A Pandemic-Informed Venice Biennale Will Get Women’s Attention

For two years, the curator was based in New York Cecilia Alemani had to hold the 59th edition of Venice Biennale – during which the pandemic forced a one-year delay and 400 studio visits had to take place on Zoom – the world changed around her.

People grapple with big existential questions about life’s purpose, issues of inequality, and the health of the planet. There have been moments of chaotic doom and hopeful regeneration.

These issues informed Alemani’s iteration of the Biennale – the world’s largest survey of contemporary art – the details of which were revealed on Wednesday.

There are predominantly female and non-gendered artists, a selection that Alemani, in his official announcement, said reflects “a deliberate rethinking of human centrality in history art history and contemporary culture”.

Artists at the Biennale address environmental concerns, sympathies with nature, identity politics and ecological activism. There are black artists from Haiti, Senegal, Zimbabwe and the Republic of the Congo.

More than 180 of the 213 artists have never been to the Biennale, which opens to the public April 23 and runs until November 27, with 80 national exhibitions in the vast Giardini park (anchored by Gian Central row), Arsenale, a former shipyard, and other places around Venice. Five countries will participate for the first time: Cameroon, Namibia, Nepal, Oman and Uganda.

As if in direct contrast to the long hot US art market, few artists are recognizable American names and the rising stars are mostly women, among them Barbara Kruger, Nan Goldin, Louise Nevelson, Ruth Asawa and Simone Leigh, was the first black woman to represent the United States in its national pavilion.

Alemani, director and chief person in charge high line art, Starting with the 2017 children’s picture book, Milk of Dreams, by Surrealist painter Leonora Carrington, which features characters like Humbert the Beautiful, who befriends crocodiles, and Señor Mustache Mustache, who has two faces, eats flies and dances.

Stories of this transformation, first painted on the walls of Carrington’s home in Mexico City, inspired Alemani’s vision of the Biennale. “Carrington talked about how we define life, what distinguishes us from other beings, whether we can imagine a world where bodies can be transformed and become something else. ?” Alemani said in an interview.

She organized the biennale around three themes inspired by the artists themselves. The first is a representation of how bodies can transform. In a variety of mediums and techniques, artists are “trying to expand beyond the canvas,” says Alemani, in some cases, with mechanical devices interacting with various life forms.

A video of Egle Budvytyte, for example, portraying a group of young people lost in the forests of Lithuania; Swedish resistance artist Sami Britta Marakatt-Labba use embroidery to draw snowfall scenes of nature; Surrealist artist Bridget Tichenor (1917-1990) used the tempera painting technique of the Renaissance to create images of magical realism.

The second theme is the relationship between the individual and technology – “the way the culture is handling the polarities between the one is thinking that technology can make our lives and our bodies better, forever.” eternal and invincible,” said Alemani, “and on the other hand, fear of machine takeover and the presence of artificial intelligence. ”

She added that that fear is exacerbated by Covid-19, which underscores how “mortal and finite we are. In a time when we want to be with others and share with others, all of our relationships are regulated through digital screens.”

A new video by media artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson explores the birth of man-made creatures, while the Korean artist Geumhyung Jeong suggests the robot bodies can be reassembled.

The third theme is the connection between the celestial bodies and the Earth. In particular, Alemani said she was inspired by the feminist scholar and theorist Silvia Federiciwho imagined a world without hierarchy or domination – a world where humans were not at the top of the pyramid – but instead a world of “symbiosis and enchantment”.

“The idea of ​​enchantment is something you see quite a bit,” continued Alemani, “especially at Arsenale, which is itself a factory of wonders.”

Crucial to Alemani are the five smaller pieces of history she calls time capsules, or “shows within shows,” that aim to foster connections, providing layers and context. “I was very interested in creating a dialogue between different generations,” she said.

These capsules will bring together the work of 90 major artists of the 20th century.

In a gallery in the Central Pavilion, the first of five capsules features the work of avant-garde female artists, including Eileen Agar, Leonor Fini, Carol Rama, Dorothea Tanning and Remedios Varo.

Another capsule inspired by the “Materializzazione del Linguaggio,” the first historical retrospective of women’s art, was mounted at the Biennale in 1978. It includes visual poets exploring the relationship between shape and form. pictures and words, namely Mirella Bentivoglio, Mary Ellen Solt and Ilse Garnier (now in the mid 90s). There are experiments like the hand-embroidered tapestries by French Surrealist writer Gisèle Prassinos and the anagrams of Unica Zürn.

Artists who are no longer living include Hannah Höch of Germany, Aletta Jacobs of the Netherlands and Amy Nimr of Cairo. “This is not just a performance by young artists,” said Alemani. “An exhibition like the Venice Biennale does not necessarily document the past two years, an obsession with the new.”

Alemani said she’s interested in “documenting” people who have been excluded from the contemporary art norm – those whose stories are “untold” – including Inuit artists Shuvinai Ashoona, Sudanese painter Ibrahim El-Salahi and native Venezuelan artist Sheroanawe Hakihiiwe.

Alemani herself was the first Italian woman to host the Biennale and she purposefully included many Italian female artists, including Ambra Castagnetti, Giulia Cenci and Chiara Enzo, to give them an overdue recognition number. “This show is in Italy, not New York, and the gender context is different,” says Alemani. “I realize that an exhibit doesn’t change everything, but it can hopefully have symbolic value.”

“If I look at the 127-year history of the Venice Biennale, the percentage of women participating is very low,” she continued. “I want to make room for voices that have been silenced in the past.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/02/arts/design/venice-biennale-alemani-women-art.html A Pandemic-Informed Venice Biennale Will Get Women’s Attention

Fry Electronics Team

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