First, I have to admit something. I have visited the 59th Venice Biennale (‘The Milk of Dreams’) this year for the pre-opening, at the end of April. And it took me until now to actually sit down and write about it. I really thought I would have my remarks written immediately after my visit, but something came in the way…. Nevertheless, here I am now, sitting at my laptop and pouring out the words. Finally! So, here goes nothing. Here is how I experienced the adventure all these months ago (I feel another visit should be in my future though..also, SPOILERS AHEAD!):
For the first time in a while, I have walked into the main Pavilion with an open mouth. I kept saying ‘wow wow wow’ for everything I saw, I was literally mesmerized. The size of the artworks, the thematics, the creepiness really pulled me in, so I was really excited to start walking around and experience all this even more.
I immediately felt the presence of more women artists than usual – not just by the topics you could see, but also the materials used in the works (and all without really reading much about it beforehand). I kind of felt that no male artist could do anything like that in that way. And I don’t mean this as an offense to male artists, but I really felt in the main exhibition: women are from Venus, men are from Mars. I felt some kind of special energy emanating from certain artworks, I felt a vibe, a connection, so I knew the artists were female (yes, I am using male/female here, because even though I am talking about the genders, I am discussing the energies more). There was just something that pulled me in so much. I would really like to know if I was the only one, or did you feel it as well? I am also open to the possibility that I just started my period then and I felt more connected and sensitive about it (let’s be real, ok!?)….
All in all, it was really refreshing to see so many females represented, not just in the artists, but also the artworks: the paintings, embroidery, sculptures. The nudes in all different shapes and sizes, poses, animalistic, angelic, devilish, metamorphic – like the women we are! The metamorphosis of women. We change every day, through every light, every cycle. And it really read for me like that; a depiction of a woman in all her cycles – the Goddess, the witch, the devil, the angel. It all felt really symbolic and sometimes it was really interesting to read the descriptions of the artworks, because it made me really surprised by the meaning, but at the same time I was blown away by what the artists meant versus my own interpretation. As you should be – I have always been saying, that IS a big point of art for me. Another thematic read throughout was: ‘to be the authors of your own history’ and that really stayed with me.
Some of the art really kept me speechless, especially in some National Pavilions in Giardini. I am always amazed how some Pavilions can make the dreadful and harsh thematics so beautiful – you just can’t stop looking at the artworks, but at the same time, the more you look at them, the more you see the aesthetic of beauty in them and kind of lose the power of the theme. Or maybe that is the power – how to turn something so ugly into something so beautiful.
There is a lot of apocalyptic and catastrophic thematics (go figure, right?), as well as astrology. The more the world is ending in front of our eyes, the more we, as a society, are turning to this, and trying not to really explain it, but kind of just go with it. I can personally see it in people as well, the ones who are usually more ughhhh, are also turning back to this primal astrology and astronomy, so that we can maybe resolve and interpret a bit what the hell is going on in the world from all the angles.
At the same time, there is a lot of symbolic and metaphoric artworks on display, or actually some really in your face ones. I was really amazed by basically the same topic in so many different interpretations. You really see how different countries (artists) see these recent events through their own eyes. Or as someone close to me experienced it, the body in a world-wide language.
Exhibitions made me think a lot about the role of AI and how we are made, like being the mannequins in our own lives. And also some of the conversations I have witnessed/over heard made me realize we are kind of already there… It is not the future, but it is the present, like robots walking around, following god knows what and just trying to survive in the madness.
There were also some very simplistic and minimalistic Pavilions that say so much with so little represented inside. At the same time also some Pavilions with super kitsch enjoyment and fantasy lands work really well and they also make you use your own body as a spectator to immerse in the theme and become a part of the artwork with it.
It was also interesting to see a lot of artists using music in connection to their work, making it even more potent, together with gigantism, rawness, minimalism, brutalism. A very different experience again, maybe not really leaving me speechless, but definitely thinking a lot about it.
Every time I visit Biennale, there are some Pavilions I can’t wait to visit, because they are always so freaking crazy, and, again, they did not disappoint. I know I am being really vague in my descriptions of the actual artworks, but that is intentional, as I really want you to visit Venice and witness them with your own eyes and awe. Especially after these few years that everything was closed and we haven’t really been out a lot, it was a nice change to get immersed in the fantasy of art once again. And so so worth it! A visit to Venice Biennale is an experience much needed in this crazy world we live in at the moment.
A very sensory Japanese Pavilion, for example, almost gave me a heart attack (not even kidding!), but the sensations and vibrations in my body when I was inside were out of this world. Maybe a bit too much for me, because I literally ran out, but these were the kind of experiences we have been missing for all these years in lockdown.
Or even Denmark Pavilion. Which I still have nightmares about. It was one of the most breath-taking and heart-shattering, realistic, crazy, fantastical things that left me with no words and at the same time teleported me in those same feelings I had during corona crisis. My heart is still pumping when I just think about it. So full of emotions. I needed 10 minutes to calm my racing heart and get it together and I wasn’t alone, looking at the faces of other visitors…
Some Pavilions really managed to transport me into another world. Be prepared for loud music, strobe lights, darkness, almost haunted house effects. Oh, and how it felt good inside my body. To really feel alive again!
Walking into Arsenale I was immediately welcomed by the sinister, but beautiful darkness of inhuman, anthropomorphic forms present, questioning the role of a person and our actual future. Exploring the themes of machines and Earth, the connections of hope through all the ages and the history. Additionally implementing humour in our current situation that we live in.
One cannot just walk away from all the exhibited sexually explicit art as well. I feel it was great it being represented and also quite in your face. I simply enjoyed this topic is becoming more and more out there and openly talked about, with art making it even more approachable.
I was pleasantly surprised by the Slovenian Pavilion this year, with surrealistic paintings. Especially the sand on the floor made the experience even more enjoyable with the sitar music playing in the background (though, I have to admit, I am not sure if it was a part of the exhibition, or just one of the visitors playing it from their phone..either way, it really worked for me). And the sand made it really calming for my hurting feet, from walking around for 2 straight days already and immersed me into that fantastical world even more. You get two in one: art and a reflexology massage of your feet, so you can be really there, but at the same time, relax yourself fully and dive deep into the non-pleasing topics represented with a different mindset.
And for the end, I couldn’t miss the famous Italian Pavilion. Standing in a loong looong line on the cold rain was not what I was there for, but at least the art should be worth it. At least I hoped so. But honestly, I was extremely disappointed by what I saw when they finally let me in. It was so underwhelming, I almost cried. Until I learned about what it actually represented, then I was in complete awe.
All in all, Biennale is a place to keep returning to, as there are so many things happening, also all around the city, that I didn’t manage to see them all. My plan is to keep coming back and discover more by just strolling the streets and getting lost in the vibe. But also, everything can get really overwhelming if you try and squeeze the whole thing in just one day. I can tell you from experience it is not the way to go – just running and trying to see as much as possible really takes it away from what you are there to feel.
I really felt this was one of the best Biennials I have seen – the theme really spoke to me and the energy I was in at the time of my visit just raised it even more. What was your take? I would love to know.