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By Editorial Staff -

How and how much has the world changed recently? Over the last two years, in particular? There have been genuine changes – not just the imaginary ones described by the writer and surrealist artist Leonora Carrington – and artists have been driven to interpret them through their art. And this is the main theme of the 59th Venice Art Biennial, sub-titled after Carrington’s book The Milk of Dreams. Following a one-year break because of Covid-19, the organizers have announced the dates for 2022, with the doors officially opening from April 23 through 27 November, with an advance viewing over the preceding three days.

Organized by curator Cecilia Alemani and Biennale Foundation president Roberto Cicutto, the event will occupy the Central Pavilion and the Arsenale. It will examine three themes: the representation of bodies and their metamorphoses, the relationship between individuals and technology, and the relationship between bodies and the earth. These relationships, including the threats that the species is currently facing, will be examined through the works of 213 artists from 58 countries. Twenty-six artists will be from Italy, while 180 artists will be participating in the Art Biennale for the first time. In all, 1433 artworks will be on display, including 80 that have never before been seen in public.


The Milk of Dreams: an exhibition inspired by a book

As mentioned, this year’s exhibition draws its inspiration from Leonora Carrington’s book The Milk of Dreams, a story set in a magical world where life is constantly reinvented through the prism of the imagination. The curator has interwoven this theme with visions about reality that she collected in conversations with artists from around the world. In other words, she’s attempted to find a kind of consonance, a parallel between imagination and reality.

“How is the definition of human changing? What constitutes life, and what differentiates plant and animal, human and non-human? What are our responsibilities towards the planet, other people, and other life-forms? And what would life look like without us? These are some of the guiding questions for this edition of the Biennale Arte,” explains Alemani, while pointing out that people shouldn’t see the event as focusing exclusively on the pandemic. “It registers the upheaval of our era,” continues the curator. “In times like this, as the history of La Biennale di Venezia clearly shows, art and artists can help us imagine new modes of coexistence and infinite new possibilities of transformation.”

On a similar theme, Roberto Cicutto, Biennale president, spoke about a proposal for a new harmony through, and in, art, including works especially created for the event.

“The exhibition imagines new harmonies, hitherto unthinkable pairings, and surprising solutions,” says Cicutto, “precisely because it distances itself from anthropocentrism. It’s a journey at the end of which there are no losers, but where new alliances are brought forth, generated by a dialogue between different beings (some perhaps even produced by machines) and all the natural elements that our planet presents to us.” Cicutto’s hope for the 59th Art Biennale “is that we can all immerse ourselves in the ‘re-enchantment of the world’ that Cecilia describes in her introduction. Perhaps this dream is another of the constituent elements of this exhibition.”

It’s precisely with a view of creating an as exhaustive picture as possible of futurable themes and projects that Cicutto recently appointed Lesley Lokko as the curator of the next Architecture Biennale. You can read the architect’s biography here.


The Biennale Arte’s time capsules

Distributed along the exhibition pathway, five themed historical micro-exhibitions will feature artworks, found objects, artifacts, and documents that address the fundamental themes of the exhibition. Conceived as time capsules, these exhibitions will provide tools for investigation and introspection in the way they intertwine historical pieces – including major loans from important museums as well as a few oddities – and works by contemporary artists, all presented side by side.

With the exhibit design created in collaboration with the designer duo from Formafantasma, these sections also reflect on how the history of art is constructed, and how certain museums and exhibitions establish hierarchies of taste and rules for inclusion and exclusion. These micro-exhibitions will therefore contribute to the throughgoing rewriting of history that we’ve seen over the last few years – a process that has made it abundantly clear that no historical narrative can be considered as definitive.


Art Biennale College

An initiative that’s been in place for some time in other sections of the Biennale, this year’s Art Biennale will see the introduction of a “college,” with the work of young artists displayed with equal prominence as pieces by more established ones.

“These colleges, which are attended by young people who’ve already decided to dedicate their lives to some form of art,” says Cicutto, “are challenging workshops that, over the years, have grown to become a unique tool for developing artists to hone their skills. Participants are recognized on different platforms around the Biennale, this often leading to offers of regular work. It seemed difficult to achieve the same thing for the Art section. But four artists, chosen from the many candidates from around the world, will be having their works exhibited ‘out of competition’ at the exhibition and with the same prominence as works by their more established colleagues. This is an important step for the Biennale, which, through the activities of its archives department and the setting up of an international contemporary arts research center, is becoming increasingly influential in the development of artists, while continuing to enhance its role as organizer of exhibitions and festivals.”


Zero emissions target

A priority of this year’s Biennale is sustainability, with the organizers setting their sights on achieving carbon neutral certification, as was done at the last Venice International Film Festival. An action plan is in place for all the events organized by the Biennale Foundation in order to monitor their environmental impact and make the shift to greener strategies and models.

A series of specific areas have been identified for minimizing emissions. More broadly, though, plans are in place for carefully managing the environmental impact of all activities, including reusing materials, choosing recyclable construction materials, the use of electricity exclusively from certified renewable sources, and increasing awareness of environmental issues among attendees and guests. The goal is to reduce emissions generated by all the events, without overlooking the necessary contributions of all stakeholders.


Location: Venezia, Italy
Date: 23 aprile 2022 - 27 novembre 2022
Photography by Andrea Avezzù, Andrei Dinu, courtesy of La Biennale Venezia, Alexandra Pirici

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