Walking around the international exhibition The Milk Of Dreams , curated by CeciliaAlemani for the Venice Biennale 2022, two contradictions, if not three, strongly emerge.
How can you oppose an anthroprocentric vision of the world where women and men dominate, and then present 1433 works of art (created by men and women) in a lagoon crushed by human intervention, mass tourism and environmental pollution?
Second contradiction: in the last 15-20 years, the contemporary artist has already been marginalised in reality and in the public debate regarding the centrality of the human being on earth. Contemporary art remains a seemingly elitist subject and its protagonists are unable to carve out a central role as points of reference. Therefore, at the very least, the artist should be put back at the centre (be it a woman or a man) but only on condition that he or she has something interesting and valuable to say. The discovery, and rediscovery, of many women artists is certainly very appreciable, but to do so within a closed, clientelistic and unmeritocratic system, such as that of art, seems once again contradictory: like complaining that in a Mafia organisation there are only men at the head of the gangs, when the problem is the criminal organisation itself.
Cecilia Alemani’s exhibition is strongly supported by the contribution of modern art (until about 1973), which is the mother of contemporary art, and presents many formal virtuosities as ends in themselves. It is not that by depicting human figures made of earth she effectively tackles the theme of the marginality of the human being; these are artificial solutions that leave little to the overstimulated eye of the 2022 spectator. Suffice it to say that we have been bombarded by TV series that rethink human nature from every point of view through extremely effective and engaging narrative methods. Just think that the last Art Biennale in 2019 did about 500,000 thousand visitors in a world where we are talking about millions and billions of views. And after all, what did the 2019 Biennale leave us with? Perhaps we remember the artist Arthur Jafa who won the Golden Lion with works denouncing the racist crimes of white supremacism towards African Americans in the United States. Since this year’s Golden Lion was once again won by an artist who takes up these themes, perhaps we should ask ourselves about the centrality of “American guilt” who use art, every two years, to clear their conscience. Perhaps the theme of anthropocentrism should be read in these transversal terms and not in the “man-woman” “human beings-other nature” opposition.
The Biennial does not at all address the fragilities that the pandemic has only made more evident, it does not address the problem of a representation that is now saturated, so that anything that goes up on the pedestal risks being immediately blunted. But it is probably not the fault of the curator that the Biennial does not address these issues, but rather the fault of an army of artists who, over the last 10-15 years, have completely avoided the most pressing and interesting issues of our time. In the end, the curators can only select from a menu of artists given and found in reality. It is no coincidence that at this Biennale, as is increasingly the case at exhibitions, modern art (circa late 19th century to 1973) is running to the rescue of an extremely weak contemporary. An art system increasingly based on fairs, and without the ability to adequately stimulate the contemporary with respect to the modern, necessarily results in an accessory Biennale where the works take refuge in an easy, yet academic, surrealism. The works look like innocuous ornaments for the beach house. To use a term dear to me, they become “evolved Ikea”, if anything made more exotic and varied by the proposals of “Maison du Monde”.
In the photo: some of the works available at “Maison du Monde” that actually resemble some of the works at the 2022 Art Biennial.