The 58th Biennale of Venice opened on 11 May. Here is a (non-comprehensive) list of Iberian and Latin American artists represented at the exhibition, which runs until 24 November 2019, and at accompanying events.
Mexican artist Teresa Margolles was awarded a Special Mention at the event’s opening ceremony. By shifting existing structures from the real world into the Exhibition halls, Margolles creates sharp and poignant works that deal with the plight of women grossly affected by the narcotics trade in her native country. Her work Muro Ciudad Juárez. 2010 can be found in the Biennale’s central pavilion at the Giardini, entitled May You Live in Interesting Times and curated by Ralph Rugoff.
Other Latin American artists invited to participate in the Biennale’s international exhibition (split between the Giardini and Arsenale) are Jill Mulleady (born in 1980 in Uruguay), Gabriel Rico (born in 1980 in Mexico) and Tomás Saraceno (born in 1973 in Argentina).
The international exhibition is accompanied by 89 national participations. Spain’s pavilion, located at the entrance of the Giardini, showcases Perforated, a collaboration between Itziar Okariz and Sergio Prego. Through performance, video, and sound, Okariz explores the displacements between the subject, the language, and its physical presence. Prego’s sculptural works relate to architecture, calling materiality into question through the use of lightweight, flexible materials that allow the form to only exist in a specific state or as a result of a continuous action on the constituent material. Both artists reiterate the alternative functions of the body in our technified society.
Brazil’s pavilion, Swinguerra, takes its title from a combination of swingueira, a popular dance movement in the north-east of Brazil, and guerra, war. Wagner & de Burca’s work focuses on the powerful expressions of popular culture in contemporary Brazil, and their complex relationship with international and local traditions.
In Uruguay’s exhibition, La casa empática, paintings, drawings, photographs, and mural works by Yamandú Canosa are arranged as a ‘landscape-territory’ of the world, an inclusive and empathic ‘total landscape’. The total landscape is completed by the intervention on the facade and by the starry sky installed in the ceiling of the pavilion.
Metáfora de las tres ventanas. Venezuela: Identidad en tiempo y espacio is the pavilion of Venezuela. Three metaphorical windows— thresholds for light, air, and the gaze—symbolise the long construction of collective history and an all-encompassing narrative filled with challenges and rebellion. Venezuela aims to promote its libertarian identity, woven over the centuries, and share it in a clear gesture of invitation to the complicity of others.
Other national pavilions are located in the Arsenale. Argentina’s exhibition, El nombre de un país/The Name of a Country is a punk, Frankensteinish bestiary that flaunts a high-fashion collection attitude. Mariana Telleria traces a highway with an infinite number of linguistic lanes, activating confusion—mixing things together, building monsters—and sustaining viewers’ awareness in a continual state of transit.
In Chile’s Pavilion, Altered Views, Voluspa Jarpa offers a proposal for decolonisation through a review of European history. Altered Views comprises three reversed cultural spaces/models: the Hegemony Museum, the Subaltern Portrait Gallery, and the Emancipating Opera. The project collects concepts that defined colony: race and cross-breeding, subordinate male subjects, cannibalism, gender, civilisation and barbarism, monarchy and republic, appealing to a critical view from a transtemporal journey.
Mexico is represented by Actos de dios/Acts of God by Pablo Vargas Lugo. This exhibition which speculates on the life of Christ to generate a non-linear narrative that raises new questions. What would happen if the man who was chosen to redeem humanity had set out to fulfil all the predictions made by the prophets about his life without being certain that he could accomplish them?
“Indios antropófagos”. A butterfly Garden in the (Urban) Jungle, the exhibition of Peru, is a paradox: a post-conceptual exploration of the fiery sensory impact of Amazon culture on certain (neo)Baroque horizons in Peruvian art, namely in Christian Bendayán’s work, where it is energised by a critical reconsideration of the Amazon as a constructed image.
Other national exhibitions are dotted around Venice. In Cannaregio, the Dominican Republic presents Naturaleza y biodiversidad en la República Dominicana. This is the country’s first independent national pavilion at the Biennale. It offers a reflection on ecological threats affecting the luxuriant local nature, the Earth and humankind.
Next to the Dominican Republic is Guatemala’s Interesting State. The term ‘interesting state’ evokes a woman who is pregnant. Acts of violence against women constitute the denial of existence. Guatemala is an ‘interesting State’ because of the persistence of this devastating phenomenon. Art therefore becomes an ethical instrument, in which the seductive aesthetic nature of the works is there to serve an indispensable social denunciation and an essential opportunity for redemption.
Portugal’s pavilion, a seam, a surface, a hinge or a knot, features artist Leonor Antunes reflecting on the functions of everyday objects and contemplating their potential to be materialised as abstract sculptures. The artist is interested in how craftsmanship traditions from various cultures intersected in the work of Venetians such as Carlo Scarpa, Savina Masieri and Egle Trincanato. Elements of the exhibition are fabricated with Falegnameria Augusto Capovilla, one of the still-active Venetian carpentries that worked closely with Scarpa.
The Cuban pavilion, located on the island of San Servolo and entitled A cautionary environment/Entorno aleccionador brings together installations, paintings, and interdisciplinary works on allegorical themes of the times in which we live. The invited artists, Alejandro Campins, Ariamna Contino, Alex Hernández and Eugenio Tibaldi, discuss the relationship between man and the environment.
The Biennale’s programme is accompanied by a series of collateral events. Catalonia in Venice’s To Lose Your Head (Idols) documents the complex life of statues, which some artists today recreate and reflect upon. This multi-authored exhibition explores the theory of art reception and documents the complex life of public statues in our time. In a world of images, iconoclasm and iconodulia, it questions the fetishism of images as living entities and encourages conversations as a way to foster human happiness, awareness and freedom.
The latest works by the contemporary Portuguese sculptor Joana Vasconcelos (born 1971) are being displayed under the title What are you hiding? May you find what you are looking for at the Venice Biennale on the island of San Clemente across the Palazzo Kempinsky gardens and in the church of San Clemente itself, supported by the film production company MGM. In the church the exhibition shows her large-scale floor sculpture Madragoa (2015–2019), inspired by Lisbon’s buildings and façades, which explores the intersections of sculpture, architecture and painting. This piece has new elements specially created for it since it was first shown in Macau in 2015. In the gardens Vasconcelos is displaying I’ll be Your Mirror #1 (2019), a giant Venetian carnival mask made of mirrors, which the sculptor recently showed at the Guggenheim, Bilbao in a solo show. Also on show in the gardens is Betty Boop PA (2019), a high-heeled shoe crafted out of saucepans, which proposes a revision of the “feminine” in today’s world by bringing together two tropes of a woman’s private and public image.