On July 16th Ralph Rugoff, artistic director of the 58th Venice Biennale, has just revealed the theme and title for his this edition, which will to open next May: “May You Live in Interesting Times.”, directly addressing to the rise of Fake News, mediation manipulation of images and reports and the urge for rather being armed with some real critical sense.
In fact, explaining the curatorial choice in a statement, the curator Ralph Rugoff, said, “At a moment when the digital dissemination of fake news and ‘alternative facts’ is corroding political discourse and the trust on which it depends, it is worth pausing whenever possible to reassess our terms of reference.”
In a interview after the Monday press conference in Venice, the curator Runoff have express his hope that this 2009 Biennale Arte will be less of a rhetoric discourse, and more of a challenge and that art may be a way to help us. ” as the world faces crises and changes “that can cause anxiety, despair, and frustration.” Plus, he added, “[‘May You Live in Interesting Times’] was a phrase I thought was ambiguous enough to be interesting.”
The title actually has been referred by Western politicians and rhetoricians for more than 100 years, but itself is in fact based on a misunderstanding: it comes from a speech given in the late 1930s by Austen Chamberlain, a member of British Parliament, in which he cited what had wrongly been understood as an ancient Chinese curse.
So this will be the starting point for a deep curatorial reflection on the way in which misunderstandings, translation mishaps, and fake news can have real-world ramifications for decades, also in establishing different political system as well as the history itself.
However Runoff’ overall philosophy and mindset realistic down’t consider art as the magic bullet for all social and human diseases , as he said “Art cannot stem the rise of nationalist movements and authoritarian governments in different parts of the world…nor can it alleviate the tragic fate of displaced peoples across the globe,” . Nevertheless, he pointed out the important role of art as an instrument of critical sense stimulation: “in an indirect fashion, perhaps art can be a kind of guide for how to live and think in ‘interesting times.’”
The journalist turned curator and museum director told artnet News that heavily didactic and agitprop works might be thin on the ground in Venice come May 2019, so he’s actually looking for another type of works and artists,aiming for an exhibition that can embraces both “pleasure and critical thinking.”
He also commented “I don’t think art should be a form of journalism,” he said, “but I think it can give us some tools that allow us to develop more nuanced way of thinking about things and the ability to hold different perspectives in our heads at the same time.” art that embraces both “pleasure and critical thinking.”
So, “May You Live in Interesting Times” is likely to be structured as a critical and experiential course, which will include “a series of encounters that are essentially playful, taking into account that it is when we play that we are most fully ‘human,’” Rugoff said in his statement. Nevertheless, the Biennale is not going to be neither ‘grammers’- lunapark : Rugoff has spoken in the past against the impact of Instagram on the way viewers consume art, and he plans to explore this issue, in Venice as well. “I think there will be moments [in the exhibition] that will hopefully reflect back to the visitor that maybe question what that activity means and if it really is the best way to go around an exhibition taking pictures on your phone to post on social media,” he said. The specific projects and artists he is considering remain tightly under wraps for now, however.
Therefore the exhibition structure of the upcoming Biennale to deemphasize the art object and feature forms of playfulness in the interest of “deep involvement, absorption, and creative learning that art makes possible.” The show will also focus, he said, on that which “may be off-limits, under-the-radar, or otherwise inaccessible for various reasons.”
“Artists who think in this manner offer alternatives to the meaning of so-called facts by suggesting other ways of connecting and contextualizing them,”Rugoff said. “An exhibition should open people’s eyes to previously unconsidered ways of being in the world and thus change their view of that world.
Nevertheless, the Biennale is not going to be neither ‘grammers’- lunapark : Rugoff has spoken in the past against the impact of Instagram on the way viewers consume art, and he plans to explore this issue, in Venice as well. “I think there will be moments [in the exhibition] that will hopefully reflect back to the visitor that maybe question what that activity means and if it really is the best way to go around an exhibition taking pictures on your phone to post on social media,” he said. The specific projects and artists he is considering remain tightly under wraps for now, however.
Another point Runoff spoke out against is also the trend of presenting rediscovered or previously overlooked artists, the so-called “emerging dead artists, which has become a popular focus for both fairs and major gallery as well as biennial curators in recent years ( often selling the space to the same charters of the market who have similar operations on)
“I think the biennial should reflect the times we live in,” Rugoff says. “If there is an overlooked artist whose work seems suddenly to cast a very interesting point of view on these times, then I think that would make sense. I don’t want to put them in because I’m trying to re-write art history.”“
Ultimately, Biennale Arte 2019 aspires to the ideal that what is most important about an exhibition is not what it puts on display, but how audiences can use their experience of the exhibition afterwards, to confront everyday realities from expanded viewpoints and with new energies.
So, by now it has been announced as a very intriguing themed Biennale: let’s wait to see what we’ll be the final choices of the curator and how it will results.
>>> The preview for “May You Live in Interesting Times” will be held from May 8 to May 10, 2019. The show is open to the public from May 11 to November 24 at the Arsenale and Giardini in Venice. More info at : http://www. labiennale.org