The 2017 Venice Biennale is on at various locations around the city, opening May 13 and running to November 26.
The international art exhibition is now in its 57th year, and takes the title Viva Art Viva as “an exclamation, a passionate outcry for art and the state of the artist,” according to this year’s curator Christine Macel. In a statement about the Biennale’s title, Macel notes “Today, 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.” Artists to look out for include Phillippe Parreno, Rachel Rose, Guan Xiao, Agnieszka Polska, Shimabuku, and Frances Stark.
Held across the Central Pavilion, Giardini and the Arsenale venues, the programme will present 120 artists from 51 countries, and it is worth noting that of the participating galleries, 103 are taking part for the first time.
There are also a number of ‘Collateral Events‘ featured throughout the programme, including Open Table, Artist Practices Project, Unpacking My Library and Projects and Performance. Here are a handful of event and exhibition recommendations:
Reality and being are a series of equal and disparate fictions colliding at once, a sequence of exercises in suspending disbelief that occur in rapid succession as we come to internalize, accept or rebuke each fiction. In Da Ficção (‘Of Fiction’), Czech writer Vilém Flusser proffers that a common table is signified, considered and ontologized by human sense of touch, gravitational fields, art and design, Freudian psychosexuality, and industrialization — simultaneously and equally. Julien Nguyen’s solo exhibition Superpredators, running at Los Angeles’ Freedman Fitzpatrick from September 11 to October 22, propagates an addendum to this theory of being as a collection of ecunemical fictions, specifically as history and empiricism become subordinate to the totalizing, unbridled fictions of the intransigent ruling class. Amorphous comprehension of how past injustices are consistently reformatted to falsely adhere to a current or progressive imperative fails to construct any notion of a stable futurity.
‘Elementary Dear Watson’, the first visible oil painting amongst five in the Hollywood gallery,depicts a chase or a rescue — two glowing bodies hoist a limp comrade over the shoulders as they evade an extended arm from their attackers that resemble sprinting, blood-thirsty effigies. ‘Fairest of the Seasons’ feels mythic or folkloric, centering on a unique figure (formerly imp? A newly augmented being?). Ears and torso made even longer, their wings are severed to become more beautiful, normalized. They clutch their staff (luxuriantly green, organic) and peer down at former comrades (current underlings) with Greek mythology’s eagle Aethon at their side awaiting to terrorize Prometheus, preventing him bringing fire to the mortal world from Mount Olympus.
What is apt yet disconcerting about the works in Superpredators is the contraposition of their potential interpretations, existing at polar ends of the spectrum of social-economic relation. All sight under capitalism generates the subject’s desired pattern. ‘I know why the caged bird sssings’ shows a portal in the center of a mausoleum, permanently sealed. Three pale humans sit limp, protected (or held captive) by a serpent-like creature. Secondary guardianship is provided by two armed figures of similar stature, perhaps former or future iterations of the captive deities/wilting prisoners; multiple fictions continue to collide. In ‘New World Order’ Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Christine Lagarde glides across a chessboard-floor, her right hand curled into the shaka symbol, a friendly gesture from surf culture. A fist would likely be more fitting as she cavaliers a caustic economic development model on a global scale in reality. A figure on all fours crawls behind her, two bodies lay wilted in the trees — relaxed, calm, or moribund? A person sits at their desk in ‘Son of Heaven’, their white European features are given the most detail. Pen in hand, they stare ahead peacefully, or ossified by fear, a contented authority or a laborer foredoomed.
The warp and weft of history and empiricism has become unthreaded and singed, rendering the widely promulgated social-political event impossible to exist as specific, unique. Superpredators speaks to a larger problematic than the ubiquitous usage of that term alone since its inception in 1995. The hegemon’s repetition and maintenance of scalable international violence is neglectful of history insofar that it is also an acknowledgement. It’s objectionable that plural fictions can harmonize, there are only those that become carved in steel or turn to vapor.**