The 57th international art exhibition, titled Viva Arte Viva, curated by Christine Macel and organised by Paolo Baratta, took place from May 13 to November 26 2017. The Biennale present itself as a place dedicated to an open dialogue between artists, and between artists and the public. This year ‘s theme dedicated to celebrating, and almost giving thanks for, the very existence of art and artists, whose worlds expand our perspective and the space of our existence.
The exhibition staged in the historic Pavilions at the Giardini, at the Arsenale and in the city centre of Venice, including the participations of 86 countries and regions. 23 Collateral Events, promoted by non-profit national and international institutions, will present their exhibitions and initiatives in Venice during the 57th Exhibition.
The Exhibition Viva Arte Viva offers a route that unfolds over the course of nine chapters or families of artists, beginning with two introductory realms in the Central Pavilion in the Giardini, followed by seven more realms to be found in the Arsenale and the Giardino delle Vergini. There are 120 invited artists from 51 countries; 103 of these are participating for the first time.
In a world full of conflicts and shocks, art bears witness to the most precious part of what makes us human. Art is the ultimate ground for reflection, individual expression, freedom, and for fundamental questions. Art is the last bastion, a garden to cultivate above and beyond trends and personal interests. It stands as an unequivocal alternative to individualism and indifference.
Viva Arte Viva
Viva Arte Viva is an Exhibition inspired by humanism. This type of humanism is neither focused on an artistic ideal to follow nor is it characterised by the celebration of mankind as beings who can dominate their surroundings. If anything, this humanism, through art, celebrates mankind’s ability to avoid being dominated by the powers governing world affairs. In this type of humanism, the artistic act is contemporaneously an act of resistance, of liberation and of generosity.
Viva Arte Viva is an exclamation, a passionate outcry for art and the state of the artist. The role, the voice and the responsibility of the artist are more crucial than ever before within the framework of contemporary debates. It is in and through these individual initiatives that the world of tomorrow takes shape, which though surely uncertain, is often best intuited by artists than others.
Each of the nine chapters or families of artists of the Exhibition represents a Pavilion in itself, or rather a Trans-Pavilion as it is trans-national by nature but echoesthe Biennale’s historical organisation into pavilions, the number of which has never ceased to grow since the end of the 1990s.
Viva Arte Viva also seeks to convey a positive and prospective energy, which whilst focusing on young artists, rediscovers those passed away too soon or those who are still largely unknown despite the importance of their work.
From the “Pavilion of Artists and Books” to the “Pavilion of Time and Infinity”, these nine episodes tell a story that is often discursive and at times paradoxical, with detours that mirror the world’s complexities, a multiplicity of approaches and a wide variety of practices. The Exhibition is intended as an experience, an extrovert movement from the self to the other, towards a common space beyond the defined dimensions, and onwards to the idea of a potential neo-humanism.
Starting with the Pavilion of Artists and Books, the Exhibition reveals its premise, a dialectic that involves the whole of contemporary society, beyond the artist himself, and addresses the organisation of society and its values. Art and artists are at the heart of the Exhibition, which begins by examining their practices, the way they create art, halfway between idleness and action, otium and negotium.
The Exhibition in Giardini
The Exhibition develops from the Central Pavilion (Giardini) to the Arsenale and includes 86 participants from all over the world. The traditional site of La Biennale Art Exhibitions since the first edition in 1895. The Giardini now host 29 pavilions of foreign countries, some of them designed by famous architects such as Josef Hoffmann’s Austria Pavilion, Gerrit Thomas Rietveld’s Dutch pavilion or the Finnish pavilion, a pre-fabricated with a trapezoidal plan designed by Alvar Aalto.
As part of the exhibition reorganization of La Biennale venues, in 2009 the historic Central Pavillion at Giardini became a multifunctional and versatile structure of 3,500 square meters, the center of permanent activity and landmark for the other Gardens Pavilions. It houses interior spaces designed by internationally renowned artists such as Massimo Bartolini (Educational Area “Sala F”), Rirkrit Tiravanija (Bookstore) and Tobias Rehberger (Cafeteria).
The transformation of the Central Pavilion into the Multifunctional Gardens was completed in 2011 with the reorganization of the exhibition spaces and entrance hall. From then on, the Central Pavilion can enjoy optimal space and microclimatic conditions for each of the different and numerous destinations, including educational activities, workshops and special projects. After an important part of the recovery project, Central Hall equipped with all the services for the reception of the public, thus becomes a fulcrum of the Pavilion in the form of a monumental atrium from which all the new functional areas can be reached.
The Central Pavilion at the Giardini during Biennale 2017 hosts two trans-pavilions: the Pavilion of Artists and Books and the Pavilion of Joys and Fears.
Pavilion of Artists and Books
The Pavilion of Artists and Books opens with a section centered on the artists’ practice and how they “make art”.
Dawn Kasper, an American artist who literally moved her creative atelier from New York to the heart of the Central Pavilion. Kapser entertains visitors on site with musical performances and by showing her artistic life in balance between otium and negotium, Latin for idleness and activity.
Olafur Eliasson’s studio reflects on migration: migrants are the protagonists of the installation. They have been invited to create inside the pavilion — turned into an open workshop — three-dimensional visionary projects with a complex design.
Albanian Edi Rama
Albanian Edi Rama, former Minister of Culture and mayor of Tirana, shows his cadavre exquis on a wallpaper in reinforced nylon: Rama’s drawings are indecipherable fragmentary micro-representations of a world full of political references and personal memories.
Hassan Sharif from United Arab Emirates, realised Supermarket: an incredible archive containing objects, finds, leftovers, objet trouvés, artworks, and prototypes part of Sharif’s artistic production of the last thirty years.
Abdullah Al Saadi
Abdullah Al Saadi, also from Arab Emirates, who shares with us, through his diaries, his reflections, meditations, drawings, tales, and encounters during his trips. The Al Saadi’s Diaries, collected in vintage tin boxes, are the result of the artist’s habit of writing every day, started in 1986 and still in progress, which was inspired by the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Jianyi Geng works on books –his obsession- using them as canvas. With the watercolour technique they become at once colourful and very fragile artworks: for Geng books are the best life partners.
The Pavilion of Artists and Books ends with a space homage to French artist Raymond Hains. Hains expressed in his works a fierce criticism of art institutions, like the Biennale itself: the messenger of an idea of art free from predefined schemes and far form the rules of academies, Hains’s work stood out for its unconventional intellectual capacity and for the creation of provocative and ironic projects.
Pavilion of Joys and Fears
The Pavilion of Joys and Fears provides a journey into the relationship between the artist and his own existence.
In the universe of emotions and contradictions of existence, Kiki Smith works on the female figure realising paintings in fire-polished glass and silver leaves representing female artists in full size. Smith’s women, characterised by a refined erotic charge, are inserted in interior architecture overwriting lines and inanimate rigid shapes on body fluxes and auras of feminine holiness.
Syrian artist Marwan builds a dialogue with the observer trough a series of evocative self-portraits, exterior expression of an inner torment, seizing all the human feelings, from laughter to pain.
Rachel Rose with the video installation Lake View, suggests a dream-like vision, realised with the cel animation and compositing technique, of a sub-urban world invaded by an arrogant anthropisation. The protagonist is a hybrid animal, half rabbit and half fox, which moves about in a series of scenes built by assembling textures taken from 19th century children’s books.
The object of the investigations by the Czech artist Luboš Plný is the human body: fascinated by the geography of the internal organs and the connections of the vascular system, Plný creates drawings that are abstract maps made up of optical overlaps and invasions of incongruous objects that fuse with the flesh.
The fear and uncertainty of the voyage of migrants is at the centre of the exploration by Canadian artist Hajra Waheed. In A Short Film 1-321, using321 slides onto which she glued clippings from 1930s and 1940s postcards, she tells the story of a disappearance that left no trace and leaves us with an open ending
Highlights of National Pavilions in Giardini
29 National Pavilions located Central Pavilion showing part of the exhibition VIVA ARTE VIVA.
Central to this year’s exhibition at the Swiss Pavilion is an absence – that of the great Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti. It’s a little-known fact that during his lifetime he refused to represent his native country by exhibiting at the Swiss Pavilion, that had been build by his brother Bruno in 1952. Living in Paris, Giacometti considered himself an international or transnational artist and rejected being monopolised by one nation. This late modernist, post-national utopian vision formed the starting point of this year’s exhibition Women of Venice.
Carole Bove takes Giacometti’s constellations of figures and late figurative work (Femmes de Venise) as a starting point for a new sculptural group taking over the pavilion’s courtyard and sculpture hall. The Swiss-American Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler present Flora, a new film installation focussing on Giacometti’s love affair with the American artist Flora Mayo, with whom he studied in Paris in the 1920s. The film allows a key figure from Giacometti’s early life.
The German pavilion was probably the most anticipated one of this year’s Biennale. Anne Imhof, this year’s representative for Germany, shot to popular acclaim after winning the Preis der Nationalgalerie in 2015 and presenting her three part opera Angst in Basel, Berlin and Montréal the following year.
In a sculptural setting designed specifically for the space and the occasion, including threatening Dobermans behind a fence, an elevated glass floor, a safety harness-equipped mezzanine and glass partitions as temporary walls. Anne Imhof and her team present Faust, both a five-hour production and a seven month scenario comprised of performative dynamics, sculptural installations, painterly touches, and rigorously choreographed visual axes and movements that encompass the entire pavilion.
Artists Erkka Nissinen and Nathaniel Mellors, an installation with video and animatronic sculptures exploring themes such as nationalism, xenophobia, bureaucracy and intolerance by way of absurdist satire.
The work re-imagines Finnish society through the eyes of two messianic outside figures, Geb & Atum, who are being represented by talking animatronic puppets. They are engaged in a dialogue touching on subjects such as Finnish creation mythology, contemporary Finnish society and their vision for the future of Finland. The story presents Geb & Atum as terraforming higher beings who re-visit the Finland they created millions od years earlier, and who try to make sense of the culture that has developed in the meantime.
Dirk Braeckman’s photographs bring a stillness to today’s constant flow of images. Using analogue techniques, he has developed a visual language that focuses on viewing and reflects on the status of the image. Braeckman explores the boundaries of his medium, and challenges artistic conventions. The camera’s flash reflects off the surface of the subject, the texture of walls, curtains, carpets and posters. His images show anonymous subjects from his immediate surroundings, evoking an open story. The artist shows empty rooms in which time seems to stand still, elements of interchangeable interiors or human figures that stand only for presence, all separate from any specific identity, place, time or emotion.
Venice Biennale 2017
The 57th Venice Biennale was an international contemporary art exhibition held between May and November 2017. The Venice Biennale takes place biennially in Venice, Italy. Artistic director Christine Macel, the chief curator at the Centre Pompidou, curated its central exhibition, “Viva Arte Viva”, as a series of interconnected pavilions designed to reflect art’s capacity for expanding humanism.
The curator also organized a project, “Unpacking My Library”, based on a Walter Benjamin essay, to list artists’ favorite books. Macel was the first French director since 1995 and the fourth woman to direct the Biennale. A trend of presenting overlooked, rediscovered, or “emerging dead artists” was a theme of the 57th Biennale.
The Venice Biennale is an international art biennial exhibition held in Venice, Italy. Often described as “the Olympics of the art world”, participation in the Biennale is a prestigious event for contemporary artists. The festival has become a constellation of shows: a central exhibition curated by that year’s artistic director, national pavilions hosted by individual nations, and independent exhibitions throughout Venice. The Biennale parent organization also hosts regular festivals in other arts: architecture, dance, film, music, and theater.
Outside of the central, international exhibition, individual nations produce their own shows, known as pavilions, as their national representation. Nations that own their pavilion buildings, such as the 30 housed on the Giardini, are responsible for their own upkeep and construction costs as well. Nations without dedicated buildings create pavilions in the Venice Arsenale and palazzos throughout the city.
La Biennale di Venezia was founded in 1895. Paolo Baratta has been its President since 2008, and before that from 1998 to 2001. La Biennale, who stands at the forefront of research and promotion of new contemporary art trends, organizes exhibitions, festivals and researches in all its specific sectors: Arts (1895), Architecture (1980), Cinema (1932), Dance (1999), Music (1930), and Theatre (1934). Its activities are documented at the Historical Archives of Contemporary Arts (ASAC) that recently has been completely renovated.
In all sectors there have been more research and production opportunities addressed to the younger generation of artists, directly in contact with renowned teachers; this has become more systematic and continuous through the international project Biennale College, now running in the Dance, Theatre, Music, and Cinema sections.