HAPPENINGText: Ilaria Peretti

The 58th edition of the Venice Biennale (La Biennale di Venezia)
 titled “May you live in interesting times” will open the doors from 11th May to 24th November 2019.

The curator invited by the president of the international exhibition, Paolo Baratta, is Ralph Rugoff, director of the Hayward Gallery of London from 2006 and previously at the direction of the CCA Wattis Institute of Contemporary Art.

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster & Joi Bittle, Cosmorama, 2018. Diorama. Dimensions variable. Exhibition view: Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst, Leipzig, 2018. Courtesy of the artist, Corvi-Mora, London; 303 Gallery, New York; Esther Schipper, Berlin. Photo: © Nicholas Knight

This captivating title opens to multiple interpretations remaining firmly anchored to the subjects of our contemporary epoch. “May you live in interesting times” refers to an expression purported to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse. Although it has been completely invented, this expression has been used for over 100 years by politicians and had a real influence in the rhetoric and in the public debate. R. Rugoff makes use of this anecdote to point out the fake news epoch and the social network life we are living, that are powering a fictitious idea of knowledge and collective conscience, and obscuring the necessity of a real debate. It suggests the difficulty and the uncertainty of these times, submitted to any sort of menace. As he says in his statement, “art cannot stem the rise of nationalist movements and authoritarian governments in different parts of the world” and above all it cannot “alleviate the tragic fate of displaced peoples across the globe”. “But – he continues – in an indirect fashion, perhaps art can be a kind of guide for how to live and think in ‘interesting times’”. Art would thus be an effective medium for auscultating the pulse of the world, and be a critical observatory of the human theatre.

Liu Wei, Microworld, 2018. Aluminum. Courtesy of the artist and Faurschou Foundation Beijing. Photo: Jonathan Leijonhufvud

Far from establishing a theme, the Biennale “will focus on the work of artists who challenge existing habits of thought and open up our readings of objects and images, gestures and situations.” 
The international exhibition it’s rather a choice of micro-questions on specific and symbolic topics of our time (such as walls, gender, identity) with the purpose of calling into question our way of thinking by categories. 
The importance is given to the interrelation that rises between artists, works of art and publics, which open to a dialogic character and a deconstructivist approach that privilege the idea of two separate exhibitions, one in the Central Pavilion at Giardini and the other at the Arsenale, with the aim of enhancing alternative perspectives. The 79 invited artists will show in each of these venues, presenting different works of art and displaying the multiple and complex character of the artistic production. Four new participations in 2019, Algeria, Ghana, Madagascar and Pakistan, and the new Pavilions of Dominican Republic and Kazakhstan, for a total of 90 national pavilions defending their scenes and their artists.

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