60th Venice Biennale: “Foreigners Everywhere”


di un luogo: ci vuole

una mano,

una casa, un sorriso,

qualcosa che ci faccia

da perimetro.

L’animale senza luogo

si ammala,

ama senza amare,

soffre senza soffrire . . .

The Venezia pavilion ‘Sestante Doméstico’, with works by Pietro Ruffo, Safet Zec and Vittorio Marella, was inaugurated in the Giardini of the Biennale to the sound of verses by the Italian poet Franco Arminio.

Stranieri Uvunque (Strangers Everywhere) is the theme of the 60th edition of the Biennale d’Arte, the largest international event in the contemporary art world. And the 2024 Art Biennale looks even bigger than ever: it features around 88 pavilions, with more than 330 artists exhibiting.

Stranieri Uvunque“, inspired by the series of sculptures initiated in 2004 by the Claire Fontaine collective (born in Paris and living in Palermo, Italy), shows the phrase in different coloured neon characters in various languages. The phrase in turn comes from the name of a Turin-based collective that fought against racism and xenophobia in Italy in the early 2000s.

… Foreigners Everywhere, often muttered as a hushed complaint, also celebrates the difference and multiplicity of voices that fill the city and provides the title for the main exhibition by the Biennial’s curator and artistic director Adriano Pedrosa (also director of MASP in São Paulo, Brazil).

The expression takes on a very special and specific meaning in Venice, a city whose original population was made up of refugees from Roman urban centres, a city that in the past was the most important centre of international trade and commerce in the Mediterranean, a city that was once the capital of the Republic of Venice, dominated by Napoleon Bonaparte and conquered by Austria, and whose population today is around 50,000 inhabitants.

Today it is of crucial importance in Europe, the Mediterranean and the world, as the number of forced migrants peaked in 2022 (with 108.4 million according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and continues to grow.

The aim of the exhibition is to challenge cultural stereotypes by talking about diversity, similarities, and juxtapositions and then again about themes such as immigration, diaspora, globalisation, and cultural coexistence. Through artworks by artists from around the world, the Biennial offers a glimpse into the complexity of global identities, challenging traditional notions of belonging.

 Adriano Pedrosa said: “The backdrop of the work is a world plagued by multiple crises related to the movement and existence of people across countries, nations, territories and borders, reflecting the perils and pitfalls of language, translation and ethnicity, expressing differences and disparities conditioned by identity, nationality, race, gender, sexuality, wealth and freedom. In this landscape, the phrase Strangers Everywhere has – at least – a double meaning. Firstly, that wherever you go and wherever you are, you will always find foreigners: they/we are everywhere. Secondly, that no matter where you are, you are always, really and truly, a foreigner”.

“The Biennale itself – an international event with numerous official participations from different countries – has always been a platform for the exhibition of works by foreigners from all over the world. Thus, the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia will be a celebration of the foreign, the distant, the outsider, the queer, as well as the indigenous.

With a total of 331 participants, it is divided into two sections: Nucleo Storico – made up of 20th century names from the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia – and Nucleo Contemporaneo – dominated by contemporary creation – the exhibition features the work of numerous indigenous artists whose works have been considered by the academy as mere craftsmanship, and who are now intended to be placed at least on an equal footing with the supposed artistic avant-garde. Thus, the façade of the Giardini’s central pavilion itself is intervened with a colourful mural by the Brazilian collective MAHKU (Movimento dos Artistas Huni Kuin) inspired by sacred rituals with ayahuasca. And in the exhibition, among many others, the works of the Maori women’s group Mataaho (winner of the Golden Lion for best participation), the Yanomani Joseca Mokahesi and André Taniki or Santiago and Rember Yahuarcani, father, and son (there are several artistic families in the selection), belonging to the Uitoto people of the Peruvian Amazon, stand out.

Bouchra Khalili’s outstanding multi-screen video, The Mapping Journey Project (2008-2011), is the spiritual core of Foreigners Everywhere. The premise is simple: each screen is placed over a map through which a migrant trace his route to Europe with a black felt-tip pen, while offering a narrative of the frustration, toil and risks involved at each stage. It is both poignant and fascinating.

A preponderance of artists long ignored by the main art world circuits from the Global South make their debut at the Venice Biennale. The prominent Latin American presence translates into more than a hundred invited artists, a third of the total, and a dozen national pavilions: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

The Argentinean pavilion was inaugurated under the title ‘Ojalá se derrumben las puertas’, by Luciana Lamothe and curated by Sofía Dourron.

Mexico’s ‘Como nos fuimos, siempre estamos volviendo’, curated by Ana Catalina Valenzuela González, and which has been created by the artist Erick Meyenberg.

Uruguay, in the ‘Latente’ pavilion, by the artist Eduardo Cardoz.

Peru, in ‘Cosmic Traces’, brought the photographer Roberto Huarcaya

Bolivia in its pavilion mounted the project ‘Mirando al futuropasado, estamos pisando adelante’. Curated by Juan Carlos Cordero Nina

Chile, with ‘Cosmonación’, curated by Florencia Loewenthal, shows the work of Valeria Montti.

Cuba titles its project ‘Curtain’, by the artist Wilfredo Prieto

Venezuela and the selected artist Juvenal Ravelo

Panama debuts this year with a pavilion in which four artists – Brooke ALfro, Isabel de Obaldía, Cisco Merel and Giana dee Dier – will present their work.

Brazil has named its pavilion after the Tupinambá community and the artists from this area who became foreigners in their own land.

4 countries are participating for the first time; Ethiopia, the Republic of Benin, the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste and the United Republic of Tanzania.

Awards of the 60th International Art Exhibition

Golden Lion for the best National Participation: Australia Commissioner: Creative Australia Curator: Ellie Buttrose Exhibitor: Archie Moore Venue: Giardini

Special mention for National Participations:Republic of KosovoThe Echoing Silences of Metal and Skin Commissioner: Hana Halilaj, National Gallery of Kosovo Curator: Erëmirë Krasniqi Exhibitor: Doruntina Kastrati Venue: Museo Storico Navale della Marina Militare, Riva S. Biasio 2148

Golden Lion for best participant in the International Exhibition Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere Mataaho Collective (2012 founded in Aotearoa, New Zealand; based there.)

Silver Lion for a promising young participant in the International Exhibition Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere Karimah Ashadu(* 1985 London, UK. Lives in Hamburg, Germany and Lagos, Nigeria.)

Special mentions: Samia Halaby (1936 Jerusalem, Palestine. Lives in New York City, USA.)

The jury awarded Anna Maria Maiolino, a Brazilian artist (Italian by birth), and Nil Yalter, a Turkish artist (living in Paris), with the Biennale Art 2024 Golden Lifetime Achievement Lions.

I leave Venice happily intoxicated with art, and grateful for having been able to touch closely, that feeling that titles this 60th edition of the biennial, ‘foreigners everywhere’ that gives life and makes possible a meeting between peoples, races, generations, genders, cultures, feelings, nations. . . I leave Venice, with an extraordinary feeling of hope in the human being… to that instinctive will to love, rooted in our DNA. . . Over 30,000 people visited the exhibition within the first three days, and it will remain open until November 24.

The vision that these artists present of our world today to the entire world will be the future memory of the past that we had to live through.

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