LONDON — “I’ve had a bumpy begin,” Cecilia Alemani mentioned with fun when requested to explain the pandemic’s influence on her work because the curator of subsequent yr’s Venice Biennale.
Alemani, an Italian primarily based in New York Metropolis, was named in January 2020 because the inventive chief of the 59th version of the Biennale, and the occasion’s curator would usually begin touring the world instantly, on the lookout for work to incorporate within the present.
As an alternative, mentioned Alemani, “I’ve been mainly caught in my office-slash-closet within the East Village for a yr and a half.” The occasion she is overseeing has already been delayed a yr, and moderately than getting on planes, she has been on a whole bunch of Zoom calls with artists, having “emotional and deep conversations, attempting to be taught what this second in time was which means for them.”
On Wednesday, she revealed the primary results of her inquiries: the title of the Biennale’s primary exhibition, which can run from April 23 to Nov. 27, 2022. It is going to be known as “The Milk of Goals” — a reputation taken from a youngsters’s e book by Lenora Carrington, the British Surrealist painter. That e book is crammed with unusual tales through which youngsters have wings as an alternative of ears or can eat by means of partitions.
The exhibition, Alemani mentioned, will use the e book as a place to begin to “envision a world the place everyone can change, be reworked, grow to be one thing or another person.” It should additionally discover humanity’s altering relationships with know-how and nature.
If the inspiration sounds darkish, Alemani mentioned the present wouldn’t be. “I would like it to be an optimistic exhibition,” she mentioned. “The time we live in is a second of disaster and deep trauma, nevertheless it’s in moments of disaster that we will hope for a constructive transformation.”
Alemani remains to be figuring out which artists will characteristic within the present, which is normally held each two years within the Italian metropolis’s pavilions, palaces and outdated army buildings. However there will probably be round 130 artists, working in all varieties, from portray to sculpture, video and efficiency.
In a wide-ranging phone interview, Alemani spoke about her plans for the occasion. Under are edited extracts from the dialog.
Did you could have the theme earlier than the pandemic hit, or did it solely emerge by means of speaking with artists?
The present had a really bizarre genesis. I used to be appointed in January 2020, so I had only a month of serious about it, then the world utterly modified.
I’d already been pondering fairly a bit about these subjects, like how definitions of humanity are altering, how our relationship with know-how is altering.
With know-how, it’s so fascinating: There’s this discrepancy between, on one facet, our hope it can enhance and defend our our bodies and, on the opposite facet, this concern that machines will take over. And that dualism is being actually exacerbated proper now, with so many people compelled behind a display screen for all our human relationships.
Many artists are serious about that: How can we reconcile these two extremes. and is there a approach in between?
Was there any level whenever you anxious the occasion could be canceled solely?
I’m an optimist, so I at all times really feel issues will flip round. The Biennale was based in 1895, so it went by means of two World Wars, different pandemics, unbelievable pure disasters.
It’s actually vital to consider the function of an establishment prefer it in these troublesome moments. The 1948 exhibition, which was the primary after the Second World Battle, was virtually a beacon of hope for artists. So I can see the kind of regenerative energy this exhibition might have, particularly if we will inform the story of what’s coming subsequent, not simply what’s occurred.
Does that imply you’re commissioning artists moderately than simply bringing current works collectively?
There will probably be a lot of new productions. We’ve had a extra time than earlier editions, so I’m working with quite a lot of artists to deliver new initiatives. Generally they are going to mirror on what occurred, nevertheless it’s not going to be illustrative of the Covid disaster. Thus far I don’t have a single masks!
You’ve spoken a few present that can have a look at humanity’s relationship with nature, which brings up the query of local weather change. The Biennale is the artwork world’s greatest worldwide jamboree, and it encourages 1000’s to fly in from all around the world.
What I discovered on this yr and a half that we’ve been looking at screens is that whereas I can think about a lot of adjustments — I’ll by no means ever once more take an airplane to go to Europe to present a chat — nothing goes to interchange the precise feeling and expertise of being bodily in an exhibition.
You must be in an exhibition area, in entrance of an art work, with individuals, to essentially respect and expertise artwork. And so I don’t assume that’s the place the slowing down ought to be.
How will that want to decelerate be seen in your exhibition then?
We’re attempting to consider this version as a seven-month platform: It’s not simply this fancy week in Could the place events are occurring, however a useful resource for the town, for the artwork group. The exhibition and its outreach are removed from being simply an ephemeral occasion for a number of chosen individuals. That’s going to be a radical change in the best way we consider the Biennale.
It’s been postponed as soon as already. Do you ever fear it would occur once more?
[Two loud bangs down the telephone line.]
Was that you simply knocking on wooden?
Sure, that was me touching wooden! However concern shouldn’t be going to assist. What can I do about it? I simply have to focus and do the absolute best present I can ever do.