PRESS: Demo auf der Biennale

Source: Republik


Von Jörg Heisen


In English (Translated)

Read whole article in German here:

Protest at the Biennale

In Venice, the global art world comes together – along with the conflicts of the present. Yet hope, celebration, and the spirit of discovery also persist in the lagoon city.

During the opening days of the 60th Art Biennale in Venice, moments of unexpected emotional resonance occurred, one of which was a performance by FO SHO, a group of three young Black women who rapped confidently in English and Ukrainian. Their biggest hit, “BLCK SQR,” references the “Black Square” by Malevich. Born in Kharkiv, Ukraine, to Ethiopian Jewish parents, they fled to Stuttgart due to the Russian invasion and performed in the UNESCO-supported “Artists at Risk” pavilion in Venice, alongside other artists who have had to flee their home countries due to political persecution, war, or both. I would have had no objection if one of the Biennale Lion awards had been given to them for their rap show.

The Israeli pavilion remained closed in protest until a ceasefire and the release of hostages were achieved. This decision received mixed reactions, with some accusing the organizers of succumbing to pressure or seeking attention. An open letter had called for Israel’s exclusion from the Biennale, signed by over 24,000 people. Protests erupted in Venice, targeting the Israeli pavilion and escalating into calls for violent solutions rather than ceasefires.

Inside the Biennale, the central pavilion curated by Adriano Pedrosa replaced well-known modernist names with globally diverse artists, often unfamiliar to even well-informed professionals. This approach aimed to highlight underrepresented artists but sometimes resulted in a lack of depth in individual presentations.

Several national pavilions showcased diverse cultural narratives. The American pavilion, led by Jeffrey Gibson, featured vibrant, indigenous-inspired art, while the Swiss pavilion used advanced projection technology to explore national identity. The French and British pavilions also used high-tech displays to celebrate multicultural themes.

Germany’s pavilion presented a more somber reflection, with a mound of earth blocking the entrance and artworks addressing themes of migration, labor, and historical memory. The pavilion’s collaboration between artist Yael Bartana and theater director Ersan Mondtag created a poignant and melancholic experience.

Overall, the Biennale attempted to navigate the complex interplay of politics, representation, and aesthetics in the art world, reflecting both global and local tensions. The event highlighted the ongoing struggle for genuine representation and the challenges of addressing historical and contemporary injustices through art.