The main exhibition at Arsenale – Venice Art Biennale 2019

Place: Venice, Country: Italy

Anicka Yi, Biologizing the Machine (tentacular trouble), Venice Art Biennale 2019 Inexhibit 2

Above: Anicka Yi, Biologizing the Machine. Photo ©  Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit

Venice Art Biennale 2019, “May You Live in Interesting Times” – the main exhibition at Arsenale 

“May you live in interesting times”, the core exhibition of the 58th Venice Art Biennale is divided into two parts – “proposta A” at the Venice Arsenale and “proposta B” in the Central Pavilion at Giardini di Castello.
This exhibition scheme was chosen by the Biennale curator, Ralph Rugoff, to allow each of the seventy-nine invited artists to present different visions and interpretations of various key themes of our time – from issues related to gender, ethnicity, and sexuality to the relationship between humans and environment, from the advent of artificial intelligence to the production and diffusion of information in the Age of Social Networks.

Such diverse visions, when linked together “invite us to consider multiple alternatives and unfamiliar vantage points, and to discern the ways in which “order” has become the simultaneous presence of diverse orders”, as Rugoff says.

58th Venice Art Biennale 2019, Arsenale exhibition plan

58th Venice Art Biennale, Arsenale exhibition, general plan; courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia

We present here a selection of works on view in the Venice Arsenale’s Corderie and Artiglierie galleries.


Rosemarie Trockel, One Eye too Many, 2019
A grid of apparently unrelated images, collages, and digitally-edited photographs, when examined more carefully reveals visual and symbolic relations, some hidden and some others evident.

Rosemarie Trockel, One Eye too Many, Venice Art Biennale 2019 Inexhibit

Rosemarie Trockel, One Eye too Many. Photo © Federica Lusiardi / Inexhibit

Kemang Wa Lehulere, Dead Eye, 2018
Visually exuberant and richly layered, Kemang Wa Lehulere’s installation is a poetic and political work on the history of South Africa; the wood discs – made from salvaged school desks – are the doorways of many bird boxes the artist made over the past years and which, for him, symbolize the forced displacement that many South Africans suffered during the apartheid.

Kemang Wa Lehulere Dead Eye Venice

Kemang Wa Lehulere, Dead Eye. Photo ©  Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit

Martine Gutierrez, Body En Thrall
Martine Gutierrez’s work investigates the theme of gender identity by the means of large-format photographs in which she depicts herself together with artificial bodies and dummies. The pictures are part of Gutierrez’s best-known works “Indigenous Woman”, a fictional publication which mimics a glossy magazine of which the artist is, at the same time, model, art director, photographer, and designer.

Martine Gutierrez, Body En Thrall, Venice Art Biennale 2019 Inexhibit

Martine Gutierrez, Body En Thrall. Photo ©  Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit

Yin Xiuzhen, Trojan, 2016-17
Chinese artist Yin Xiuzhen creates large works by using fabric from disused garments with which, someways, she gives life again to the people to whom those clothes once belonged and whose voices have vanished in the age of homogenization and globalization.

Yin Xiuzhen - Trojan - Venice Art Biennale 2019 Inexhibit

Yin Xiuzhen, Trojan. Photo ©  Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit

Jesse Darling, March of the Valedictorians, 2016
Old chairs placed on top of thin poles, which make them seemingly unsteady and fragile, make up an installation at the same time intense and non-monumental, which expresses the sense of reciprocal support.

Jesse Darling March of the Valedictorians Venice Art Biennale 2019 Inexhibit

Jesse Darling, March of the Valedictorians. Photo ©  Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit

Anicka Yi, Biologizing the Machine (tentacular trouble), 2019
Consisting of a number of translucent pods hanging from wires, Anicka Yi’s work features chrysalis-like bio-morph objects which evoke disturbing subjects such as illness and living matter decomposition.

Anicka Yi, Biologizing the Machine (tentacular trouble), Venice Art Biennale 2019 Inexhibit

Anicka Yi, Biologizing the Machine (tentacular trouble). Photo ©  Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit

Alexandra Birken, Eskalation, 2016
Made up of dozens of mannequins, some of which are scrambling over narrow stepladders while others have fallen down to the ground, Alexandra Birken’s work expresses the tension between success and failure, and between hope and despair.
Running vertically through the Corderie gallery space, the installation presents an apocalyptic vision of the final fate of humanity.

Alexandra Bircken, Exkalation, Venice Art Biennale 2019 Inexhibit 2

Alexandra Birken, Eskalation. Photo ©  Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit

Liu Wei, Microworld, 2018
In his large sculptural installation “Microworld”, Liu Wei plays with the sense of dimension and the difference of scale between viewer and artwork. The installation consists of curved geometric forms made from polished aluminum plates to represent enormously magnified molecules and elementary particles which the visitors, kept behind a glass partition, observe as they were microscopic creatures.

Liu Wei, Microworld, Venice Art Biennale 2019 Inexhibit

Liu Wei, Microworld. Photo ©  Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit

Tarek Atoui, The Ground, 2018
Lebanese-born artist and composer Tarek Atoui created an environment for the musical instruments he made after a journey to China, during which he observed local traditional utensils, instruments, and architecture. The instruments, which produce sound autonomously, stimulate different modalities of visual, tactile and auditory perception.

Tarek Atoui, The Ground, Venice Art Biennale 2019 Inexhibit

Tarek Atoui, The Ground. Photo ©  Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit

Jill Mulleady, The Fight was Fixed, 2019
Inspired by Edvard Munch’s “Frieze of Life”, Mulleady’s work depicts street scenes characterized by violence and fight in a frieze-like composition which extends horizontally like a city street.

Jill Mulleady, The Fight was Fixed, Venice Art Biennale 2019 Inexhibit 2

Jill Mulleady, The Fight was Fixed. Photo ©  Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit

Shilpa Gupta, For, in your tongue, I cannot fit, 2017-18
This sound installation reproduces the voice of 100 poets who have been imprisoned or executed because of their writings or political view. 100 microphones hang from the ceiling over sharp metal poles on which pages of their poems were stuck. Each microphone/loudspeaker plays a specific poem in a one-hour-long cycle which include readings in different languages.

Shilpa Gupta - For, in your tongue, I cannot fit - Venice Art Biennale 2019 Inexhibit

Shilpa Gupta, For, in your tongue, I cannot fit. Photo ©  Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit

Christoph Büchel, Barca Nostra, 2019
The project “Barca Nostra” (Our Ship), developed by Christoph Büchel in collaboration with the city of Augusta, Sicily, brings to the Venice Art Biennale the memory of the deadliest shipwreck ever occurred in the Mediterranean Sea.
On April 18, 2015, a migrant ship sunk in the Sicilian Channel, 193 kilometers south of the island of Lampedusa. Only 28 people survived while between 700 and 1100 people were missing. In 2016, the sunken vessel was recovered from the seabed by the Italian Navy at a depth of 370 meters in order to remove and identify the hundreds of bodies still imprisoned within its hull. Three years later, the boat was released by the Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers and the Italian Ministry of Defense to be handed over to the Commune of Augusta.
At the end of April 2019, the vessel left the NATO Base in Melilli for Venice, a city founded by fleeing refugees, where it will stand at the Arsenale, for the duration of the 58th Venice Art Biennale.

The Barca Nostra project symbolically changes the status of the shipwreck from object of court evidence to artifact, and from “vessel to be disposed of” to a cultural asset; which makes it a significant symbol of those “Interesting Times” that Ralph Rugoff evokes in the 2019 Art Biennale’s title.
Barca Nostra is a relic; yet, it is also a “monument” to contemporary migration engaging real and symbolic borders, and to the denial of freedom of movement and information.
The vessel has become a symbolic object dedicated not only to the victims of the 2015 tragedy but to our mutual responsibility and to the collective policies that create such wrecks.

Christoph Büchel wreck sunken boat vessel migrants Venice Art Bennale 2019 Inexhibit

Christoph Büchel, Barca Nostra, installation. Photo ©  Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit

Ryoji Ikeda, Data-verse 1, 2019
The audio-visual work “Data-verse 1 transforms a massive set of scientific data that Ikeda collected from institutions such as CERN, NASA, and Human Genome Project into a poetic composition. Its “digital poem”, video-projected in a dim-lighted narrow room, carries the visitor into a universe in which constellations of numbers, letters, and signs alternate to one another.

Ryoji Ikeda, data-verse I, Venice Art Biennale 2019 Inexhibit

Ryoji Ikeda, Data-verse 1, audio-visual work. Photo ©  Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit

Tavares Strachan, Robert Henry Lawrence Jr., 2018
A tribute to Robert Henry Lawrence Jr – the first African-American astronaut, who died in a flight accident in 1967 – Strachan’s sculptural installation is, at the same time, a touching piece of art, a celebration of an American hero,  and a sharp reproval of the racism that harassed Lawrence throughout his life, and after his death.

Tavares Strachan, Robert Henry Lawrence Jr., 2018, Arsenale exhibition,Venice Art Biennale 2019 Inexhibit

Tavares Strachan, Robert Henry Lawrence Jr., 2018, sculptural installation. Photo ©  Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit


58th Venice Biennale of Art 2019 | May You Live in Interesting Times

58th Venice Biennale of Art 2019 | May You Live in Interesting Times

58th Venice Biennale of Art 2019 | May You Live in Interesting Times


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