin Mary at Il Capricorno, San Marco (23 April–21 May). The Gallerie dell’Accademia will stage a major Anish Kapoor exhibition (20 April–9 October) , while there will be an interplay between the works of master sculptors Antony Gormley and Lucio Fontana at Negozio Olivetti (20 April–27 November).

What characterises Venice’s biennale more than anything else is its sheer overwhelming size and almost randomised variety. Nevertheless, the visitor should be able to feel underlying currents that indicate the state of art and how it relates to the world. From our small sample of all the yet-to-open presentations, we can get a little sense of things. Perhaps surprisingly, the climate crisis is not a dominant message in Venice. The advance of women artists and curators is broad and strong. While the biennale has certainly not gone completely techno, it’s clear that digitalisation and automation—whether as tools or threats—have invaded and consolidated in the territory of art. Not least, one country’s invasion by another makes a mark on Venice with one brave pavilion and one closed one.

 

59th Venice Biennale
23 April – 27 November 2022
Venice, Italy

*For exhibitions and collateral events, please check individually for closing dates.

 

 

You might also enjoy reading

 
Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply