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A Curator’s Vision for a Post-Pandemic Venice Biennale

LONDON — “I’ve had a bumpy start,” Cecilia Alemani mentioned with a snort when requested to explain the pandemic’s influence on her work because the curator of subsequent year’s Venice Biennale.

Alemani, an Italian primarily based in New York City, was named in January 2020 because the inventive chief of the 59th version of the Biennale, and the occasion’s curator would usually begin touring the world instantly, wanting for work to incorporate within the present.

Instead, mentioned Alemani, “I’ve been basically stuck in my office-slash-closet in the East Village for a year and a half.” The occasion she is overseeing has already been delayed a year, and somewhat than getting on planes, she has been on a whole bunch of Zoom calls with artists, having “emotional and deep conversations, trying to learn what this moment in time was meaning for them.”

On Wednesday, she revealed the primary results of her inquiries: the title of the Biennale’s major exhibition, which is able to run from April 23 to Nov. 27, 2022. It will probably be referred to as “The Milk of Dreams” — a identify taken from a kids’s ebook by Lenora Carrington, the British Surrealist painter. That ebook is full of unusual tales by which kids have wings as an alternative of ears or can eat by means of partitions.

The exhibition, Alemani mentioned, will use the ebook as a place to begin to “envision a world where everybody can change, be transformed, become something or someone else.” It may even discover humanity’s altering relationships with expertise and nature.

If the inspiration sounds darkish, Alemani mentioned the present wouldn’t be. “I want it to be an optimistic exhibition,” she mentioned. “The time we are living in is a moment of crisis and deep trauma, but it’s in moments of crisis that we can hope for a positive transformation.”

Alemani continues to be figuring out which artists will characteristic within the present, which is often held each two years within the Italian metropolis’s pavilions, palaces and previous navy buildings. But there will probably be round 130 artists, working in all varieties, from portray to sculpture, video and efficiency.

In a wide-ranging phone interview, Alemani spoke about her plans for the occasion. Below are edited extracts from the dialog.

Did you might have the theme earlier than the pandemic hit, or did it solely emerge by means of speaking with artists?

The present had a very bizarre genesis. I used to be appointed in January 2020, so I had simply a month of occupied with it, then the world utterly modified.

I’d already been pondering fairly a bit about these matters, like how definitions of humanity are altering, how our relationship with expertise is altering.

With expertise, it’s so attention-grabbing: There’s this discrepancy between, on one aspect, our hope it can enhance and defend our our bodies and, on the opposite aspect, this worry that machines will take over. And that dualism is being actually exacerbated proper now, with so many people pressured behind a display screen for all our human relationships.

Many artists are occupied with that: How can we reconcile these two extremes. and is there a method in between?

Was there any level once you fearful the occasion could be canceled totally?

I’m an optimist, so I at all times really feel issues will flip round. The Biennale was based in 1895, so it went by means of two World Wars, different pandemics, unimaginable pure disasters.

It’s actually vital to consider the function of an establishment prefer it in these troublesome moments. The 1948 exhibition, which was the primary after the Second World War, was virtually a beacon of hope for artists. So I can see the form of regenerative energy this exhibition might have, particularly if we will inform the story of what’s coming subsequent, not simply what’s occurred.

Does that imply you’re commissioning artists somewhat than simply bringing current works collectively?

There will probably be numerous new productions. We’ve had a extra time than earlier editions, so I’m working with a variety of artists to deliver new initiatives. Sometimes they’ll replicate on what occurred, nevertheless it’s not going to be illustrative of the Covid disaster. So far I don’t have a single masks!

You’ve spoken about a present that may take a look at humanity’s relationship with nature, which brings up the question of local weather change. The Biennale is the artwork world’s greatest worldwide jamboree, and it encourages hundreds to fly in from everywhere in the world.

What I discovered on this year and a half that we’ve been observing screens is that whereas I can think about numerous adjustments — I’ll by no means ever once more take an airplane to go to Europe to offer a discuss — nothing goes to switch the precise feeling and expertise of being bodily in an exhibition.

You should be in an exhibition house, in entrance of an paintings, with folks, to actually admire and expertise artwork. And so I don’t suppose that’s the place the slowing down ought to be.

How will that want to decelerate be seen in your exhibition then?

We’re attempting to consider this version as a seven-month platform: It’s not simply this fancy week in May the place events are occurring, however a useful resource for the town, for the artwork group. The exhibition and its outreach are removed from being simply an ephemeral occasion for a few chosen folks. That’s going to be a radical change in the best way we consider the Biennale.

It’s been postponed as soon as already. Do you ever fear it’d occur once more?

[Two loud bangs down the telephone line.]

Was that you simply knocking on wooden?

Yes, that was me touching wooden! But worry shouldn’t be going to assist. What can I do about it? I simply must focus and do the absolute best present I can ever do.

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