In the exhibition textual content for “The Milk of Dreams,” the primary occasion on the 59th Venice Biennale, creative director Cecilia Alemani identifies a set of key questions that the present takes up: “How is the definition of the human changing? What constitutes life, and what differentiates plant and animal, human and non-human?” In the Arsenale half of the present, at the least, this temporary is taken somewhat actually: humanoids and hybrid figures abound. Dominating the opening antechamber is Simone Leigh’s huge bronze sculpture Brick House (2019), a part of a collection through which the Black feminine physique merges with a spread of vernacular architectural types, together with the domed earthen huts of the Mousgoum individuals of Cameroon and the Natchez, Mississippi, roadside restaurant Mammy’s Cupboard, housed within the voluminous skirt of a stereotypical mammy determine holding out a serving tray. (Leigh’s sculpture might be acquainted to New Yorkers due to its look on the High Line, the place Alemani has served as chief curator since 2011.) It is echoed, within the subsequent room, by a bunch of 5 equally huge adobe sculptures of anthropomorphized vessels based mostly on Indigenous clay ovens by Argentinian artist Gabriel Chaile, every one representing a member of his household.
Any variety of different works depict people which have adopted the traits of plant and animal species. A set of works on paper by the São Paulo–based mostly Rosana Paulino portrays variations on the theme of a nude feminine determine growing roots, a number of of them with treelike trunks rather than legs, whereas a bunch of recent work by Felipe Baize reveals figures with human torsos and tangled vines or thorny stems for limbs, and Eglė Budvytytė’s video Songs from the Compost: mutating our bodies, imploding stars (2020) captures a bunch of individuals communing with the panorama, ultimately melding with it completely as their our bodies sprout fungi. Tonally distinct is Marianna Simnett’s weird, hilarious video set up The Severed Tail (2022), which pronounces itself to guests by way of an extended, furry tail peeking out from behind a pink curtain and makes use of animal fetishes like pet play to discover the boundaries between species. Most dramatically, the ultimate room is given over to Precious Okoyomon’s massive scale site-specific set up To See the Earth Before the End of the World (2022), for which the artist constructed a panorama of residing crops like kudzu and sugar cane, dotted with figural sculptures fabricated from wool, yarn, and dirt that appear to sprout up from the earth itself.
There are additionally loads of hybrids of the human-machine selection (to not point out cyborgian riffs on the Surrealist trope of the physique in items by Tishan Hsu and Jes Fan), together with Geumhyung Jeong’s Toy Prototype (2021), an expanded model of an set up initially commissioned by South Korea’s National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, that includes a tabletop array of the artist’s awkward DIY robots. There’s additionally a bunch of works exploring information mining and synthetic life by Lynn Hershman Leeson, together with a collection of 2021 portraits from her “Missing Person” collection that the artist bought on an internet site promoting computer-generated inventory photos, alternately printed right here on mirrors and as a wallpapered grid.
Also ubiquitous on the Arsenale are tapestries and different fiber-based works, typically drawing explicitly on the artists’ respective cultures and craft traditions, together with Sámi artist Britta Markatt-Labba’s embroidered landscapes, a trio of beautiful sequined and beaded Vodou flags by Myrlande Constant, and Violeta Parra’s jute embroideries of the Sixties, impressed by pre-Columbian strategies and motifs, that depict scenes from fashionable Chilean historical past. Though seemingly summary, Igshaan Adams’s wall-spanning tapestry Bonteheuwel/Epping (2021), fabricated from eclectic supplies together with wooden, beads, seashells, bone, and wire, alludes to one of many many “desire lines” that traversed apartheid South Africa: footpaths crossing segregated communities.
As far because the nationwide pavilions on the Arsenale go, Ukraine is the must-see one, albeit primarily for causes of solidarity: the pavilion options Kharkiv-based artist Pavlo Makov’s understated Fountain of Exhaustion. Aqua Alta (2022), comprising a pyramid of wall-mounted funnels, with water trickling down progressively extra slowly. Originally created in 1995 to mirror on post-Soviet ennui, the work’s reception right here is now inevitably coloured by the warfare: a collection of adjoining vitrines was meant to carry archival supplies associated to the unique set up however, as a placard pronounces, they hadn’t arrived in time for the opening, a reminder of the exceptional logistical feats required to get the work to Venice within the first place, given
that the artist and his household have spent a lot of the previous three months residing in a basement shelter of their dwelling metropolis. (The identical, I think about, goes for a lot of members of the curatorial crew.) Makov’s somber set up was jarringly, if unintentionally, juxtaposed with Jakup Ferri’s Kosovo pavilion in an adjoining gallery, a Day-Glo atmosphere of work and patterned rugs protecting the area’s partitions and flooring. But my favourite of the day was the Latvian pavilion, a ridiculous set up of a whole lot of porcelain objects by the duo Skuja Braden, organized into surreally home configurations: as an example, a conceit desk lined with porcelain daggers, skulls, and painted votives, the toes of its ornate tufted chair capped by eyeballs. The press launch mentions varied buzzwords (Zen Buddhism, post-socialism, neoliberalism) by means of a proof for this riotous mise-en-scene, however they’re hardly obligatory; the work accomplishes an all too uncommon feat of talking for itself.