Venice looks to the Global South in an edition marked by Gaza

Venice looks to the Global South in an edition marked by Gaza

Yesterday, the pigeons fluttering around Venice, with their wet feathers, seemed one of the few signs of normal life in a city dominated by the unstable climate and the “Art Biennale” that takes place every two years in Italy. The competition, which will celebrate its sixtieth anniversary in 2024, opens its doors this week to the accredited press, and the wind storm and heavy rain, in the middle of the afternoon, caused an unexpected setback, especially for the southern European delegations, recently. More accustomed to drought than anything else. This was also experienced by the first artists (among 331 artists from 87 countries participating in the exhibition) who actually arrived at the site.

The pre-opening (so in English, as the Italians write it), what became the presentations before the general opening (this year, April 20), apart from that, left little indifference to the locals, perfectly using the slogan chosen this year for the great group exhibition :Strangers everywhere. Venice, a city of adventurers and explorers for centuries, today welcomes up to 40,000 tourists a day (which rises to 100,000 during festivals), while its population continues to decline.

Nevertheless, this attempt could not be more important at a time characterized by new divisions and old hatreds between rich countries, most of them in the northern hemisphere, and the so-called global South. It was the Brazilian Adriano Pedrosa, the first curator from Latin America, who wanted once again to look beyond the competition of Westernism, in order to reread modernism globally. With this idea, Pedrosa divided the sections dedicated to images, abstractions and the Italian artistic diaspora, which bring together twentieth-century works from Latin America, Asia, the Arab world and Africa. This concept is already the protagonist of the 2022 Biennale, where Cecilia Alemany proposed going beyond the “ideal white man,” to give more space to women and historically underrepresented ethnic groups.

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Politics and culture

Referring specifically to the African continent, which participates with 14 countries, some have also begun calling this edition of the biennial competition black. The main reason is that a group of countries debuted because they had never been there before (including Benin, Ethiopia and Tanzania), while other countries had their own pavilion for the first time; An example of this is Senegal. In a similar aspect, Argentina, Spain – which opens today – Mexico and Brazil have devoted another topic, namely indigenous peoples, which also has some importance, each in its own way.

However, if news of some got people talking, absences also sparked interest. Once again, Russia is not among the participating countries, and after an initial moment in which it was announced that its domain would remain closed, it was finally announced that Bolivia would occupy it. The reason, of course, is the war that Moscow is waging in Ukraine. On the other hand, the latter country participates.

The situation was different for Israel. After some voices in recent months demanded its exclusion due to the war launched by Tel Aviv on Gaza and the Italian government refused, finally it was curator Ruth Battier who refused at the last minute to open the pavilion. He added that this will only happen when “a ceasefire agreement is reached and the hostages are released.” The decision was also communicated with a poster placed outside the glass façade of the pavilion, where a video work entitled “Keening” would be displayed which sought to speak to the fragility of life.

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The exhibition, which is considered one of the most important international exhibitions in this sector, also imposed an atmosphere of euphoria on the local authorities. The city's mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, is vice-president of the competition, which “attracts many intellectuals and intellectuals to Venice, which represents a breath of fresh air for the city,” as the tourism advisor explained to Spanish media. Simone Venturini.

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