The Venice Biennale is back!

24 Apr

Venice's 'Milk of Dreams'


The 2022 Venice Biennale International Art Exhibition takes its title, "The Milk of Dreams," from a book by surrealist artist Leonora Carrington describing a magical world that is constantly being reimagined. "It is a world where everyone can change, be transformed, become something or someone else; a world set free, brimming with possibilities," said exhibition curator Cecilia Alemani.

New Zealand

Artist Yuki Kihara presents the exhibition "Paradise Camp" from the perspective of "fa'afafine," a third gender that moves fluidly between man and woman that is part of the culture of the Polynesian Samoan culture. The installation comprises 12 color tableau photographs that reimagine paintings by Paul Gauguin to address decolonization, intersectionality and the climate crisis in the Pacific.


Fuusun Onur, who has pioneered conceptual art for more than fifty years, here presents figures fashioned from metal wire that dance, make music, travel and fall in love, while others reenact the scenes of a stage play. Titled "Once upon a time," Onur's latest masterwork creates alternative worlds and new languages from a community of non-humans. The pavilion curator is Bige Orer (above).


The "Fountain of Exhaustion" by artist Pavlo Makov comprises 72 copper funnels arranged in the form of a pyramid. Water flows downward from one stream into another but slows to a trickle. First conceived in the mid-90s as statement of the struggle afflicting post-Soviet societies, Makov says this "metaphor of exhaustion" is still playing out in the context of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.


In "Eden-Like Garden," a surreal installation by Mohamed Shoukry, Ahmed El Shaer and Weaam El Masry, the human being is enthralled by an eternal struggle between its instinct and will. The large floating pink bodies on which digital images are projected are described by the artists as "both sacred and profane ... An eternal being of temptation and desire ... A fragile, never-ending struggle."


Berlin-based artist Maria Eichhorn has exposed the underfloor of the German pavilion to explore its architectural transformation under the Nazis in 1938. Despite post-war modifications, the pavilion still retains an intimidating appearance, and Eichhorn invites visitors to contemplate the architectural elements of fascism and to embark on city tours to places of remembrance and resistance.


This half-human, half-animal installation evokes a hybrid world blending historical Danish farm life with a sci-fi, transhuman tomorrow. "We Walked the Earth," by Danish artist Uffe Isolotto, depicts the home of a family of three, including their belongings, food and working tools, but the world they live in is strange and impossible to demystify — perhaps a symbol of a radically changing world.


Swiss artist Latifa Echakhch creates a time-travel experience amid folk-inspired sculptures. Visitors enter rooms where the atmosphere changes via shifting unheard musical textures and rhythms; the light also alternates from brightness to darkness, evoking impermanence. Visitors should feel as if they're leaving a concert, "that this rhythm, those fragments of memory, still echo," the artist said.

United States

US artist Simone Leigh's "Satellite" sculpture is part of a series of bronzes and ceramics that explore artistic traditions in Africa and among the African diaspora. Entitled "Sovereignty," the works incorporate diverse histories from the ritual performances of the Baga peoples in Guinea to early Black American culture in South Carolina to the landmark 1931 Paris Colonial Exposition.


The curator and artists of the pavilion of the Russian Federation resigned in February, thereby cancelling their participation in the 59th Biennale. La Biennale "expresses its complete solidarity for this noble act of courage," exhibition organizers said. Nonetheless, there have been antiwar protests outside the closed Russian pavilion, including by Russian conceptual artist Vadim Zakharov.


Author Stuart Braun

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African art stars you don't want to miss at Venice Biennale 2022


As the 59th international contemporary art fair kicks off in the city of canals, Sub-Saharan Africa will be well-represented with eight pavilions that showcase thought-provoking art from the region.


Cameroon: Angele Etoundi Essamba

African artists have long lacked representation at the Venice Biennale; the 2007 fair had only one African pavilion. Fifteen years later there are eight, including the Cameroon pavilion, which features work by photographer Angele Etoundi Essamba, among others. Her mission to "portray womankind" is reflected in her images of women who radiate strength and independence.

Uganda: Collin Sekajugo

Along with Cameroon and Namibia, Uganda is participating at Venice for the first time. Multimedia artist Collin Sekajugo presents "Radiance: They Dream in Time," which explores the theme of identity through collage images. Sekajugo is often the central figure in works that reflect on his multiethnic background — his mother is from Rwanda, his father from Uganda.

Namibia: "RENN"

Controversy has surrounded the entry from Namibia. Local artists have petitioned against the work by "RENN," a 64-year-old white artist, arguing it presents racist and colonial views of Indigenous peoples. The main sponsors of the event subsequently withdrew, but "The Lone Stone Men of the Desert" was still installed on the Venetian island of Certosa.

Ghana: Afroscope

In 2019, Ghana made its acclaimed debut at the Venice Biennale. In 2022, Nana Oforiatta Ayim is once again curating Ghana's pavilion, which presents a group show entitled "Black Star: The Museum as Freedom." Afroscope, one of the displaying artists, presents "Ashe," a work exploring the confluence of spirit, technology and elements such as water to depict dreamlike alternative realities.

Ivory Coast: Laetitia Ky

Artist and feminist Laetitia Ky has a devoted Instagram following due in part to the art she creates with her hair, which she shapes into diverse symbols and figures. Her art seeks to draw attention to colonial structures that continue to prevail on the African continent. These include the predominance of Western beauty ideals among women, especially in terms of their hair styling.

Kenya: Kaloki Nyamai

For the Kenyan pavilion, Kaloki Nyamai contributes works that explore, among other things, the history of the Kamba communities, an ethnic group in eastern Kenya. In doing so, he engages with the orally transmitted histories and stories of his community and his own fragmented cultural memory. His work shifts between the figurative and the abstract.

South Africa: Lebohang Kganye

Representing South Africa at the Biennale alongside two other artists, Lebohang Kganye is an emerging young artist who works primarily with photography, though she also creates sculptures, performances and installations. Kganye creates imagined scenarios in her photographs by incorporating archival elements and figures from family histories but also theater and literature.

Zimbabwe: Terrence Musekiwa

Sculpture surrounded Terrence Musekiwa from a very young age; at five he was already helping his father with traditional stone carving. His visual language wrestles with conventions: He wants to simultaneously challenge Zimbabwean tradition and pay homage to it. His anthropomorphic sculptures are on show at the Zimbabwean pavilion at the Venice Biennale, which runs from April 23 to November 27.


Author Annabelle Steffes-Halmer

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