Saturday, February 12, 2022

Portia in Venice: Intelligent Interventions by Cecilia Alemani in Venice Biennale 2022


 (Cecilia Alemani, Curator, 9th Venice Biennale, pic source:net)

Nearly 200 artists from 58 countries. Mostly ‘women and gender non-confirming’ artists as put by the curatorial director, Cecilia Alemani. That’s the summery of the Venice Biennale’s latest edition slated to open on 23rd April 2022. The 59th edition of the world’s oldest biennale was put on hold due to the global pandemic during the last two years. The marker line that goes between the pre and post pandemic world is not yet clear though almost all the industries have braced themselves up to ‘live with’ the pandemic. Hopefully India’s Kochi Muziris Biennale also would take place towards the end of this year.


Some commentators have already said that the forthcoming edition of the Venice Biennale is based on social issues and why should one travel all the way to Venice to catch up all those politically correct art works when one could do some gallery hopping in any city and see the same. Waswo X Waswo, an American-Indian contemporary artist based in Udaipur, India opines that the ‘art world needs a cleansing and detox’. If I have understood it correctly, Waswo says that the curatorial line of the present edition of the Venice Biennale is too biased and politically inclined. The question seems to be like shouldn’t we go back to the days when art was judged for the sake of artistry and ingenuity?


(Waswo X Waswo, artist. Pic: Source the Hindu)

Modern art, an expressive mode adopted by feverishly intelligent individuals, has never been away from politics. Whenever it did take an apparent detour away from the political path, it surreptitiously upheld the larger political realities for its own existence. The seeming neutrality was a ploy that helped many to veer towards the slippery slopes of the investment market without leaving the claims of art for art’s sake, while the real intention remained as investment for investment’s sake. Art became overtly political in various countries depending on their materialistic realities. There cannot be a linear history for this though larger blankets could be used for making huge political packages on art.


During the last couple of Venice Biennales, though interesting curators were involved and politics had taken an upper hand in the formulation of the works of art, as the market boom was well in place, gallery circuits and museum managements had made tangible and tactical alliances, and above all the auction houses decided the tending styles and concerns, the choices made by these curators were largely determined by the market forces that the liberal socio-political curatorial policies never dared to contest. The result was a set of loose packages created succumbing to the arm twisting methods of the local market forces brokered through the locally sourced sub curators. The works of art created for the events fell line with the trends set by the global conglomerate of art market though in paper all were presented as revolutionary works of art with tall claims as first of its kind in history.


(Surrealist Leonora Carrington, Pic: Wikipedia)

Today Cecilia Alemani calls her curatorial project, ‘The Milk of Dreams’, invoking the life and art of the woman surrealist, Leonora Carrington. The curatorial line is unabashedly political and one wouldn’t see a lot of fancy plumes of male vanity in those exhibition halls in Venice. Instead, there would be many previously unheard of women artists from the mainstream and sub-streams whose engagement with art in many ways foreshadowed the turns that art could take in future. The post-human contentions and claims that the project evokes or even deliberately aims at are exclusive in terms of the avoidance of male interventions on the same but posits women and gender non-confirming artists as the voices of all those who have been excluded from the discursive core during the Anthropocene phase of the globe. The code of invisibility is broken and status quo is challenged in this exhibition, hopefully.


There cannot be an art for art sake anymore. Art is not judged for its formal values alone. May be that is an exclusive concern of the art makers who consider traditional knowledge of making art and also the traditional ways of appreciating art should be left alone to perpetuate itself in the mainstream and all else could happen in the sidelines. Cecilia Alemani seems to turn the tables and makes things inside out to imagine the post human world differently so that she could eventually bring a lot of ‘humanity’ into art discourse, something that has turned inhuman in all sense during the last couple of decades.





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