Article by Lisa Birch // May 06, 2017
The city of Venice will shortly once again present the 57th edition of the Venice Biennale. This year’s main exhibition is titled ‘Viva Arte Viva’ and is curated by Christine Macel, the chief curator of the Centre Pompidou and the fourth woman to have ever directed the Biennale. Macel’s international art show is exhibited in nine chapters, beginning with two introductory chapters in the Central Pavilion, followed by another seven across the Arsenale and the Giardino delle Vergini, which are open to the public between May 13th-November 26th, 2017. This year will welcome many newcomers, with 103 of the 120 exhibited artists participating in the Biennale for the first time. This continuous expansion and inclusion highlights the essence of the exhibition; bringing to life the pluralism of voices within the art world.
‘Viva Arte Viva’ focuses on the best of humanity, encompassing acts of resistance, liberation and generosity. The exhibition focuses on expressing ideals and utopias through art and aims to enhance human connections, both to nature and to one another. As such, it looks closely at anthropological and societal changes. Each chapter in the exhibition is titled ‘Pavilion’—or rather ‘trans-pavilions’ as they are named by Macel—but the different sections will present ideas and artists from different countries without physical separation, unlike with the national pavilions. This move is particularly relevant when considering borders dividing a globalized art world. The trans-pavilion chapters are thematically arranged, from the ‘Pavilion of Artists and Books’ to the ‘Pavilion of Time and Infinity’.
In addition to the ‘Viva Arte Viva’ show, there will be other parallel events running throughout the duration of the Biennale. Several site-specific performances have been commissioned, especially for the Giardino delle Vergini and other venues around the city of Venice. A dense programme of approximately twenty performances will be held during the opening week and will be streamed live on La Biennale’s website. In addition to these separate performances, many artists from the main exhibition will participate in a discussion programme where visitors can ask the artists questions about their practice. Another project titled ‘Unpacking My Library’—inspired by Walter Benjamin‘s essay ‘Unpacking My Library: A Talk about Book Collecting’—sees the participating artists of ‘Viva Arte Viva’ compiling a list of their favourite books. This list of books will then be published in the exhibition at the Central Pavilion. There will also be a selected series of ‘Collateral Events’, which will be running at the same time as the exhibition.
Macel’s ‘Viva Arte Viva’ actively seek out answers and solutions for current world crises. This year’s Venice Biennale has been designed with artists, by artists and for artists. Rather than tackling a single theme, it has attempted to generate connections. Art is increasingly crucial within the framework of contemporary debates and the exhibition aims to create a space for reflection, individual expression, freedom and debate.
This year, the Biennale has invited participating artists to create a series of short videos about themselves and their way of working, which are featured on the Biennale’s YouTube channel.