Venice Biennale: Golden Lions for Simone Leigh and Sonia Boyce. – Culture

They are as indispensable to any Venice Biennale as the overcrowded water buses and oceans on the Aperol, which are drunk here seeing art: the guarantees that, first, national self-portraiture in the pavilions of the participating countries is essentially. a thing of the past. Second, the idea that art can be judged by a professional judge, as if it were a competition of exercises on the floor.

Equally necessary are the particularly long queues in front of the national pavilions and the general speculation as to who the jury will reward with the Golden Lion. The jury remains silent as a matter of principle until the oracles are left exhausted after the days of anticipation. Only then does she announce. And then everything that was supposed to not matter much before becomes very important again.

American artist Simone Leigh with her Golden Lion.

(Photo: Felix Hörhager / dpa)

Over the weekend, the jury announced: The Golden Lion for what it considers to be the best national pavilion goes to the UK and Sonia Boyce, the Golden Lion for Best Artist at the Biennale International Exhibition for American Simone Leigh. One for the work of a lifetime goes to German Katharina Fritsch and Cecilia Vicuña from Chile. It was a young lion for Ali Cherri from Lebanon.

The Russian house stands completely locked in shame for itself

The latter shows one of the few films in this biennial, where video installations once dominated. The long poetic images deal with the boiling of clay bricks during the construction of a dam in Sudan and the mythical potential of this archaic material. Fritsch is showing the hyper-realistic sculpture of an elephant at least in real size, a 1980s work which, in the context of the Giardini exhibition, aims to refer to an elephant that is said to have been home here. long before the Biennale was founded, as well as the matriarchy that exists among these animals reigned. In short, Vicuña’s images position pre-Columbian images and myths in a feminist way. These awards clearly continue the thematic focus of Biennial curator Cecilia Alemani.

And play for Leigh? Leigh has also filled the U.S. pavilion with her large bronze figures of black female figures satirizing Europe’s monumental heroic culture and transforming it from the outside into an African straw hut. However, the award in the narrowest sense is for a sculpture that opens the Biennale exhibition at the Arsenal and was first seen on the New York Highline a few years ago. Their artistic program was also curated by Cecilia Alemani at the time. Suddenly, up on Avenue 10, an archaic black female figure with a skirt as a base was erected, which was supposed to resemble an African hut. (What is less communicated in Venice, but plays a role in the US: representation through more abstract monuments in public space is often rejected by communities, there is undoubtedly an interest in the figurations that are in the relevant key, so to speak, to respond to the heroic statues of bronze of white colonial rulers.) Sonia Boyce, on the other hand, is British with Caribbean roots. Her pavilion aims to celebrate the power of female voices; This is done with an elaborate sound installation and posters that pay homage to the singer Tanita Tikaram.

Golden Lions in Venice: Awarded for the country's best pavilion: British artist Sonia Boyce.

Honored for the country’s best pavilion: British artist Sonia Boyce.

(Photo: Felix Hörhager / dpa)

Reports that the Biennale mainly wanted to honor “black female artists” raise questions at first glance about origin, skin color and gender, perhaps a little harsh on the quality of their artistic contributions. Moreover, this Biennial does not lack high-class art, especially from women of color of any possible origin and nationality. The fact that Great Britain and the United States, in all things, are the embodiment of what was once regarded as an imperialist nation triumphing in this way, is a blow that only the miniature world community of Venice can deliver so beautifully. The French pavilion has received at least one “Honorary Mention” for an installation and performance dealing with Algerian heritage in France. And the Russian pavilion remains completely closed to shame for the actuality of its imperialism. Sometimes, but really only sometimes, a single guard takes care that he is not disfigured.

“Germans”, in order to stay in the somewhat essentialist tone of this edition of the Biennale in particular, the Germans have to live with the fact that in the streets of Venice has been circulating for years a somewhat unfair joke, according to which in the German Pavilion only one Ask: Is he dealing with himself and his story again – or will he win the Golden Lion? It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to do both at once. But in recent years there has also been a recommendation book from the Institute for Foreign Affairs at Schirmer Mosel.

Nevertheless, it generally remains a blessing that so many states continue to afford a pavilion here. This makes Venice the only art exhibition in the real world. Elsewhere there is a curator, a curatorial team, a view of the world and things, but here there are many. So, finally, a recommendation that has less to do with black women and more with black girls (and boys, as well as whites, Asians, Latin Americans): Francis Alÿs is showing a selection of his films children’s games in the Belgian pavilion. You can hardly say anything smarter, more touching, even more political about the world and the time in which they live. And for those who stayed home, Alÿs also tells them online.

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