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

LONDON — “I’ve had a bumpy start,” Cecilia Alemani mentioned with a chortle when requested to explain the pandemic’s impression on her work because the curator of subsequent 12 months’s Venice Biennale.

Alemani, an Italian primarily based in New York City, was named in January 2020 because the creative chief of the 59th version of the Biennale, and the occasion’s curator would sometimes 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 12 months, 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 principal exhibition, which can run from April 23 to Nov. 27, 2022. It shall be referred to as “The Milk of Dreams” — a title taken from a kids’s e book by Lenora Carrington, the British Surrealist painter. That e book is full of unusual tales by which kids have wings as a substitute of ears or can eat by way of partitions.

The exhibition, Alemani mentioned, will use the e book as a place to begin to “envision a world where everybody can change, be transformed, become something or someone else.” It can even discover humanity’s altering relationship’s with know-how and nature.

A customer to Venice through the 58th Biennale, in 2019. The 59th version has been postponed from 2021 to 2022.Credit…Marton Monus/EPA, through Shutterstock

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 remains to be figuring out which artists will function within the present, which is often held each two years within the Italian metropolis’s pavilions, palaces and outdated navy buildings. But there shall be round 130 artists, working in all kinds, 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’ve got the theme earlier than the pandemic hit, or did it solely emerge by way 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 fascinated by it, then the world utterly modified.

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

With know-how, it’s so fascinating: There’s this discrepancy between, on one aspect, our hope it’s going to enhance and defend our our bodies and, on the opposite aspect, this concern that machines will take over. And that dualism is being actually exacerbated proper now, with so many people compelled behind a display for all our human relationships.

Many artists are fascinated by that: How can we reconcile these two extremes. and is there a manner in between?

Was there any level while you anxious the occasion can be canceled completely?

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

It’s actually vital to consider the position of an establishment prefer it in these tough moments. The 1948 exhibition, which was the primary after the Second World War, was nearly a beacon of hope for artists. So I can see the type of regenerative energy this exhibition may 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 present works collectively?

There shall be a number of 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 mirror 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 can have a look at humanity’s relationship with nature, which brings up the query of local weather change. The Biennale is the artwork world’s greatest worldwide jamboree, and it encourages hundreds to fly in from all around the world.

What I realized on this 12 months and a half that we’ve been watching screens is that whereas I can think about a number of adjustments — I’ll by no means ever once more take an airplane to go to Europe to provide a speak — nothing goes to switch the precise feeling and expertise of being bodily in an exhibition.

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

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

We’re making an attempt 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 neighborhood. 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 way in which 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 concern will not be going to assist. What can I do about it? I simply must focus and do the absolute best present I can ever do.