The 60th Biennale d’Arte is in Today’s World, in the Global South

President Roberto Cicutto and the director of the next Biennale d’Arte, Brazilian Adriano Pedrosa, present the "Foreigners Everywhere" program.
SANDRA GASTALDO
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The watchword is Global South. Adriano Pedrosa, artistic director of the Art Museum of Sao Paulo, Brazil, who has been entrusted with the task of curating the 60th International Biennale d’Arte in Venice (from April 20 to November 24, 2024) repeats it several times. It is not a mantra, but a paradigm that has more than just a geographical meaning.

The first director of a Biennale d’Arte from the southern hemisphere, Pedrosa does not seem to be moving away from the path forged by Lesley Lokko (the Anglo-Ghanaian curator of the 2023 architecture exhibition), who shifted the exhibition’s center of gravity of by moving it towards a more real point of balance on the planet.

With Pedrosa, after Lokko, Roberto Cicutto’s Biennale does not break the crystal dome that has apparently enveloped the self-referential hegemony of “Western” culture until today. Rather, it has crossed through the mirror in which the cultural-economic world, simplistically definable as Western and developed, has wanted to reflect itself for decades, centuries, but perhaps even millennia.

Beyond the mirror there is the vastness of continents, of nations that can be labeled with various definitions – however, they are always reductive. Global South is the classification that is now used to replace dusty linguistic remnants from the recent past: emerging countries, third world, developing countries.

The Global South will be the protagonist of the next Biennale d’Arte just as politically it is proving to be the protagonist, and possible builder, of a new world order.

It is a growing influence that this vast entity, although with fluid boundaries, is exerting and will be able to exert in the future. Art, which is ultimately always political, sometimes anticipates the direction of the compass needle in international relations. During the press conference to present the 60th International Art Exhibition, the strong sensation in the air was that of facing a new and vast horizon for the first time, not exactly ignored, but never imagined either.

President Roberto Cicutto, whose mandate is about to expire, underlined how a handover is underway in total collaboration with the new president, Pierangelo Buttafuoco, who was present in the room.

Cicutto recalled that

The international nature of the Biennale makes it a privileged observatory on the state of the world through the transformation and evolution of the arts. No curator, when choosing the contents of his exhibition, directly aims at the hot topics of the moment, but rather undertakes a journey full of changes of direction, one whose story will ultimately be strongly influenced by the perceptions and interpretations given by the visitors, the experts and the press.

At the end of a four-year period over which the long pandemic and dramatic historical events such as the Russian aggression in Ukraine, the Hamas attack on October 7, 2023 and its tragic consequences on the Gaza Strip have cast their shadow, Roberto Cicutto wanted reiterate that the autonomy of the directors is the greatest guarantee that the Biennale formula continues to work and produce “sometimes surprising effects, even on a diplomatic and political level”.

Adriano Pedrosa and Roberto Cicutto

It is truly to be hoped that Adriano Pedrosa’s Biennale entitled “Foreigners Everywhere” can build the premises for new forms of dialogue and weave a web of relationships and listening.

“Foreigners Everywhere” takes the name of an installation created in 2004 by the Italian-British artistic collective Claire Fontaine, which was formed in Paris and is based in Palermo. Claire Fontaine is a winking reference to a famous stationery line, but also to a famous work by Marcel Duchamp. The installation “Foreigners Everywhere” in turn alludes to an anarchist-inspired collective of the same name, founded in Turin in the early 2000s and committed against racism and xenophobia.

Claire Fontaine’s work has been expanded over time: it is a series of neon sculptures of different colors which reproduce the words “foreigners everywhere” in an increasing number of languages. The phrase currently appears in 53 Western and non-Western languages, and also includes indigenous idioms, some of which are extinct.

Adriano Pedrosa

Pedrosa explained that the installation, in a new large-scale version, will be set up this year at Gaggiandre in the Arsenale.

Throughout my life – said Pedrosa – I have lived abroad, and I have been lucky enough to travel a lot. I have experienced the treatment of a third world foreigner even though I have never been a refugee and, indeed, according to the Henley Passport Index, I hold one of the most prestigious passports in the Global South. I also identify as queer, the first openly queer curator in the history of the Biennale Arte. Furthermore, I come from the Brazilian and Latin American context in which the indigenous artist and the popular artist play important roles; although they have been marginalized in art history, they have recently begun to receive more attention. Brazil is also home to many exiles, a land of foreigners so to speak; in addition to the Portuguese who invaded and colonized it, the country is home to the largest African, Italian, Japanese and Lebanese diasporas in the world.

“Foreigners Everywhere” is a title that takes on a crucial meaning since the number of “forcibly displaced people” has reached 108.4 million according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The Biennale d’Arte will talk about artists who are themselves foreigners, immigrants, expatriates, diasporic, exiles and refugees. It will talk about immigration and decolonization. It will invite us to reflect on the meaning of foreigner and on the etymology of the term, which introduces the concept of foreignness in all of the possible declinations, including those relating to sexual orientation, the marginal position of outsider artists, the often superficial consideration of the self-taught “folk” or “popular” artist, or to the indigenous artist, who is often treated as a stranger in his own land.

Between the central pavilion and the Corderie of the Arsenale, Pedrosa will open the pages of an anthology of surprising art unknown in these latitudes until now, an anthology that brings together over three hundred artists from the South of the World, whatever this definition means.

The 60th Biennale will then welcome authors presented to the public in the ninety national pavilions. This year it is worth mentioning the presence of Nicaragua, the Republic of Panama and Senegal with their own pavilions for the first time.

There will also be absolute new participants: the Republic of Benin, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of East Timor, the Republic of Tanzania. The return of the Holy See has also been announced – the pavilion “With my eyes”, curated by Chiara Parisi and Bruno Racine, will be in the Giudecca women’s prison.

Translation by Paul Rosenberg

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The 60th Biennale d’Arte is in Today’s World, in the Global South ultima modifica: 2024-02-07T13:22:07+01:00 da SANDRA GASTALDO
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