Perhaps it is important to say that I was at the 59th Venice Biennale after visiting the Kassel documenta and the Berlin Biennale, both very complex, with works that demand time and concentration, and that approach the difficult reality of the current world, each one in its own way. way.
so see Veneza, in a way, was a suspensão of the present time, almost a relief. The exhibition, by the Italian based in New York, Cecilia Alemani, is essentially a succession of beautiful and pleasant works, in the two venues of the international exhibition: the Arsenale and the Central Pavilion, at the Giardini, where a good part of the representations are also located. national.
Possibly, if I had done the script in reverse, I would have been disappointed with a show so out of the current context. Extended, after all, due to the most difficult years of the pandemic - it was scheduled for 2021 -, there is nothing in it that reminds us of the sanitary and socioeconomic chaos generated by Covid-19, nor of the ongoing war in Europe.
Even so, there is an excellent mention of the state of it all: it is the video of the Brazilian artist Luis Roque, who filmed for some time, in 2020, vultures seen from his window, flying over the neighborhood, as if announcing the deaths that followed by the thousands. in the face of government indifference. So, urubu ends up being one of the few counterpoints to this oneiric context of the curator, who borrows the title of the book The Milk of Dreams (the milk of dreams), by Leonora Carrington (1917-2011) to conceptualize her own show.
At least the Venice Biennale has everything to do with a current and necessary debate: that of reparation. In this way, showing more women than men and including blacks and indigenous people as never before is an important gesture, against the erasure of more than a century in the most prestigious biennial. At the same time, they are works with a very dominant aesthetic layer and a social debate, when it occurs, without force, which makes the whole show very shiny, as in the paintings of Jaider Esbell, in which the dreamlike character is always prevalent.
This somewhat homogeneous condition, however, does not prevent good discoveries such as the paintings and embroideries of the Chilean singer Violeta Parra (1917-1967), which she called “canciones que se tintan”. These works, by the way, were exhibited at the Louvre, in 1964, being the first Latin to be exhibited in the French museum. In Venice, Parra appears with three embroideries, a technique also used by another Latin American, the Haitian Myrlande Constant. In turn, threads are the basis for the sophisticated sculptures of Ruth Asawa (1926-2013), a former student at Black Mountain College.
Another counterpoint to the resplendent set of Alemani's selection is Barbara Kruger's installation, Untitled (Beginning/Middle/End) (untitled/beginning, middle and end), by the way, of the few works commissioned for this edition. She makes references to the current time in the videos that make up the installation and repeats phrases such as “please care” and “please mourn”, explicit references to the deaths of the pandemic.
In fact, female artists are very well represented in large ensembles, such as the Portuguese Paula Rego, who died in June at the age of 87, and the German Rosemarie Trockel, with an impressive group of “paintings” made using machine embroidery.
There is an appreciation of the craftsmanship in the elaboration of the works, which means that in this show there are in fact many embroidered, sewn works, produced in a somewhat individualized way, within the studio. In this segment, among the most impressive works are the large-scale clay sculptures by the Argentine Gabriel Chaile. In anthropomorphic formats, the five sculptures represent his family and dialogue with the tradition of pre-Columbian cultures in Latin America.
From Brazil, in addition to Roque and Esbell, Lenora de Barros, Solange Pessoa and Rosana Paulino also participate. The last two appear with large ensembles, especially Person, which in addition to 14 immense panels with organic figures inside the Arsenale, also occupies the garden outside the space with soapstone sculptures.
Five small exhibitions within the curatorship of Alemani also complement this edition of the biennial, each one being considered a “time capsule”, some in charge of external curators. They simulate cabinets of curiosity, with their own windows and colors, created by designers from the Formafantasma studio.
In this edition, which runs until November 27, the artist who won the Golden Lion as the best participation in the international exhibition was the North American Simone Leigh, which opens and closes The Milk of Dreams at Arsenale, in addition to representing the USA in this biennial.
The national representations, in fact, continue to be a mess, where, contrary to an excellent level in the international exhibition, they suffer from an impressive discrepancy, from pavilions with excellent works to other quite embarrassing ones, as happened this time with Jonathan de Andrade, for Brazil. By bringing popular Brazilian expressions to the pavilion, illustrating some of them with somewhat tacky sculptures, the ensemble seemed lost in translation, without taking into account the international context of the show.
What stands out: Poland, with an immense fabric installation by Malgorzata Mirga-Tas; Belgium, with Francys Alÿs and her videos of children playing in different parts of the Earth; France, with Zineb Sedira, in a fun film about his love for cinema; and England, which received the Golden Lion for best pavilion, with Sonia Boyce and a work based on the voices of black female singers. The question now is how to maintain this representation in future editions.