The 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, titled “The Milk of Dreams”, curated by Cecilia Alemani, was open to the public from Saturday 23 April to Sunday 27 November 2022. The Exhibition take place in the Central Pavilion (Giardini) and in the Arsenale, including 213 artists from 58 countries; 180 of these are participating for the first time in the International Exhibition. 1433 the works and objects on display, 80 new projects are conceived specifically for the Biennale Arte.
The Exhibition will also include 80 National Participations in the historic Pavilions at the Giardini, at the Arsenale and in the city centre of Venice. 5 countries will be participating for the first time at the Biennale Arte: Republic of Cameroon, Namibia, Nepal, Sultanate of Oman, and Uganda. Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic and Republic of Uzbekistan participate for the first time with their own Pavilion.
The exhibition “The Milk of Dreams” takes Leonora Carrington’s otherworldly creatures, along with other figures of transformation, as companions on an imaginary journey through the metamorphoses of bodies and definitions of the human. The Milk of Dreams takes its title from a book by Leonora Carrington (1917–2011) in which the Surrealist artist describes a magical world where life is constantly re-envisioned through the prism of the imagination. It is a world where everyone can change, be transformed, become something or someone else; a world set free, brimming with possibilities.
But it is also the allegory of a century that imposed intolerable pressure on the very definition of the self, forcing Carrington into a life of exile: locked up in mental hospitals, an eternal object of fascination and desire, yet also a figure of startling power and mystery, always fleeing the strictures of a fixed, coherent identity. This exhibition is grounded in many conversations with artists held in the last few years. The questions that kept emerging from these dialogues seem to capture this moment in history when the very survival of the species is threatened, but also to sum up many other inquiries that pervade the sciences, arts, and myths of our time.
How is the definition of the 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, which focuses on three thematic areas in particular: the representation of bodies and their metamorphoses; the relationship between individuals and technologies; the connection between bodies and the Earth.
Many contemporary artists are imagining a posthuman condition that challenges the modern Western vision of the human being − and especially the presumed universal ideal of the white, male “Man of Reason” − as fixed centre of the universe and measure of all things. In its place, artists propose new alliances between species, and worlds inhabited by porous, hybrid, manifold beings that are not unlike Carrington’s extraordinary creatures. Under the increasingly invasive pressure of technology, the boundaries between bodies and objects have been utterly transformed, bringing about profound mutations that remap subjectivities, hierarchies, and anatomies.
Today, the world seems dramatically split between technological optimism − which promises that the human body can be endlessly perfected through science − and the dread of a complete takeover by machines via automation and artificial intelligence. This rift has widened during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has forced us even further apart and caged much of human interaction behind the screens of electronic devices.
The pressure of technology, the heightening of social tensions, the outbreak of the pandemic, and the looming threat of environmental disaster remind us every day that as mortal bodies, we are neither invincible nor self-sufficient, but rather part of a symbiotic web of interdependencies that bind us to each other, to other species, and to the planet as a whole.
In this climate, many artists envision the end of anthropocentrism, celebrating a new communion with the non-human, with the animal world, and with the Earth; they cultivate a sense of kinship between species and between the organic and inorganic, the animate and inanimate. Others react to the dissolution of supposedly universal systems, rediscovering localised forms of knowledge and new politics of identity. Still others practice what feminist theorist and activist Silvia Federici calls the “re-enchantment of the world”, mingling indigenous traditions with personal mythologies in much the same way as Leonora Carrington.
The Milk of Dreams was conceived and organised in a period of enormous instability and uncertainty, since its development coincided with the outbreak and spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. La Biennale di Venezia was forced to postpone this edition by one year, an event that had only occurred during the two World Wars since 1895. So the very fact that this exhibition can open is somewhat extraordinary: its inauguration is not exactly the symbol of a return to normal life, but rather the outcome of a collective effort that seems almost miraculous. For the first time, except perhaps in the postwar period, the Artistic Director was not able to view many of the artworks first-hand, or meet in person with most of the participating artists.
During these endless months in front of the screen, the curator have pondered the question of what role the International Art Exhibition should play at this historical juncture, and the simplest, most sincere answer the curator could find is that the Biennale sums up all the things we have so sorely missed in the last two years: the freedom to meet people from all over the world, the possibility of travel, the joy of spending time together, the practice of difference, translation, incomprehension, and communion.
The Milk of Dreams is not an exhibition about the pandemic, but it inevitably registers the upheavals of our era. 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.
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.
Giardini is 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.
The Arsenale was the largest production center in Venice during the pre-industrial era, a symbol of the economic, political and military power of the city. Since 1980 the Arsenale has become an exhibition site of La Biennale on the occasion of the 1st International Architecture Exhibition. Later on, the same spaces were used during the Art Exhibitions for the Open section.
With the gradual expansion of the scale, the scope of the Venice Biennale has expanded to cover the entire city. In addition to the main exhibition venues, it also includes many pavilions scattered on the streets of towns and even outlying islands.
The Collateral Events, which are admitted by the Curator and promoted by non–profit national and international bodies and institutions, will take place in several locations around the city of Venice. They offer a wide range of contributions and participations that enrich the diversity of voices that characterizes the Exhibition.
Elisa Giardina Papa, one of the artists taking part in the International Exhibition (in competition), has been invited by Cecilia Alemani to make a special work in Forte Marghera, in the building called Polveriera austriaca. Artist Sophia Al-Maria has been selected to present a work in the Applied Arts Pavilion at the Sale d’Armi, Arsenale. This is the sixth edition of the collaboration between La Biennale di Venezia and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London.
The selected projects for the 1st edition of Biennale College Arte 2021/2022 are by Simnikiwe Buhlungu, Ambra Castagnetti, Andro Eradze and Kudzanai-Violet Hwami. The 4 artists will receive a grant of 25,000 euros for the realization of the final work. The artworks will be presented, out of competition, as part of the 59th International Art Exhibition, The Milk of Dreams.
For the eleventh consecutive year, La Biennale dedicates the Biennale Sessions project to institutions that develop research and training programmes in architecture, the arts and related fields, and to Universities and Fine Arts Academies. The aim is to facilitate self-organised three-day visits for groups of at least 50 students and teachers, with the possibility of holding seminars in the exhibition venues offered free of charge and assistance in coordinating travel and accommodation.
Alberta Whittle: deep dive (pause) uncoiling memory
Deep dive (pause) uncoiling memory is an installation of new work by award-winning artist Alberta Whittle. Spanning two rooms in a former boatyard, Alberta’s work is an environment containing works in tapestry, film, and sculpture connected through a shared vocabulary of motifs and ideas. Through her rich symbolism, Alberta encourages us to slow down in order that we may collectively consider the historic legacies and contemporary expressions of racism, colonialism, and migration and begin to think outside of these damaging frameworks.
Angela Su: Arise, Hong Kong in Venice
In Arise, Angela Su conveys a speculative narrative through interlocking fictional perspectives. The act of levitation serves as an organising metaphor that reappears throughout Su’s drawings, moving images, embroideries, and installations. The artist assumes the guise of fictional alter ego to explore myriad cultural and political valences of rising in the air. The centrepiece of the exhibition is a new video work, The Magnificent Levitation Act of Lauren O. This pseudo-documentary tells the story of Lauren O, a fictional character who believes she can levitate, and her involvement with Laden Raven, an activist group catalysed by the US antiwar movement of the 1960s.
Seven large-scale angels, cast in bronze with mouths “taped” shut, encircle a gilded confessional in Rachel Lee Hovnanian’s immersive installation Angels Listening. This interactive exhibition invites viewers to relinquish their innermost thoughts, whether repressed due to fear of judgement or sheer inability, onto pieces of ribbon. Once discarded on-site, the viewer’s voice joins a chorus of shed confessions – demonstrating the liberation associated with catharsis and the sanctity of meditative environments in moments of shared isolation. Rachel Lee Hovnanian is a Miami-based artist whose multidisciplinary practice explores the complexities of modern feminism and the psychological effects of technology.
Bosco Sodi a Palazzo Vendramin Grimani. What Goes Around Comes Around
Bosco Sodi, renowned for his use of raw natural materials in large-scale sculptures and paintings, has been chosen by the Fondazione dell’Albero d’Oro for an artist residency at Palazzo Vendramin Grimani. The essential simplicity of the material and the intense pigments, sought by Sodi from all over the world, form the basis of his creative process, which the artist described as a “controlled chaos” that produces “something completely unrepeatable”. The works will be created by the artist in the androne or ground-floor hall of the palazzo overlooking the Grand Canal and forms the core of the exhibition curated by Daniela Ferretti and Dakin Hart.
Catalonia in Venice_Llim
Llim (silt) adheres to the canals and glass tubes, connecting them, and progressively assimilates the layers that make up Venice. That a city surrounded by water became the glass-making centre of the Western world is due to viscosity: the ability of glass and water to mutate between states of matter facilitates collaboration and coexistence. Water has fertile power because it becomes silt when in contact with the earth. From the black mud of the Nile comes the Arabic word khemia, alchemy, which found a source of inspiration in glass. Llim does not aspire to the obtaining of gold nor of the quintessence: it moves Venice’s foundation with the same calm that it metabolises and returns the materials to their origin.
Chun Kwang Young: Times Reimagined
Times Reimagined is an aesthetic laboratory by Chun Kwang Young, an artist who has been working for about thirty years with the theme of the interconnectedness between living beings and the socioecological values of their relationships. His hanji (Korean mulberry paper) oriented reliefs, sculptures, installations, and, as a highlight, the site-specific architectural structure made in dialogue with architect Stefano Boeri are all being staged during the Exhibition. The paper, which once lived as books, was reborn as symbolic creatures, reimagining the knowledge, information, and values that have judged and determined our times. Through these, audiences are encouraged to reconsider existing nonecological practice and seek new exits.
Claire Tabouret: I am spacious, singing flesh
Claire Tabouret: I am spacious, singing flesh presents a new critical reading of key dimensions of the artist’s work in a remarkable survey exhibition curated by Kathryn Weir that explores multiple transformations: of self, other, collective identities, struggle, release, and refuge. A powerful and unexpected dialogue is also created with several devotional objects drawn from the Italian context, invoking an ambivalent threshold in Tabouret’s practice, a portal into multiple temporalities and subjectivities through which to consider alternative relationships amongst human beings, and between human beings and their environment, in communication with the supernatural in the face of ecological and social crises.
Eugen Raportoru: The Abduction from the Seraglio
A multifaceted and kaleidoscopic time capsule, an installation series of sitespecific items that populate the Roma domestic space. The series is grounded in an understanding of the significance of the narratives that such objects embody, as well as their capacity to inform and reflect Roma culture, Roma lives, and the distribution of Roma knowledge. The story of the increasing presence of oriental carpets in Eastern European households is retraced, inviting meditation on the specific timespace configuration of notions of identity and history, but also trauma, hope, the body, and affect. A series of interventions further reflects on the double minority position of Roma women, creating a resonant chamber allowing us to listen to and learn from their voices.
Ewa Kuryluk’s exhibition is a meeting with the artist and the intellectual, as well as a journey in the footsteps of places important to her: Corinth, “Little Italy” in postwar Warsaw, “Little Venice” in London, and New York. The erudite and postmodern prose and essayism of the art historian, however, gives way here to a sensitive daughter, sister, and lover whose story floats in ephemeral and personal installations made of time, air, and fabric. Ewa Kuryluk, a Polish artist, is known worldwide thanks to over fifty solo shows in Europe, the USA, South America, Canada, and Japan. She is a pioneer of ephemeral textile installation, painter, photographer, art historian, novelist, and poet. Her work can be found in public and private collections in Europe and the USA.
From Palestine With Art
The exhibition, promoted by the Palestine Museum US, shows the richness of contemporary art produced in Palestine and the diaspora. Contextualizing the language of modernism, artists interpret codes and symbols as artist to show the beauty of Palestine’s land and people. The olive tree, beloved by the people, stands at the centre of the exhibition atop a historic map of Palestine, surrounded by embroidered dresses and paintings. From Palestine With Art creates a powerful statement matching Palestinians’ determination to embrace land and heritage.
Ha Chong-Hyun is best known as a Dansaekhwa artist, but that designation applies only to one aspect of a varied practice that has been devoted to the exploration of materials and their properties for more than fifty years. Following the Korean war, Ha produced abstract and three-dimensional works using found objects that reflected the lasting traumas of war. In 1974 he began his acclaimed Conjunction series which employs bae-ap-bub, the artist’s innovative method of pushing oil paint through the back of the canvas weave to the front. This approach personifies Ha’s commitment to challenging the status quo and developing a unique artistic vocabulary. This retrospective is intended to present the full breadth of his materials, methods, and creative experimentation, as well as to highlight his pioneering role in “contemporary” Korean art.
Heinz Mack – Vibration of Light
In an extensive solo show the ZERO founder and kinetic artist Heinz Mack, who represented Germany at the 35th International Art Exhibition in 1970, presents an impressive cross-section of his work in one of Venice’s most iconic venues. In the form of an imposing spatial installation, Mack’s monumental paintings and light steles meet there with masterpieces by Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese. Through the light-mirroring steles, the atmospheric venue with its Renaissance paintings is taken up and reflected. Light, which plays the central role in Mack’s oeuvre and in this exhibition, also determines his contemplative colour field paintings that transcend the historic space into a temporary place of meditation.
The archive exhibition and events are meant to be viewed as interacting platforms, speaking to each other and prompted by each other’s materials. They are not separate curatorial initiatives but assemblies that address memory (archive) and presence (event), both sustaining a faith in the future. The archive becomes an aesthetic event and the event becomes a deliberative archive. The event is a lively seminar of performative gestures and the archive comprises enigmatic objects. Impossible Dreams acknowledges the constraints of the prevailing crisis and at the same time works towards the realisation of a possibility. Impossible means “not-yet possible”, a description of a condition and a hope for better things, persons, and worlds to come. Just like dreams arising from trauma and bodies and spirits migrating across different realms, the project is a work of memory and conversation.
In a black setting, Apollo, Apollo features a compositive image of Katharina Grosse’s hands printed on a metallic mesh fabric, depicting a moment where the boundaries between the artist’s body and the coloured material blur in the act of creating. With its metallic fluidity and hued intensity, which takes on special resonance in the Venetian context, this work blends the transparent with the opaque, letting light filter through, creating a gateway to a dreamlike world in which visitors question the boundaries between reality and imagination.
Spazio Louis Vuitton, San Marco 1353, Calle del Ridotto
Kehinde Wiley: An Archaeology of Silence
Kehinde Wiley: An Archaeology of Silence is a reflection on the brutalities of American and global colonial pasts. The exhibition includes a collection of new monumental paintings and sculptures that meditate on the deaths of Black men all over the world and how global media has exposed these atrocities that were once silenced. “That is the archaeology I am unearthing”, Wiley states. “The spectre of police violence and state control over the bodies of young Black and Brown people all over the world”. The new portraits tell a story of survival and resilience, standing as monuments to endurance and perseverance in the face of savagery.
Lita Albuquerque: Liquid Light
The 25th-century female astronaut of Lita Albuquerque’s film commutes an otherworldly knowledge across the planes of the celestial and terrestrial. Like traders arriving in the Venice of old, or tourists disembarking today, her encounter with Earth is one of wonder and apprehension – wonder at what has survived the corruption of time and apprehension towards its continued survival. An amalgam of iconography, personal history, and emotional landscapes that embody the artist’s mythology, Liquid Light is exhibited as a tryptic video installation, in concert with installation components sourced and created locally, in collaboration with Venetian artisans.
Louise Nevelson. Persistence
Organized to mark the 60th anniversary of Louise Nevelson’s presentation for the American Pavilion of the 31st Venice Biennale in 1962, this exhibition focuses on the genre that would prove to be Nevelson’s most definitive contribution to twentieth-century art: assemblage. Curated by Julia Bryan-Wilson, the exhibition brings together more than sixty works spanning thirty years of production, underscoring Nevelson’s extraordinarily inventive combining of materials, including well-known monumental black gridded walls and smaller, lesser-known collages that feature a range of colors and were made with everyday stuff like newsprint, flattened bits of metal, cardboard, foil, sandpaper, and fabric. Installed non-chronologically, these works demonstrate Nevelson’s remarkable persistence: her brave commitment both to her steadfast aesthetic and to an ethics of reuse, while affirming the ongoing relevance of her work for contemporary audiences.
Lucio Fontana / Antony Gormley
Lucio Fontana / Antony Gormley is an exhibition built on a concise, selective conversation between artworks that look at the implications of light, space, and absence. A selection of drawings realised by Lucio Fontana between 1946 and 1968 and a series of works on paper covering many aspects of Antony Gormley’s research, are integrated with sculptures by each of these artists. Both in their two- and three-dimensional capacities, the work of the artists “inhabits” space and viewers’ attention shifts from the object in space to the space itself. Each work carries with it the trace of the reality of the moment in which the gesture, be it sculptural or graphic, releases the energetic tension contained in its very execution. The sign therefore also becomes a recording of time.
Pera + Flora + Fauna
The discourse about indigenousness and nature is largely affected by mainstream cultural attitudes of industrialised nations, the very nations that are contributing to the existing environmental problem. This leads to questions such as, can aesthetic thinking lead to conservation and restoration of nature or indigenousness? Can indigenous populations across the globe challenge the mainstream documented (art) history written by the nonindigenous? Can indigenous populations achieve the liberty to collectively claim “their own history and narratives”, antagonising the dominant discourse? Pera + Flora + Fauna intends to interrogate the interrelations between indigenousness, dominant culture, and nature.
Road of Faith
The Road of Faith shows an awakening process by humanity following its own intuition to fight against the chaos of its mind and godhood. The exhibition consists of three parts: Ocean bloom, Ode to the Nymph of the Luo River, and With the immutability of the absolute. The literary work from Chinese classical Ci Fu, Ode to the Nymph of the Luo River is presented with colour ink and VR technology. In this transmission from two to three dimensions, using original music containing phonemes of Chinese opera and Western opera as a guide, the audience can see the consistent confrontation and struggle of human beings and their own greediness in the cycle of reincarnation.
Rony Plesl: Trees Grow from the Sky
The exhibition project by Czech artist Rony Plesl addresses the questions of the essence of human existence and the definition of humanity. It also touches on the relation of humanity and nature, providing its immediate reflection on multiple layers of meaning. The narrative of the overall concept and site-specific installation of the unique glass artworks revolves around a journey, around a seeking of our path in the world of today. The realisation of the Venice project is a world premiere of the unique technology of glass casting in a global context, allowing the creation of a glass sculpture without any limitations.
Stanley Whitney: the Italian Paintings
Virtuosic abstract painter Stanley Whitney, born in Philadelphia in 1946, has been exploring the formal possibilities of colour within ever shifting grids of multihued blocks and all-over gestural fields since the mid-1970s. A formative period spent living in Italy in the early 1990s, where Whitney was absorbed by the country’s art and architecture, forever transformed the composition of his paintings. This exhibition, cocurated by Cathleen Chaffee and Vincenzo de Bellis, is the first to gather works Whitney made in Italy from the 1990s to now, and to consider the influence of Italian art and architecture on his painting.
The artist turns her gaze to the concept of Time: it is the time of rust that oxidises on metal, scratches it, scars it; it is on this skin that the artist intervenes and delicately insinuates colour, covers the wounds. It is in this dialogue of memories that Leone builds her own visionary narrative, where a painful Nature demands a pause, as these works whisper, inviting us to stop, give time to one’s thoughts, and let dreams surface. Taking one’s time means allowing oneself the privilege of a glance, giving time to art to write one’s own story. An insurgent gesture to bring forth a new utopian thought, a new enchantment.
Tue Greenfort: Medusa Alga Laguna
The installation Medusa Alga Laguna by Danish conceptual artist Tue Greenfort focuses on diverse interspecies of life in Venice’s lagoon and brings in a human and nonhuman relationship. The sculptural manifestations – sometimes in glass as a reference to realistic mid-nineteenthcentury nature representations – transport us into the biodiverse world of Venetian waters. It reveals the fascinating complexity of marine lifeforms such as algae and jellyfish. The solo exhibition is presented by the ERES Foundation Munich, an institution that promotes dialogue between science and the fine arts. The show continues Greenfort’s project Alga in Munich (2021).
Uncombed, Unforeseen, Unconstrained
Parasol unit, London introduces a group exhibition by eleven international contemporary artists, whose presentations align with the phenomenon of entropy, or a measure of disorder. According to curator Ziba Ardalan, artists Darren Almond, Oliver Beer, Rana Begum with Hyetal, Julian Charri re, David Claerbout, Bharti Kher, Arghavan Khosravi, Teresa Margolles, Si On, Martin Puryear, and Rayyane Tabet have independently identified and poignantly responded to a number of unfavourable phenomena that, over the past few decades, have increasingly reached a degree of significance in our day-to-day life and environment and within our social and collective history, thus threatening life on planet Earth.
Vera Molnár: Icône 2020
Vera Molnár: Icône 2020 is an exhibition centred on a new commission, Icône 2020, founded, produced, and curated by Francesca Franco. This is Vera Molnár’s first ever glass sculpture in a career that spans over eighty years. Taking the new commission as a centre point, this exhibition explores the process that made this sculpture possible, bringing together preparatory sketches, original plotter drawings, and documentation material that reveal the complexities behind the making of Icône 2020, encouraging new thinking about sculpture and the unimaginable ramifications of computational art.
With Hands Signs Grow
Odalys Foundation and Signum Foundation, with the support of the Museo Nacional y Centro de Investigación de Altamira (Ministerio de Cultura y Deporte, Spain), have enabled an intervention project in the Palazzo Donà, Italian headquarters of Signum Foundation, which includes several site-specific projects conceived for different rooms of the Palazzo. A group of four young artists (Ruth Gómez, Nuria Mora, Daniel Muñoz and Sixe Paredes) participates in this initiative through a creation process that has a common characteristic: the desire to share their vision of the world through art. In such a way that these interventions now in the space of the Palazzo could be defined as a set of micronarratives from the personal territory of each artist, a territory that is public -nowbut also unchallenged, because of its historical burden. Artists who have worked on the place, relating each of them a wall/floor or room of Palazzo Donà.
Zinaida’s artwork Without Women is about the purity of sheep-breeders’ life in nature and the transformation of male energy. From childhood until they are too old, men in Carpathian villages leave their dwellings to go to the mountains for five months. Among the abundance of sheep and cows they process milk into butter and cheese. In this act of sublimation, which completely unveils male roles, masculinity is renewed to the point of purity. In their solitary environment, men can fully and vividly express and renew their masculine nature. Much like monks, these men live in the bosom of nature alone and without women. The artwork consists of three videos and an installation, The Milk of Life.
“YiiMa” Art Group: Allegory of Dreams
Allegory of Dreams is a comprehensive contemporary art exhibition showing documentation of performance art, photography, videos, and indoor and outdoor sculptures. Curated by the international curator João Miguel Barros, the exhibition showcases works by “YiiMa”, an art group formed in Macau by Ung Vai Meng and Chan Hin Io. In line with The Milk of Dreams, the exhibition is conceived and developed as an Allegory of Dreams. By featuring recordings of the two artists’ live performance, the event aims to present visitors with Macau’s unique cultural environment full of memories and history, offering them an opportunity to experience its dreamlike yet allegorical scenes of daily life.