After a three-year-long COVID-induced hiatus, the International Art Exhibition is finally back this Saturday. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss!
Three years since its 58th edition, this year’s Venice Biennale centres around the concept of imagination exploring how, through its prism, life can be constantly re-envisioned, changed and transformed. Curated by Cecilia Alemani and organised by the Roberto Cicutto - chaired Biennale di Venezia, the upcoming International Art Exhibition — The Milk of Dreams — borrows its title from Leonora Carrington’s (1917–2011) homonymous book to “take the Surrealist artist’s otherworldly creatures as companions on an imaginary journey through the metamorphoses of bodies and definitions of the human”.
Spanning across the Central Pavilion (Giardini) and the Arsenale and open to the public from Saturday 23 April to Sunday 27 November 2022, the 59th Venice Biennale is set to bring together 213 artists, 180 of these joining the event for the first time, from 58 countries across the world. Through 1433 artworks on display and 80 projects exclusively developed for the Biennale Arte, the much-anticipated International Art Exhibition will address the challenges of our times — from climate change and the precarity of the human species to the shifting notion of identity and the aftermath of COVID-19 — encouraging discussions around a wide array of questions which, up till today, remain unanswered. An example? How is the definition of the human changing? What are our responsibilities towards the planet, other people and other life forms? And what would life look like without us?
As curator Cecilia Alemani explains in a statement, the world emerging from the pages of Leonora Carrington’s book The Milk of Dreams, hence the one taking shape on the occasion of this year’s Venice Biennale, is “a world where everyone can become something or someone else; a world set free, brimming with possibilities.” Reflecting upon the meaning and relevance of this work by the maverick artist, she points out how the volume should be interpreted as “an allegory of a century that imposed intolerable pressure on the very definition of the self, forcing Carrington into a life of exile: locked up in mental hospitals, an eternal object of fascination and desire, yet also a figure of startling power and mystery, always fleeing the strictures of a fixed, coherent identity”. This very rule-breaking vision is what drives the latest edition of the Biennale Arte — a kaleidoscopic analysis of the connection between bodies and their metamorphoses, individuals and technologies, humans and their ‘home’, the Earth.
Wanting to counter man’s centrality in the history of art and contemporary culture, for the first time ever since the birth of the Venice Biennale The Milk of Dreams features a majority of women and gender non-conforming artists. Scattered around several locations including the Central Pavilion of the Giardini and the Corderie, Artiglierie, and the outdoor spaces of the Arsenale’s Gaggiandre and Giardino delle Vergini, the showcase comprises contemporary works, some of which have never been exhibited before, juxtaposed with historic artworks from the 19th century on. As visitors proceed through the exhibition, they are presented with five ‘time capsules’: clusters of artworks, found objects, documents, and more, these historical sections were designed to mark the passage of time and spark reflection on “how the history of art is constructed around museum and exhibition practices that establish hierarchies of taste and mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion”.
Transformation and emancipation, two key concepts of this year’s International Art Exhibition, permeate the walls of the first of the five capsules. Situated on the lower level of the Central Pavilion, this includes works by avant-garde artists such as Leonora Carrington herself, Eileen Agar, Claude Cahun, Leonor Fini, Ithell Colquhoun, Loïs Mailou Jones, Carol Rama, Augusta Savage, Dorothea Tanning, and Remedios Varo. The human body, conceived in its constant, unstoppable evolution, is the idea at the core of the creations that inhabit other areas of the same exhibition space. Here, contemporary artists Aneta Grzeszykowska, Julia Phillips, Ovartaci, Christina Quarles, and more invite the audience to ponder the possibility of body structures merging the organic and the artificial — a direct response to the increasingly mediated life we have lived over the last couple of years.