Editors’ Choice: The 5 Best Screenings of the 59th Venice Biennale

Ali Cherri
Arsenal
April 23 – November 27, 2022

Ali Cherry, Titans, 2022, installation view, Arsenale. Courtesy of the artist and La Biennale di Venezia; Roberto Marossi photography

Mixing the animal and the human, the three figurative clay sculptures Titans (2022), by Ali Cherri – who won the Biennale’s Silver Lion for the promising young participant – constitute a particularly strong evocation of the biennial theme of the earthy surreal. They appear next to Cherri’s three-channel movie Of men and gods and mud (2022), which lyrically considers our lives in relation to water, mud and stars. At one point, a voiceover from the film announces, “If the gods made us in their image, then the gods too must have been made of mud. The image of interspecific life shaped by Titans suggests that our own bodies are more entangled in the natural world than it seems. The wall text links the work to Donna Haraway’s notion of slime from When species meet (2007), which she defines as a substance that “lubricates[s] passages for living beings and their parts”.

Andrew Durbin, Editor

Cecilia Vicuna
Giardini
April 23 – November 27, 2022

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All works Cecilia Vicuña; foreground: NAUfraga, 2022; background, from left to right: Martillo and Repollo1973; Paro National1977–78; Llaverito (Blue)2019; Bendigame Mamita1977; La Comegente (The People Eater), 2019; and Leoparda de Ojitos, 1977. Courtesy of the artist and La Biennale di Venezia; photography: Ela Bialkowska

One of my favorite setups in the Giardini is the room containing Cecilia Vicuña’s paintings, which celebrate indigenous forms of knowledge and heritage, as well as her recently commissioned installation featuring detritus from the Venetian lagoon, NAU Fraga (2022), part of an ongoing series precarious sculptures, which she began in 1966. It seems fitting that Vicuña is one of this year’s Golden Lion recipients: her work is playful yet deeply serious about our responsibilities to the planet – and to each other. others.

Vanessa Peterson, Associate Editor

Sonia Boyce
The British Pavilion
April 23 – November 27, 2022

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Sonia Boyce, ‘Feeling Her Way’, 2022, exhibition view, British Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale. Courtesy: © Sonia Boyce/DACS, London and the British Council; photography: Cristiano Corte

Sonia Boyce, the first black woman to represent Britain in Venice and this year’s Golden Lion winner, has also used her platform to divert attention to others. The central video of the exhibition, feel his way (2022), brings together five black female musicians to improvise a discordant and ethereal chorus that greets visitors as they enter the pavilion. ‘My desire in bringing you together is to explore […] what are the conditions you need to feel free to express yourself,” Boyce says in exhibit documentation, “when you are not limited by what others think you should or could be.” The artist, who has been reluctant to ‘carry the flag’ of Britain in several recent interviews, may well be talking about her own participation. And, while this central idea struggles to maintain momentum in the six halls of the pavilion – the tessellated wallpaper and golden geometric sculptures intended to connect the various spaces dedicated to each musician seem like an afterthought – the act Boyce’s celebratory challenge means his installation is likely to be remembered as a success.

— Chloé Stead, Associate Editor

Simone Leigh
The American Pavilion
April 23 – November 27, 2022

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Simone Leigh, Facade, 2022, thatch, steel and wood, variable dimensions. Courtesy of the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery, Los Angeles/New York; photography: Timothy Schenck

Although there are few live performances at this year’s Biennale, Simone Leigh’s new body of work at the American Pavilion, “Sovereignty”, draws on performance as well as the creation of fiction – or what the African-American researcher Saidiya Hartman defined in Venus in two acts (2008) as a “critical storytelling” – as a form of resistance and search for truth. The exhibition begins with Facade (2022), a complete transformation of the 1930 neoclassical pavilion by William Adams Delano and Chester Holmes Aldrich, with the addition of a thatched roof and wooden columns – hallmarks of West African vernacular architecture. Inspired in part by the Paris Colonial Exposition of 1931, which saw the controversial reconstruction of the Khmer temple of Angkor Wat, the work disrupts our understanding of modernist architecture, creating a more hybrid and fluid history of the site’s building. . Upon entering the pavilion, you are greeted by a selection of large-scale glazed sandstone works and bronze sculptures, including Jug (2022), a massive white vase shaped with large sculpted cowries; and Sentinel (2022), an elongated power-object seated in the center of the pavilion with its parabola-shaped head reaching to the ceiling.

— Terence Trouillot, editor-in-chief

Marlene Dumas
Grassi Palace
March 27 – January 08, 2023

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Marlene Dumas, fingers, 1999. Courtesy: © Marlène Dumas; photography: Peter Cox

Marlene Dumas at Palazzo Grassi is a spectacular encounter of decadence (the palace) and depravity (the paintings). His arch sarcasm is in play amid the sternness of his subject matter. Of particular relevance is his portrait series “Great Men” (2014): a roll call of gay heroes, including Francis Bacon and James Baldwin, made in response to Russia’s anti-gay legislation. Dumas combines the alliance with a way that informs all his work: an unfussy empathy imbued with an unforced reverence. His paintings have a similar quality to Bacon’s: they lift the oppressive veil of polite society to reveal the basic sexual carnality that resides just below the surface. As curator Caroline Bourgeois told me, “Dumas is not afraid to go where the fear is,” which is a great maxim to which young artists aspire.

Sean Burns, Associate Editor

For additional coverage of the 59th Venice Biennale, see here.

Main picture: Merikokeb Berhanum, all works Untitled2021–22, acrylic on canvas, variable dimensions. Courtesy of the artist and La Biennale di Venezia; Marco Cappelletti

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