Katharina Fritsch, German, and Cecilia Vicuña, Chilean. They are the two winners of the Golden Lions for Lifetime Achievement of the 59th Venice Biennale The milk of dreams, awarded today at Ca 'Giustinian.
It was in Venice that in 1999, Katharina Fritsch staged one of her most impressive works, Rattenkönig , sixteen giant rodents, arranged in a circle, with their tails tied around the center, who observed the visitors, as if they were engaged in a magical ritual.
Could someone, reading, think of a sculpture on power, a meeting of the world's leaders who weave dark pacts behind us or a conclave of the big names in finance who divide the world into slices? But no, Fritsch's kitsch resin sculptures attract and repel the viewer, they are grotesque as if they had come out of the condensed imagery of a dream, but they have no second messages, if not that (of vital importance) of making us reflect on why they have such an effect, that we cannot take our eyes away from them.
Everyone sees, and deepens, what he feels when he meets them in museums around the world, but also in the streets and squares of the cities. See Rooster, the giant electric blue rooster who watched the pedestrians of Trafalgar Square, London. And perhaps this is Fritsch's great role, to put ourselves in front of objects, animals, people, infantile and colorful family presences, to make us understand where we are with our unconscious, collective and individual. “Disturbing apparitions”, as the artistic director Cecilia Alemani defined them.
Poems, traditional songs, theatrical and precarious works woven with waste materials, performances that involve local communities. Cecilia Vicuña , Chilean artist, activist and poet, environmentalist and feminist, has been fighting for social justice and the rights of the local populations of Latin America, since she founded in 1974 Artists for Democracy, a collective of artists against the dictatorship.
And, in October, she will be the protagonist of the new staging of the prestigious Turbine Hall, at the Tate Modern in London. Among his works that have traveled the world, the Quipoems, a crasis between "poem" and "quipu", are fabrics knotted with colored cords, used by indigenous peoples to remember and fix events in memory, an example of pre-Columbian writing "in which the microscopic and the monumental seem to find a fragile balance: a precarious art, both intimate and powerful", declared Alemani.
A work that has a lot to tell on the theme of the Biennale, which marks the end of the era of the white man made to measure for all things. "A desperate need to find a new way to live on this Earth," said the artist.
The Pavilions not to be missed
They stage the emergencies of current events, with the most diverse approaches and techniques, from sculpture to photography, to 3D, to large immersive installations
Belgian artist Francis Alys was inspired by Children's Games by Bruegel, but the short films of his personal The Nature of the game bring an energy that overflows beyond the screens and invests visitors throughout the pavilion, amid shrieks of joy, laughter and encouragement. A catalog of human emotions, narrated through children's street games, filmed all over the world.
The snail race in Belgium, the hunt for mosquitoes in the Democratic Republic of Congo, kites in Afghanistan, previously banned as a symbol of freedom. Images of a magical realism and raw together, which show how children can transform even what is not into play, but at times it can be dangerous.
Like the little one pushing a tire, bigger than himself, along a slope that leads to the slag peak of the Lubumbashi cobalt mine in Congo. And then he gets in and lets himself roll down.
Sculptures that emerge from the ground, heads and hands of motionless figures that seem to come from ancient civilizations. These are the large sculptures in burnt straw bundles of The Concert , by the artist Latifa Echakhch, which seems to transform the Swiss pavilion into a large ritual of passage, from light to dark, to then return to light.
Anyone who enters is kidnapped, becomes a witness and protagonist, now illuminated by a soft red light, as in a sunset of civilization, now immersed in a contemplative darkness, interrupted only by the crunching of the gravel under one's feet, an original concert that stays on when you go out.
A great jam session of black British musicians singing, orchestrated by the artist Sonia Boyce in the multiple and side-by-side videos of Feeling her way.
From their voices rises a song that touches deep chords and excites, very powerful vocalizations that praise freedom, imagination, play and through every breath, and every improvisation, open our minds to the world of new possibilities that can arise when we all breathe and improvise together, especially in the uncertain times in which we live.
All of us, with one voice, one rhythm, one sound.
Dreams have no titles and, indeed, why should they? This is the name of the Zineb Sedira exhibition, the first artist of Algerian descent to represent France at the Biennale. Her installation tells about her experience as a child, the daughter of working class immigrants and her very personal creative resistance to racism, with all possible love.
And she really accompanies us in her dream, where we feel like extras inside the set, between cinema and reality, and then we sit in a cinema where the history of the colonial past of France and Algeria intertwines with the his personal story, his love for dance, music and cinema. And it ends with a close up full of joy that remains inside you, Sedira dances and the image of her stands out on a sunny yellow backdrop.
They are a reinterpretation of the canvases in which Paul Gauguin depicted Tahitian women, but the performative photographs by Yuki Kihara , of magnetic beauty, are set in the islands of Samoa and portray the alternative and queer world of the fa'afafine community (in Samoan, it is the third genre) of which the artist belongs. Her Paradise Camp condenses stories of invasion and prejudice staged with intense humor, which displaces you and makes you think.
The giant sculptures of Simone Leigh take your breath away, taking the forms of vernacular architecture and the female body to talk about the construction of female subjectivity black, throughout history.
And they point to Sovereignty, the title of the exhibition, because being sovereign means not being subject to the authority, desires and invasive gaze of others, but being authors of one's own history.
That of her female bodies, monumental presences, manifests itself in all the power and beauty of her, and transmits strength to anyone who looks at them.
Mónica Heller are dystopian stories populated by fantastic characters. In her videos, similar to long animated gif images, we come across a humanoid breastfeeding alone and a robotic dog wagging its tail. To get to a nice pigeon engaged in a long and ironic monologue on the pride of being a volatile, in which she tells firsthand how human beings trample on animal rights.
The importance of the Origin will be Imported by the Origin of Substance is an unsettling social satire, a nice jolt that hits you as soon as you enter the pavilion. It makes us think about how limited our imagination is and how precarious our centrality is in the civilization paradigm.
It subverts the stereotype, the lens that filters our thoughts and directs them to war scenarios as soon as we hear "Kosovo". The monumentality of the everyday by Jakup Ferri is a large site-specific installation of colorful paintings, embroideries and carpets that praise joy, popular art and sub-cultures, surreal drawings that represent scenes of daily life among children, acrobats, animals and utopian architecture.
Flanked by abstract carpets (inspired by the drawings of his son Jip Ferri), which the artist hand-woven together with the women of Albania and of Kosovo. A choral and powerful work, to build identity and community.
You enter a huge and semi-dark room, immediately your gaze runs upwards because orange drops of molten steel fall from the ceiling that cut through the darkness of the environment, like bright meteors in the night sky. Seven tubs of water stop their downward run and shut them off permanently.
The Italian artist Arcangelo Sassolino, under the title of Diplomazija astute, reinterprets The Beheading of San Giovanni Battista , the masterpiece of Caravaggio kept in the Co-Cathedral of Valletta with a technological marvel, which uses the principle of induction to transform almost two hundred kilos of steel per day.
And we remain with wide-open eyes, partakers of the brutality of the scene told in the Baroque painting, immersed in that same dramatic light of Caravaggio's canvases. Powerful suggestions amplified by the percussive music created by the Maltese composer Brian Schembri and by the engraving by Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci, who with an ancient carved cipher (indecipherable for us) seems to admonish us, the knowing is not within our reach.
The Italian pavilion
The search for silence. Required to visitors before entering the pavilion, mentioned within the installation by several signs. Everything tells us that we need to stop and think, even before entering the exhibition itinerary of History of the Night and Destiny of the Comets and, conceived by the artist Gian Maria Tosatti and curated by Eugenio Viola.
We move from an abandoned industrial structure to an environment with old disused machinery, looming and alienating presences of an exasperating and aggressive productivity, to then move into an uninhabited domestic environment, with abandoned bed bases, without a mattress, another inhuman environment, without any presence.
Then we arrive at a weaving mill, in which the tables with sewing machines are arranged in rational rows within what was once a tailor's shop, but today it is just yet another inanimate environment.
The climax arrives in the last room, immersed in the darkness, a room flooded with sea water, which is crossed through a walkway reminiscent of those in Venice.
In the background, in the darkness, the small flashes of fireflies flash, citing the editorial in which Pasolini would have given "all Montedison for a firefly" and a tribute to Dante and its stars, which could be seen again. They are the hope that comes to illuminate the darkness of our everyday life.
Cover photo: Cecilia Vicuna, Mrinalini Mukherjee © p. Ela Bialkowska OKNO studio