Venice Biennale: May You Celebrate Interesting Times And Stay Sane

Dear Sir or Madam, we’d be more than delighted to welcome you to this little celebration of ours! Christmases, Saint Patrick’s Days, Super Bowls, Carnivals in Rio – human race finds ways to make a blast out of its’ existence. And starting from today, May 8th, Venice becomes a half year celebration spot for art/ists/ lovers – La Biennale di Venezia 58th International Art Exhibition is here for you – a romantic date, you wish will never end.

8 May, 2019

by RINGAILE PAPARTYTE

John Akomfrah, Mimesis- Seven Ambiguities of Colonial Disenchantment (2018). © Smoking Dogs Films. Courtesy of Lisson Gallery.

John Akomfrah, Mimesis- Seven Ambiguities of Colonial Disenchantment (2018). © Smoking Dogs Films. Courtesy of Lisson Gallery.

Well, the first three days of this date are for raising the glasses, basically. It is pre-opening of The Biennale and every country is seducing you to stay in the pavilion way longer than planned. The city is full of preppy art graduates, lucky-to-get-there struggling art graduates, art collectors, you won’t meet much of casual Venice tourists on the island these days. Nobody cares about Piazza San Marco. Giardini – Central Pavilion – and the Arsenale are crowded though. Some are here to show their terribly perfect outfits, some are planning to expand their collection, artists pray to be noticed, and others come for the 26th time to proudly announce how The Biennale was a real deal back in the 70s, and look where did it end up these days?!

I have no such experience of decades of visiting Venice as the respected dude, but this celebration is better than any Christmases for me. How many exhibitions can one visit in a day and stay sane? One, two? Well, you can make 5, if in a rush. But in Venice you have no choice, you get almost a hundred National Pavilions and other exhibitions on one plate, and your modest soul becomes greedy and needy – skip nothing, visit it all. Yes, you are completely dead after this three-day marathon, but somehow still sane.

There is a slight chance, sanity is something organizers and curator of this year Biennale Ralph Ruggof wants to awaken in us. May you live in interesting times, the title of the 58th Biennale states. In ancient times it was used as the Chinese curse, remembered by various politicians in the last century, and has no less relevance today, because while running in circles each day we forget that we are simply ‘moving from crisis to crisis’ like that.

Snowmen From Vilnius by augustas Serapinas at Emalin Gallery, London. Photo by A. Serapinas

Snowmen From Vilnius by augustas Serapinas at Emalin Gallery, London. Photo by A. Serapinas

79 artists, who were invited to participate in The Exhibition, got themselves on a mission to question and reflect on the concerns of 58th Biennale. When the basics of humanly order, our values and relations are threatened, guidance from the talented and indifferent ones can be a really nice touch. And guess what, the youngest artist on this mission is 28-year-old Lithuanian Augustas Serapinas. Big ups to him. And also, to the tandem of Lina Lapelyte, Vaiva Grainyte and Rugile Barzdziukaite representing Lithuanian Pavilion with their Sun & Sea (Marina) beachy, sandy experience, already noticed and included to The Must-See Lists of 58th Biennale.

While dozens of countries make a nice homecoming to their usual pavilions at Giardini Park or the Arsenale each second year, Lithuania and few other countries never had their permanent place and space in Venice. Because of historical reasons. And also, because Biennale is expensive af. Creating, transporting, installing and later maintaining the pavilion can cost you a fortune. Some artists put all of their savings to this once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity, others get state funding, scholarships and, good for them, learn how to fundraise. It’s a fight with numbers that art has to win.

Madagascar Pavilion, "I have forgotten the night", Joël Andrianomearisoa, 2019 © Patrice Sour

Madagascar Pavilion, "I have forgotten the night", Joël Andrianomearisoa, 2019 © Patrice Sour

Ghana, Madagascar, Malaysia, and Pakistan – the first-timers at Venice Biennale, could really teach some tricks of this battle. After the government changed, Malaysian gallerist Wei-ling Lim wrote to new prime minister Mahathir Mohamad proposing countries presence in Venice. She got a Yes, but with one condition – to raise funds herself. She did it so, artists Anurendra Jegadeva, Ivan Lam, HH Lim, and Zulkifli Yusoff, will help the viewers to understand more about the diversity of Malaysian society in the 58th Biennale.

Pavilion of Pakistan, Naiza Khan © Carlotta Cardana

Pavilion of Pakistan, Naiza Khan © Carlotta Cardana

In 1957, on the eve of independence country was singing ‘Ghana Freedom’, and so, the name of this song was perfect for Ghana’s debut in Venice. Curated by Nana Oforiatta Ayim six artists from three different generations El Anatsui, Ibrahim Mahama, photographer Felicia Abban, painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, video artist John Akomfrah, and Selasi Awusi Sosu will tell the story of their freedom in a pavilion designed by prominent Ghana’s architect David Adjaye.

Black pavilion of Madagascar created by Joël Andrianomearisoa and curated by Rina Ralay Ranaivo and Emmanuel Daydé invites visitors to mournful wonderings and wanderings between dark shades, not making any direct tribute to the country. Meanwhile, Pakistani Naiza Khan speaks about the exact place in the pavilion curated by Zahra Khan. Manora Island is well researched and documented by artist, who was observing the transformation of the island’s history and ecology for the last decade. Aren’t these interesting times to live in?

So, Dear Sir or Madam, make a great homecoming to Venice Biennale this year or become a debutant yourself. Enjoy this little celebration and keep sane, no matter how big the cultural-blast of this date will be.

Anurendra Jegadeva, Yesterday in a Padded Room. Courtesy of National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts

Anurendra Jegadeva, Yesterday in a Padded Room. Courtesy of National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts