59th Venice Biennale: The Milk of Dreams

In 2022, the world’s most famous art exhibition was called “The Milk of Dreams” as a tribute to the volume of children’s stories that the Surrealist artist, Leonora Carrington, wrote for her children. Additionally, this year it counted on Cecilia Alemani – the director and chief curator of High Line Art, the public art program in the elevated park in New York City- as its curator. Alemani has in turn become the first Italian woman to be the artistic director of the Venice Biennale. Quite a milestone.

“This edition has emphasised topics such as the war in Ukraine, minorities and female artists.”

The great date for contemporary art took place at the Central Pavilion (Giardini) and at the Arsenale and included 213 artists from 58 countries. 1,433 works of art and objects were exhibited in total as were 80 new projects conceived specifically for the Art Biennale.

Additionally, on this occasion, countries such as the Republic of Cameroon, Namibia, Nepal, the Sultanate of Oman and Uganda took part for the first time; and the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan y Uzbekistan did so in individual pavilions.

The truth is that if you have never visited the Venice Art Biennale, we highly recommend that you do so. It’s amazing to have the opportunity to contemplate art by great artists and other very talented new artists in this idyllic city and more so, in surprising and spectacular spaces. In the Venice article found on the cover, there is more information on the rest of the exhibitions.

An ode to women

In this past edition, women have made history. On the one hand, American artist Simone Leigh was named Best Artist at the Biennale and, on the other hand, the UK pavilion, with work by Sonia Boyce, was chosen as the Best National Representation. It is the first time that two black women, Leigh and Boyce, have received what are possibly the most prestigious awards of the contemporary art world. It was about time.

“The decision that most of the artwork would be by women and gender nonconforming artists reflects a deliberate rethinking of man’s centrality in the history of art and contemporary culture.”

Some of the most remarkable Pavilions:

/Brazil: Jonathas de Andrade, “Com o coração saindo pela boca”

The entrance to this inventive pavilion was a giant ear, that led to an immersive installation about the body in relation to popular idiomatic expressions that talk of weaknesses, virtues, attitudes and personal failures and also of Brazilian collectives. Inside, there were pop sculptures shaped like mouths, eyes and other parts of the body, as well as videos simulating a recovering body… Really interesting, both in its form and message.

“A heart hanging from the ceiling would grow until it took up the whole space, forcing the visitor to step back making it a metaphor of the world today.”

/Australia: Marco Fusinato, “Desastres”

“Desastres” is an experimental sound project that synchronised sound with image and took the shape of a long solo performance as the installation. The artist performed during the opening hours of the Biennale for a total of 200 days, and the truth is we don’t know how it ended. The idea was very powerful and showed hundreds of random images on a giant video screen while the artist, in a corner with his back to the audience, played a single note in a distorted manner.  A simultaneously hypnotic and deafening experience.

/Greece: Loukia Alavanou, “Oedipus in Search of Colonus”

In this case, the proposal consisted of immersing us in a Virtual Reality film that took us to a deprived Greece, where Oedipus is a modern hero, an exiled person who, like the classical character, looks for a place where he can be buried, as is the case today with the Roma that live in shanty towns on the outskirts of Athens. The setting of this pavilion was inspired in the work of the architect Takis Zenetos that points the way to a possible utopia.

/Italy: Gian Maria Tosatti, “Storia della Notte e Destino delle Comete”

We loved this pavilion. It staged the industrial landscape of the Italian productive dream through the recreation of abandoned manufacturing spaces. This installation wanted to make us reflect on the defeat of the industrial society. At the end of the installation, there was another: “Destiny of the Comets “, where we see fireflies flying over a calm sea at night. With this element, they were alluding to Pasolini’s famous article “The Power Void in Italy”, that was a warning against the surviving fascism and that now stretches over a horizon of environmental catastrophes, albeit in the hope of the return of the fireflies that can lead us out of this fearsome night… Excellent.

/España: Ignasi Aballí, “Corrección”

Aballí’s proposal was made up of two actions: an architectural intervention on a scale of 1:1 of the pavilion and the edition of 6 guides. Both actions were conceived with the idea of correcting the apparent errors that he found during his research on the physical features of the pavilion and the city of Venice. With the first, Aballí corrected the layout of the Spanish building by turning the structure ten degrees which allowed him, in this way, to align it with the pavilions close to the Giardini. And with the second action, he corrected the generally accepted idea of what a tourist guide of the Italian city is.

“Aballí’s project is an invitation to lose ourselves in order to find.”

/Chile: Turba Tol Hol-Hol Tol, several artists and researchers

This pavilion recreated a journey, in which the visitors were led along a circular platform surrounded by a translucid screen, where images of a descent to the underbelly of a peat bog were projected.

Everything around it was live wet moss, and while we went through it a soundtrack of tribal chants, guttural sounds and high-pitched screams made the ground shake.

The message of this installation consisted of understanding the importance of preserving peatland to successfully mitigate the increasing CO2 emissions caused by human activity, as they absorb more carbon than the forests, an ability that makes these wetlands one of the most valuable ecosystems on the planet.

“This year, the poet, visual artist and Chilean activist, Cecilia Vicuña, was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime achievement 2022.”

As well as Chile’s installation, this year one of its most distinguished artists, Cecilia Vicuña, was awarded the Golden Lion. Currently, her works are part of collections at prestigious national and international art galleries, museums and cultural spaces, such as the MoMA New York, the Tate Modern in London; the Guggenheim in New York; the Frac Lorraine in France and the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo in Chile, among many others.

/Denmark: Uffe Isolotto, “We Walked the Earth”

The Danish pavilion was transformed into a paddock to be able to represent this unsettling live installation, where the protagonists were the hay, horse manure and three hyperrealist sculptures of a family of centaurs. The title of this exhibition suggests an imaginary post human future. Truly stunning.

/USA: Simone Leigh, “Sovereignty”

As we mentioned before, the winner of the top prize awarded by the Venice Biennale was Simone Leigh, the artist chosen to represent the United States. It was she who completely transformed the façade of the North American pavilion, as well as the artwork distributed inside that criticized the use of images and objects of the African diaspora in service of the persistence of colonial narratives, and also spoke of self-determination and the need for Black women to be able to write their own story.

/South Korea: Yunchul Kim, “Gyre”

In this case, five robotic sculptures created by Yunchul Kim moved, transformed and communicated with each other and with the surroundings thanks to a device that was connected to the other pieces, generating sound and movement from the stimulus received from the surroundings. In fact, they even seemed to breathe… In the centre of the installation was the main sculpture, Chroma V (2022), a skeleton made of aluminum, polymer and LED with the silhouette of a snake 50 m long. An amazing engineering project.

We’ll say no more and conclude, as always, that it is best to see it in person. Venice is absolutely marvellous whichever way you look at it. But what we are certain of is that the best way to enjoy it is coinciding with an Art Biennale.

(*) Photos: Ely Sánchez & Cecilia Camacho.



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