89 National Participations will be exhibiting in the historical Pavilions at the Giardini, at the Arsenale and in the city of Venice. The countries participating for the first time in the Exhibition are Grenada, Mauritius,Mongolia, Republic of Mozambique, and Republic of Seychelles. Other countries are participating this year after years of absence: Ecuador (1966, then with the IILA), the Philippines (1964), and Guatemala(1954, then with the IILA).
The Holy See will again be participating with an exhibition to be held at the Sale d'Armi, in the spaces that the Biennale has renovated for new permanent pavilions.
The Italian Pavilion at the Arsenale, organized by the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali with the Direzione generale Arte e architettura contemporanee e periferie urbane, will be curated by Vincenzo Trione.
44 Collateral Events, approved by the curator of the International Exhibition and promoted by non profit national and international institutions, will present their exhibitions and initiatives in various locations within the city of Venice.
The International Exhibition
The 56th International Art Exhibition will form a unitary itinerary that starts at the Central Pavilion (Giardini) and continues at the Arsenale, with 136 artists from 53 countries, of whom 89 will be showing here for the first time.
“This is our 56th edition. The Biennale is now 120 years old, and year after year it moves forward and builds on its own history, which is formed of many memories but, in particular, a long succession of different perspectives from which to observe the phenomenon of contemporary artistic creation.”
Paolo Baratta introduces this year’s edition with these words, recalling that “Bice Curiger brought us the theme of perception, of ILLUMInation or light as an autonomous and revitalizing element, and Massimiliano Gioni was interested in observing the phenomenon of artistic creation from within, and turned his attention to the inner impulses that drive mankind and the artist to create images and bring representations to life.”
“The world before us today exhibits deep divisions and wounds, pronounced inequalities and uncertainties as to the future. Despite the great progress made in knowledge and technology, we are currently negotiating an ‘age of anxiety’. And once more, the Biennale observes the relationship between art and the development of the human, social, and political world, as external forces and phenomena loom large over it. Our aim is to investigate how the tensions of the outside world act on the sensitivities and the vital and expressive energies of artists, on their desires and their inner song. One of the reasons the Biennale invited Okwui Enwezor as curator – Baratta states - was for his special sensitivity in this regard.”
“Curiger, Gioni, Enwezor, a trilogy in a sense – President Baratta recaps - three chapters in a research process engaged by la Biennale di Venezia to explore the benchmarks that can help us formulate aesthetic judgments on contemporary art, a “critical” question following the demise of the avant-gardes and “non-art”.”
“Okwui does not claim to pass judgement or prognosticate; his wish is to bring together arts and artists from throughout the world and from different disciplines, to instate a Parliament of Forms, as it were. A global Exhibition where we may question or at least listen to artists. 136 artists have been summoned, of which 88 for the first time.They come from 53 countries, and many of them from geographical areas that we paradoxically insist on defining as peripheral. Of works on display, 159 are expressly realized for this year edition. This will also help us uncover the latest tendencies regarding the geography and routes taken by contemporary art, thanks to a special project focusing on the Curricula of the artists operating around the world. A Parliament for a Biennale of varying and intense vitality, therefore.”
“Everything here is exhibited against the backdrop of the Biennale’s 120-year history. Fragments of the past of various kinds may be found in every corner, given also the fact that the Biennale is active in Art, Architecture, Dance, Theatre, Music, and Cinema. (…) To borrow the words of Walter Benjamin, the Biennale hosts “dialectical images”.
“And once again, I am glad – concludes Baratta - that I did not listen to the regrettable considerations made in 1998 claiming that the exhibition with foreign pavilions was outmoded and should be done away with, perhaps in favour of a white cube, an aseptic space in which to erase history, exercise our abstract presumptions, or offer hospitality for the dictatorship of the market. It is our multi-faceted, complex reality that helps us avoid perils such as these. The great mountain of the fragments of our history grows year by year. Opposite stands the even greater mountain of all that was not shown in past Biennales.”
(Read Paolo Baratta’s full text)
After having explained in October the main topics of All the World’s Futures (Read Okwui Enwezor’s full text),Okwui Enwezor has explained one movens for his project as follows:
“In 1974 la Biennale di Venezia, following a major institutional restructuring and the revision of its rules and articles of constitution, launched an ambitious and unprecedented four-year plan of events and activities. Part of the programs of 1974 were dedicated to Chile, thus actively foregrounding a gesture of solidarity toward that country in the aftermath of the violent coup d’état, in which General Augusto Pinochet overthrew the government of Salvador Allende in 1973. Bringing practitioners across the fields of visual art, cinema, music, theater, dance, and performance, the events of the 1974 Art Biennale were spread across the entire city of Venice. Today, this remarkable and transformative episode in the history of the Biennale is largely forgotten.”
“The dedication of the program of events to Chile and against fascism remains one of the most explicit attempts, in recent memory, by which an exhibition of the stature of the Art Biennale not only responds to, but courageously steps forward to share the historical stage with the political and social contexts of its time. It goes without saying that, in view of the current turmoil around the world, that the Biennale’s Eventi del 1974 has been a curatorial inspiration.”
“In response to this remarkable episode and the rich documentation it generated, the 56th International Art Exhibition: All the World’s Futures, will introduce the ARENA, an active space dedicated to continuous live programming across disciplines and located within the Central Pavilion in the Giardini. The linchpin of this program will be the epic live reading of all three volumes of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital (Capital). Here, Das Kapital will serve as a kind of Oratorio thatwill be continuously read live, throughout the exhibition’s seven months’ duration.”
“Designed by award-winning Ghanaian/British architect David Adjaye, the ARENAwill serve as a gathering-place of the spoken word, the art of the song, recitals, film projections, and a forum for public discussions. Taking the concept of the Sikh event, the Akhand Path (a recitation of the Sikh holy book read continuously over several days by a relay of readers), Das Kapital will be read as a dramatic text by trained actors, directed by artist and filmmakerIsaac Julien, during the entire duration of this year Art Biennale.”
“Carrying out the concept of “Liveness: On Epic Duration,” the Art Biennale has commissioned several new scores and artists’ performances, to be presented continuously in the ARENA. Here, we are especially interested in the concept of the song and the potential for the human voice to be an instrument that carries forward the pace of a narrative.”
“Olaf Nicolai is developing a new performance work that draws inspiration from Luigi Nono’s two-part compositionUn volto, e del mare / Non consumiamo Marx (1968), an innovative piece for voice and magnetic tape, as well as the Italian composer’s later attempts to develop a critical and political statement by means of music, drawing inspiration for his lyrics from Cesare Pavese’s poems, from wall writings seen in the streets of Paris, and even found voices which he randomly recorded live during street demonstrations!
Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige will present a daily reading of their artist book Latent Images: Diary of a Photographer, the third part of their Wonder Beirut project. In addition to its text, this book includes thirty-eight photographic plates selected from among hundreds of reels of film exposed, but until now never developed, by the Lebanese photographer Abdallah Farah between 1997 and 2006.
Jason Moran’s STAGED will map and investigate the tempos of work songs sung in prisons, fields, and houses. In a sampling of songs that inmates sing while working in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, the tempos range from 57 to 190 beats per minute.
Jeremy Deller will explore the question of life and working conditions in factories, based on archival materials from the nineteenth century through the present.
Charles Gaines’s new original master composition for the Art Biennale is derived from his most recent body of work,Notes on Social Justice, a series of large-scale drawings of musical scores from songs, some borrowed from as early as the American Civil War (1860–1865) and others dating from the mid twentieth century.
Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc will present in the Art Biennale a temporary memorial to the music and personality of the legendary African American musician, singer, and composer Julius Eastman (1940–1990), whose singular and inimitable contribution to contemporary, avant-garde classical music will be on display in the ARENA throughout the Exhibition.
the TOMORROW will focus their attention on Das Kapital, not just as an abstract field of logical and economical devices, but rather as a potential repository of stories and figures. In the Art Biennale, the TOMORROW will attempt to imagine the characters and the figures that could make use of Marx’s toolbox in the contemporary context. Tales on Das Kapital is a search for non-modern subjects to play the Capital Drama. The TOMORROWwill offer weekend seminars, during which the focus will turn to the narrative and epic dimension of Marx’s book.”
“The focus on live performances and actions will extend in the Central Pavilion beyond the ARENA and into the Biblioteca della Biennale, where Mounira Al Solh’s NOA (Not Only Arabic), a limited-edition periodical founded in 2008, will be made available for solo viewings that must be arranged by appointment. During the preview (May 6–8), also at the Biblioteca, Lili Reynaud-Dewar and her students will read a selection of texts from the mid 1990s to today—analysis, testimonies, manifestos—dealing with notions of intimacy, vulnerability, and promiscuity in the context of the AIDS epidemic.”
“Connecting the 56th Art Biennale’s two main venues, the Giardini and the Arsenale, Saâdane Afif’s performance piece The Laguna’s Tribute: A Corner Speaker in Venice will be staged at the corner of Via Garibaldi and the Grand Canal. Spectators there will see and hear a local Corner Speaker either read a text or sing the lyrics of songs composed by friends of the artist.”
“A number of performance works will also be presented in the Arsenale, beginning with a new project byJennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, In the Midst of Things, in which a choral group will perform an arrangement of Joseph Haydn’s oratorio The Creation.”
“In the Corderie, Theaster Gates will activate his new multimedia installation Martyr Construction, a work addressing the question of the recurring dissolution and demolition of church parishes in African American and Hispanic neighborhoods across the United States.”
“While the central focus of All the World’s Futures is on an extensive body of new works commissioned from artists specifically for the 56th Art Biennale—an unprecedented range of projects exhibited for the first time—the Exhibition will also pay close attention to a selected iteration of historical perspectives by artists both living and deceased. Organized as small anthologies, these compact surveys range from a series of text-based neon sculptures by Bruce Nauman, dating from 1972 to the early 1980s, to an atlas of Harun Farocki’s filmography, which totals 87 films. In addition, the Art Biennale will present works by such seminal figures as the photographer Walker Evans, with a complete set of the original edition of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men; from filmmaker Sergei Eisensteintomultimedia artist Chris Marker; installation artist Isa Genzken to sculptor-composer Terry Adkins; author-film director Alexander Kluge to installation artist Hans Haacke; conceptual artist Teresa Burga to performance artistFabio Mauri; sculptor Melvin Edwards to painter Marlene Dumas; artist-activist Inji Efflatoun to earthworks artistRobert Smithson, painter Emily Kngwarreye to film director Ousmane Sembène; sculptor Ricardo Brey to conceptual artist Adrian Piper; painters Tetsuya Ishida to Georg Baselitz.”
“This gathering of practices from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America searches for new connections in the artists’ commitment to examining the human condition, or exploring specific ideas and areas of production within the artists’ oeuvre.”
“The Invisible Borders Trans-African Project, for example, is an artist-led organization founded in Nigeria in 2009 that assembles African artists –mainly photographers, writers, and filmmakers- with the zeal and passion for social change, to reflect upon with the question of borders and its implications in 21st century Africa. The Invisible Borders will present in the 56th Art Biennale a Trans-African Worldspace, a survey of their platform’s recent and ongoing photographic and audiovisual production, which will be periodically generated and incorporated into their presentation throughout the seven months of the exhibition. Moreover, the group will present in the ARENA their feature length documentary Invisible Borders 2011, The Film, followed by a discussion on the State of Things in the trans-African contemporary art scene and the critical ideas at the center of their practice.
Abounaddara is an anonymous collective of Syrian filmmakers working on impromptu documentaries, otherwise known as “emergency cinema.” Abounaddara has long reflected on the right to the image. They employ an aesthetic of do-it-yourself and disorientation, self-producing their films and distributing them online to avoid political censorship and the formatting dictates of the media and entertainment industries. Since its founding in 2010, Abounaddara has released a series of short documentaries celebrating the daily life of ordinary Syrians. In the wake of the March 2011 popular uprising, they began to produce a short film everyFriday, an ongoing initiative that relies on the voluntary commitment of a network of filmmakers who work in secret, for reasons of security. At the Art Biennale Abounaddara will present a video installation featuring a selection of films from their prolific body of work, and will premiere a new film every Friday in the ARENA.”
Biennale Sessions, a project for universities
The Biennale Sessions project will be held for the sixth consecutive year, following the success of its previous editions. This initiative is dedicated by la Biennale di Venezia to universities and academies of fine arts, and to institutions that develop research and training in the arts and in related fields. The goal is to offer favourable conditions for students and teachers to organize three-day group visits for fifty people or more, offering reduced price meals, assistance in organizing their journey and stay, and the possibility to organize seminars at the Exhibition’s venues free of charge.
Educational activities will again be offered for the year 2015, addressed to individuals and groups of students of all levels and grades, to universities and academies of fine arts, and to professionals, companies, experts, art lovers and families. These initiatives aim to actively involve participants in both Guided Tours and Creative Workshops.
To conceive and organize the choreography of the Exhibition spaces, the exhibition architecture, is designed byDavid Adjaye and members of Adjaye Associates.
The Catalogue of the Biennale Arte 2015 is published in two volumes. The first describes the International Exhibition in a lengthy essay by the curator, divided into chapters that feature the narrative biographies of the invited Artists and the images of their works. Volume two is dedicated to the National Participations and the Collateral Events. The short guide is an essential tool for visiting the Exhibition: it contains information on all the Artists, the National Pavilions and Collateral Events. The graphic design of the Exhibition and its editorial products are by Chris Rehberger and his Double Standards studio in Berlin. Both the exhibition catalogue and short guide are published by Marsilio Editori.
The 56th International Art Exhibition is carried out thanks to the partner of the event, Swatch.
ENEL main sponsor, JTI (Japan Tobacco International), Vela-Venezia Unica, illycaffè and VEDE-Venice Excellence Design. We would also like to thank Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Adecco, and Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane.
Our thanks go to the Ministry for the Cultural Heritage and Activities, which at a difficult time for our country’s public finances has continued to offer its decisive support, and to the local institutions that in various ways support la Biennale, the City of Venice and the Regione del Veneto. We also extend our thanks to the Marina Militare and the Venice Soprintendenze.
We would also like to thank our many Donors, who have been particularly important to the realization of the 56thExhibition.
Our special thanks go to the curator Okwui Enwezor and to his entire team.
And finally, we would like to thank the highly professional staff of the Biennale, whose members work with great dedication on the realization and management of the Exhibition throughout its six-and-a-half month duration.