The Venice Biennale 2015: In search for the Great Beauty
13 may 2015 by Nur El Shami
Last week marked the preview of the 56th edition of la Biennale di Venezia, curated by Okwui Enwezor, its first African curator.
Two days into the preview the first--rather critical--reviews from around the world began appearing. The show has been reviewed as 'ugly and morose', 'hectoring and joyless', a 'glum trudge' even.
Little attention was paid to one of the essential considerations: did the show pose the right questions? The aim and art of curatorship, like good philosophy, is not to give answers. It is about raising the most pertinent quandaries, and presenting them for us to tangle with.
In a context of 2015, the questions asked could have not been more poignant: ‘How can artists, thinkers, writers, composers, choreographers, singers, and musicians, through images, objects, words, movements actions, lyrics, and sounds, bring together publics in acts of looking, listening, responding, engaging, and speaking in order to make sense of seismic upheavals currently sweeping our world?’.
Whether or not the public will be able to make sense of the manifold crises of the present historical moment remains unknown/questionable, yet the exhibition is certainly stimulating enough to actually appeal to and engage a collective consciousness. This per se could already be considered an achievement.
Since the search for the ‘Great Beauty’ (to call upon Sorrentino’s Oscar winning film) seems to be on top of the critical agenda, here are our highlights of the Biennale.
Perhaps we shouldn't look at what is wrong with Enwezor's show and curatorial choices, but rather at the (art) world itself. We did indeed find great beauty in Venice.
Fabio Mauri, Il muro Occidentale o del Pianto, 1933, courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia.
Adrian Piper, Everything Will Be Taken Away 2 (Erasuers), 2003, courtesy of the artist.
Adrian Piper, Everything Will Be Taken Away 21, 2010, courtesy of the artist.
Lorna Simpson, Three Figures, 2014, courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia.
Christian Boltanski, Animitas, 2014, video in HD, 24h, filmed in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia.
Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Earth’s Creation, 1994, courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia.
Hans Haacke, DOCUMENTA-Besucherprofil (Visitors’ Profile), 1972, courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia.
Charles Gaines, Manifestos 2: Malcolm X Speech at Ford Auditorium, 1965, 2013, courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia.
Chris Ofili, Night and day at the Museum, 2014, courtesy of the artist.
Jason Moran, STAGED: Savoy Ballroom 1, 2015, courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia.