58th VENICE BIENNIAL – « May You Live In Interesting Times » – Curator Ralph Rugoff – 11 May to 24 November 2019, Venice.

May you live in interesting times. This is essentially what obviously would the curator appointed for this 58th Biennial Art Ralph Rugoff, chaired by Paolo Baratta ubiquitous. The title of this 58th Biennale can also lend to multiple interpretations, suggesting that this « interesting times » can be read as referring to the difficulty and uncertainty of our contemporary time, subjected to all kinds of climatic threats, war , religious brief a particularly worrying time for our « new world ». But according to the postulates of Baratta, and since 1998, its entry into presidency, the Biennale has to first opening all-out, the ideas, expressions, to otherness. Open Biennale, therefore, worthy mirror artistic diversity,

Rugoff has on its own about was largely inspired by Umberto Eco and symbolically placed his Biennale under the auspices of the thought of it. A Biennial which, he claimed,  »  will focus on the work of artists who question the existing categories of thought and open us to a new reading of objects and images, gestures and situations. A similar art stems from the propensity to observe reality from different points of view, that is to say to consider the seemingly contradictory notions and inconsistent « .

For the Curator of the 58th edition, which last summer asking that  » At a time when digital broadcasting false news and » alternative facts « undermines the political debate and trust on which it is based, it is useful to insist, where possible, on the questioning of our benchmarks « , »  the art does not exercise its forces in politics, but can investigate things that we have not yet aware « . For him, art would be an effective way to world’s pulse auscultation, a critical observation of the human reality theater and its avatars. By the time  »  extreme oppositions, divisions and nationalisms « Occupy the international field, where fakenews and social networks are replacing the press to instill » information « misleading and deceptive instead of professional media, art provide an answer, at least a relevant mirror reality intended to question the chaotic disorder of the world.

So, this 58th not present a single theme, convenient banner behind which hide all the expressions of contemporaneity, but a choice of micro-questioning about highly targeted and symbolic issues of our time such as walls, gender identity, many incursions into our contemporary reality that is constantly working human activities and art in particular. It will be a Biennale  »  will focus on the art that is part of the categories   » and highlight art that asks us questions and involving the public as the operator in a strong inter-relationship. An event that, according to the curator, based on the idea of talking  » first between the artist and the artwork, and then between the artwork and the public and between different audiences « .

Beyond these ethical and political considerations, the 58th Art Biennale is as still as the place of the bids and the plethora of artists and exhibitions: 79 artists in the pavilions of the Giardini, 90 official representations including four newcomers, Pakistan, Algeria, Madagascar and Ghana, a multitude of events and collateral exhibitions around Venice make this event a key moment in the artistic life, and in what setting!

We know that the artist Laure Prouvost, who lives in Antwerp now, represent France in the French pavilion at the Giardini, with its atypical work. Laure Prouvost, holder prestigious Turner Prize in 2013, has also now a beautiful solo exhibition at M HKA, the largest contemporary art museum in Antwerp. Other major countries have sent « the best » – apparently he- their troops to represent them, which is not the case in all countries, for example Belgium subject since the summer of a virulent controversy about the questionable choice of two artists who will represent.

As always, a string of countries, 90 in total, will have their flag, as the Biennale is first and always place great diplomatic maneuvers. This leads management to include improbable representations, with no real background of contemporary art, or nearly, the least we can say is that the invited artists are not always, far from it, at the height of the demonstration. And visit these dark lodges in curious « mansions » dilapidated, nestled in the backyard and scattered throughout the city reports to the priesthood, even though the tourist experience to discover Venice in a different light … As for the Venetian representation, we in unfortunately knows all too approximation, if not poverty that characterizes since its inception. Quiet, all this is still diplomacy. After all the city that hosts so generously and so long this abundance of art biennials, dance, arch, theater … has the right to please his Venetian artists.

Others than Prouvost, we note among the most interesting artists of their generation, representing their country, the presence of the English Cathy Wilkes, also owner of the Turner in 2018, the two Swiss artists queer Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz that honor the concept of openness to otherness expensive Baratta, the Austrian Renate Bertlmann to represent his country in the pavilion dedicated with work also very committed and gendered, Germany’s Natascha Sadr Happelmann the Pakistani Naiza Khan or Brazilians Bárbara Wagner & Benjamin de Burca … however, some pavilions have hardly take any risks, like the American representation that sends a Martin Puryear in its flag, classic sculptor who bother no one. Should we see the conservative leg of President Trump?

But do not spoil our fun: this international event is the largest art exhibition in the world-and still the beautifully, as recorded in a magical and mythical city, which would be eternal. A moment unsurpassable of artistic vitality in the word and a unique opportunity to confront it in the most extraordinary cities of Art.

Marc Roudier



conf press venise

Images: 1&2- Baudry & Laurens / 3- Renate Bertlmann « impudicus body tamed by art » (1984) / 4- Gerdens of Venice Biennial

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