The 59th Venice Biennale, The Milk of Dreams, takes its name from a book by Leonora Carrington in which, as the curator, Cecilia Alemani explains, “the Surrealist artist describes a magical world where life is constantly re-envisioned through the prism of the imagination. It is a world where everyone can change, be transformed, and become something or someone else. ” This year’s Venice Art Biennale focuses on three main thematic areas: the representation of human bodies and their transformation; the relationship between people and technology; and the links between humans and the Earth.
Most of the selected artists are hammering out their ideological positions. Their ‘metabolism’ is political. The artists present themselves as crusaders and activists who give voice to those who have little or none. These artists portray the new entitlement society, where ideology, reductionism, and the cross-pollination of art, politics, and justice take centre stage.
In this edition, I felt like I was constantly being lectured at. If you are looking for something beyond the subjects of race, ethnicity, and gender, you are in the wrong place. In fact, this edition reinforces a dynamic of supremacy by “allowing” or “permitting” the displaced to be placed. Of course, just for seven months, the duration of the biennale. Moreover, the discourse of Alemani is an exploitation of the twentieth iteration of the Sydney Biennale titled ‘’The Future is Already Here, It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed’’. In its original context, it alludes to the fact that what will constitute normal or everyday things in the future already exists for some today. This reminds me of the concept of sovereignty as developed by Georges Bataille. For him ‘’to be sovereign in fact is to enjoy the present time without having anything else in view but this present time”. The individual is always in the process of loving, acting and living – we relate first, and then we rationalize after the fact, in retrospect, always too late. This approach to understanding the way we as people navigate in this world,I could not find in the overall project of the biennale.
The awards went to those whose works are tainted with political agendas. Great Britain with “Feeling Her Way,” features a chorus of black female voices set against tessellating wallpaper and golden 3D geometric structures. Simone Leigh, who is representing the United States at the Giardini, won the Golden Lion for the best participant in The Milk of Dreams exhibition with her 16-foot-tall sculpture, The Brick House (2019), an eyeless black woman standing at the entrance of the show. A special mention was given to the French pavilion, which was represented this year by Zineb Sedira, the first artist of Algerian descent to represent France. Shuvinai Ashoona, an Inuk artist (Untitled, 2021), and Lynn Hershman Leeson, from the US (Logic Paralyzes the Heart, 2021), had works in The Milk of Dreams that were praised. The press release says, “Ashoona recognizes the violence of the colonial enterprise and suggests ways to get out of the dead-end by listening in… and listening forward to indigenous knowledge.” Also, Ali Cherri, born in Beirut, won the Silver Lion for Most Promising Young Participant. The Milk of Dreams shows three mud sculptures from his series Titans (2002).
Giardini is monomaniacally boring and politically in one direction. Arsenale is a bold striptease for the collector’s eyes.
The multiculturalist model of multiculturalism for its own sake, is nothing but a dynamic toleration.
Simone Leigh feels uneasy with the architecture of the US pavilion.
“One of my strategies was just to ignore the things that I’m not interested in being in dialogue with.”
That did not stop her from changing the façade of the entire Neo-Classical colonial building, with an installation of thatch roofing that resembles that of a 1930s West African Palace.
Deconstruction is the rot of today’s culture.
The belief that there is something valuable in pulling apart is morally expired.
Instead of lecturing us, artists have to construct.
“The Roma community is brilliant, multilingual, multicultural-digital, an-apologetical, political… and holds the essential knowledge about nature and the universe… stitches are visible!”
Was heard at the opening reception of Małgorzata Mirga-Tas of Polish Pavilion.