Again and again bodies and plants, biomorphs and vegetables, grow and multiply: finally, in the main exhibition of this 59th Venice Art Biennale, one has the impression that one has seen bodies of people, especially women, with plants growing more more often than never before. – and vice versa. Curator Cecilia Alemani has laid out a fascinating course in which a large number of works can be seen, mainly by women, from superstars to rediscoveries and new talents, which, despite this considerable range, often revolve around certain topics.
The German for his part has emphasized this with the micro-exhibitions called “Time Capsules” within their major exhibition. And if there were also Goldene Löwen as a prize for whole rooms, which one would like to recommend to a museum for purchase, then the jury here could distribute them. Closely staged cabinets deal with historical chapters of art history, exclusively by women. Titles include “Witch Cradle,” “The Attraction of Cyborg,” or “The Technologies of Enchantment,” and it’s the self-proclaimed covenant of surrealist witches about Leonora Carrington, from whose writings comes the title of the entire event: “The Milk of Dreams.” “. It is about the early fantasies of the union of man and machine as a prelude to what would later be called a cyborg. And again and again it comes down to “fascination”, a re-enchantment by all possible means to counter the “disappointment” of the technological world once declared by Max Weber, for example the technology of all things.
This is also based on the pioneering work of Frankfurt’s great Surrealist show from last year and is accompanied at the same time by an exhibition in the Peggy Guggenheim collection on the other side of the Grand Canal, which deals with “Surrealism and Magic”. subtitle: “Enchanted Modernity”, enchanted modernity. (From October at the Barberini Museum in Potsdam.)
The return of magical thinking is often understood as an emancipatory project
Portraying surrealism now with excitement as a movement for feminist empowerment may be surprising, in fact a little scary, but it is extremely contemporary. “Because people with a penchant for the occult have known it for a long time, and those who are skeptical or even hate the esoteric have had to consider even more in recent years: the return of magical thinking is understood under the rurum.” alternative of cognition ”as an emancipatory project and with great institutional success.
The terms from the depths of the seventies come to mind again: Soma, i.e. body. from somatization Sociologists of religion spoke at a time when political revolt retreated into the body, society rolled inside, and one’s body became both a temple and a place of execution. The figure of the “shaman” is also known again, at least as long as the indigenous animal drinkers of Siberia do not reject it as a cultural appropriation that the term is constantly used by Westerners, who feel the man of medicine, healer and savior in vetvete. Since the heyday of the sex commune, psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich has probably not been called in as often as today. This is now mixed with keywords of the present like Anthropocene, the consciousness of other species and the global south. “Relational” is back from the 1990s, at that time friendly interaction with each other was already a topic of art, for example cooking.
Next door, an artist inserted a gene from her body into a plant
Perhaps it is more than a coincidence that the creator of the concept of “relational aesthetics”, curator Nicolas Bourriaud, is now opening a new private exhibition a few steps further. And that there a young artist, Dana-Fiona Armor, had a gene from her body inserted into a plant; red hairs gradually grow on the leaves of the tobacco in question. It’s a bit scary techno, but Bourriaud’s exhibition is also called “Planet B. Climate change and the new sublime.” The adoring Frenchman promises to renew the sublime aesthetic of a world stuck in the “reaction circles” of technology and climate change. Today, the sublime is no longer what makes romantic painters tremble because of its size and distance, like mountains or the sea. In a “shrinking world” it is much more comparable to “what a rabbit feels when it is blinded by the headlights of a speeding car”.
Just as in this biennial exhibition physical forms can be seen growing in all sorts of expansions, so the exhibition itself can be seen as a body lying in the lagoon. Here and there one of the village pavilions seems thematically grafted, and out in the city a host of collateral exhibits revolve around it all like macrocosmic stars, who not only have to fascinate astrologically sensitive people.
In the Polish pavilion there is a reference to Aby Warburg’s famous inquiry into the “afterlife” of the ancient beliefs of the stars in the Palazzo Schifanoia frescoes, only in contrast to Warburg for not analyzing culture (in this case the myths of Poles Rome), but to re-mystify. And there is, to quote another Warburgian term, “energetic inversions”: at the Fondazione Prada, artist Taryn Simon and curator Udo Kittelmann have an encyclopedic exhibition on the “Human Brain” – from archaeological skull openers to the current state of neuroscience. . It is hard to imagine a more cerebral counter-performance to the Biennale, which argues much from the emotional and physical, not least from the sub-bodily.
From there it is not too far in the room of the Victor Pinchuk Foundation for Ukraine, where by contrast, the “West” does not come across as something that is accused of being critical of rationality, but of whose affiliation people die. who would rather not be subject to the rule of mysticism. There you can also see war debris from eastern Ukraine hanging on a shelf: bent metal that, as it hangs there, is remarkably similar to the amorphously inflated bodies in some of the works at the Biennale. Forms can change content and fees when migrating, Warburg teaches.
Next door, Melanie Bonajo transformed a church into a psychedelic shelter for the Dutch contribution; even there, the pillows and bodies rotate around each other like vinegar and oil. Very similar shapes can also be seen in the new paintings of Daniel Richter, who is exhibiting at the Ateneo, where candidates for execution were once prepared for the final course. Milk Dreams? Neo-Surrealism? It would be good. In a second room, the Berlin painter discovers in an extremely brutal way what his semi-abstract forms allude to: war invalids and their prostheses.
Meanwhile the Russian pavilion remains closed; the only thing to see there is the year “1914” plastered on the facade. A coincidence, of course, but what a coincidence.