Venice Biennale:a preview interview with the curator Ralph Rugoff

 

the race towards gigantism

In a world where the offerings of various contemporary art festivals are flourishing across the globe, there’s one way to stand out from the crowd, and that is in the race towards gigantism.

To fill the spaces

This quest would suggest that the chief concern of the curators at these art shows is primarily to fill the spaces, not least because they’re contractually obliged to do so.

The Venice Biennale

The most prestigious show of this kind, the Venice Biennale, with its national pavilions constituting a veritable Olympic Games for current artistic creation (90 countries are officially taking part, but it also has two sites for the international show, the international pavilion at the Giardini and the giant Arsenale), has failed to escape this trend in recent years.

Endless exhibitions

While the global offerings in this area may be good, striding through these endless exhibitions all united under the same banner can induce a sense of visual satiety. It’s like someone who visits a good restaurant and consumes the best dishes but also the not so good ones, just so that nothing escapes them.

Too full

At Venice, like at the good restaurant, it’s a feast for the eyes that leaves us feeling a little too full.

A remarquable principle

But this year at the Biennale, while the sites themselves are still just as vast and overabundant, the American curator of the event Ralph Rugoff has put a remarkable principle in place.

79 artists

He’s come up with something new: he’s divided his biennale into two parts and the 79 artists present are invited to create a double offering; one to be displayed in the international pavilion, and the other at the Arsenale.

Intellectual ping pong

A double-faceted display for each artist… which also enables them to establish links between the two sites. It’s like an intellectual game of ping pong at the heart of this great show, which spurs the visitor on but also divides the artists’ offerings in two.

Bach and Berlioz

After the official presentation in Paris, the president of the show Paolo Baratta commented: “he had the idea of creating a space for Bach and a space for Berlioz. It’s very clever.”

Ralph Rugoff

I don’t know Rugoff, who’s been head of the Hayward Gallery since 2006, particularly well. But I did come into contact with him when he curated the Lyon Biennale which was not, it must be said, very convincing, with the exception of Anish Kapoor’s sublime installations at the equally sublime La Tourette convent designed by Le Corbusier.

An Honest Renaissance man

But Rugoff seems to be an honest man in the Renaissance sense of the word, meaning that he has vast reserves of knowledge, doesn’t seem to be corrupted by the zeitgeist, and takes care to look at society from the necessary distance.

Art like a guide

He says things like “fake news is fake, but it has a real effect.” And “perhaps art can be a kind of guide for how to live and think in interesting times”.

An enigmatic title

This phrase also refers to the Biennale’s rather enigmatic title: “May You Live in Interesting Times”. These words were taken from a 1930s speech given by the British MP Sir Austen Chamberlain, who was quoting a Chinese curse reported by an English diplomat.

Interesting times

Explanation: interesting times are akin to painful times, times of crisis. There are precisely the kind of “interesting times” that we are living through at the moment. Let’s pray that the supposed Chinese curse may be transformed into a blessing through the intellectual powers of Ralph Rugoff, and that we may live in interesting times at the Venice Biennale.

 

Rugoff played the filmed questions game to perfection. He replied with uncommon deftness.

These were the themes covered:

To fill the spaces/Former Biennales/To cut in half/The ideal visitor/Political correctness/The art market/Lyon Biennal/Next dream/To remember about you

The video interview

 

 

May you live in interesting times. Venice. 11.05. 24. 11 2019. www.labiennale.org/en/news/biennale-arte-2019-may-you-live-interesting-times

The list of the artists participating under the curation of Ralph Rugoff.

1. Abu Hamdan, Lawrence
b. 1985 Jordan, lives and works in Beirut

2. Akunyili Crosby, Njideka
b. 1983 Nigeria, lives and works in Los Angeles

3. Altındere, Halil
b. 1971 Turkey, lives and works in Istanbul

4. Armitage, Michael
b. 1984 Kenya, lives and works in London and Nairobi

5. Arunanondchai, Korakrit
b. 1986 Thailand, lives and works in New York and Bangkok
for the work in Arsenale, in collaboration with
Gvojic, Alex
b.1984 USA, lives and works in New York

6. Atkins, Ed
b. 1982 United Kingdom, lives and works in Berlin and Copenhagen

7. Atoui, Tarek
b. 1980 Lebanon, lives and works in Paris

8. Bader, Darren
b. 1978 USA, lives and works in New York City and elsewhere

9. Baghramian, Nairy
b.1971 Iran, lives and works in Berlin

10. Beloufa, Neïl
b. 1985 France, lives and works in Paris

11. Bircken, Alexandra
b. Germany, lives and works in Berlin

12. Bove, Carol
b. 1971 Switzerland, lives and works in New York

13. Büchel, Christoph
b. 1966 Switzerland, lives and works in Reykjavik and Basel

14. Carbotta, Ludovica
b. 1982 Italy, lives and works in Barcelona

15. Catala, Antoine
b. 1975 France, lives and works in New York

16. Cheng, Ian
b. 1984 USA, lives and works in New York

17. Condo, George
b. 1957 USA, lives and works in New York

18. Da Corte, Alex
b. 1980 USA, lives and works in Philadelphia

19. Darling, Jesse
b. United Kingdom, lives and works in London and Berlin

20. Douglas, Stan
b. 1960 Canada, lives and works in Vancouver

21. Durham, Jimmie
b. 1940 USA, lives and works in Berlin

22. Eisenman, Nicole
b. 1965 France, lives and works in New York

23. Epaminonda, Haris
b. 1980 Republic of Cyprus, lives and works in Berlin

24. Favaretto, Lara
b. 1973 Italy, lives and works in Turin

25. Gaillard, Cyprien
b. 1980 France, lives and works in Berlin

26. Gill, Gauri
b. 1970 India, lives and works in New Delhi

27. Gonzalez-Foerster, Dominique
b. 1965 France, lives and works in Paris
for the work at the Central Pavilion, in collaboration with
Bittle, Joi
b. 1975 United States, lives and works in New York

28. Gupta, Shilpa
b. 1976 India, lives and works in Mumbai

29. Gupta, Soham
b. 1988 India, lives and works in Kolkata

30. Gutierrez, Martine
b. 1989 USA, lives and works in New York

31. Halawani, Rula
b. 1964 Palestine, lives and works in Jerusalem

32. Hamilton, Anthea
b. 1978 United Kingdom, lives and works in London

33. Hein, Jeppe
b. 1974 Denmark, lives and works in Berlin

34. Hernandez, Anthony
b. 1947 USA, lives and works in Los Angeles and Idaho

35. Ikeda, Ryoji
b. 1966 Japan, lives and works in Paris and Kyoto

36. Jafa, Arthur
b. 1960 USA, lives and works in Los Angeles

37. Jamie, Cameron
b. 1969 USA, lives in Paris, works in Paris and Cologne

38. Joseph, Kahlil
b. 1981 USA, lives and works in Los Angeles

39. Kadyrova, Zhanna
b. 1981 Ukraine, lives and works in Kyiv

40. Kang, Suki Seokyeong
b. 1977 Republic of Korea, lives and works in Seoul

41. Katayama, Mari
b. 1987 Japan, lives and works in Gunma

42. Lee Bul
b. 1964 Republic of Korea, lives and works in Seoul

43. Liu Wei
b. 1972 People’s Republic of China, lives and works in Beijing

44. Loboda, Maria
b. 1979 Poland, lives and works in Berlin

45. Lolis, Andreas
b. 1970 Albania, lives and works in Athens

46. Marclay, Christian
b. 1955 USA, lives and works in London

47. Margolles, Teresa
b. 1963 Mexico, lives and works in Mexico City and Madrid

48. Mehretu, Julie
b. 1970 Ethiopia, lives and works in New York

49. Minoliti, Ad
b. 1980 Argentina, lives and works in Buenos Aires

50. Moulène, Jean-Luc
b. 1955 France, lives and works in Paris

51. Muholi, Zanele
b. 1972 Republic of South Africa, lives and works in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town

52. Mulleady, Jill
b. 1980 Uruguay, lives and works in Los Angeles

53. Müller, Ulrike
b. 1971 Austria, lives and works in New York

54. Nabuqi
b. 1984 People’s Republic of China, lives and works in Beijing

55. Nkanga, Otobong
b. 1974 Nigeria, lives and works in Antwerp

56. Norbu, Khyentse
b. 1961 Bhutan, Khyentse Norbu’s rigorous international teaching schedule requires continuous travel. He has residences in India and Bhutan

57. Orupabo, Frida
b. 1986 Norway, lives and works in Oslo

58. Rafman, Jon
b. 1981 Canada, lives and works in Montreal

59. Rico, Gabriel
b. 1980 Mexico, lives and works in Guadalajara

60. Saputra, Handiwirman
b. 1975 Indonesia, lives and works in Yogyakarta

61. Saraceno, Tomás
b. 1973 Argentina, lives and works in Berlin

62. Serapinas, Augustas
b. 1990 Lithuania, lives and works in Vilnius

63. Singer, Avery
b. 1987 USA, lives and works in New York

64. Slavs and Tatars
founded 2006, based in Berlin

65. Smith, Michael E.
b. 1977 USA, lives and works in Providence, Rhode Island

66. Steyerl, Hito
b. 1966 Germany, lives and works in Berlin

67. Strachan, Tavares
b. 1979 The Bahamas, lives and works in New York

68. Sun Yuan (b. 1972 People’s Republic of China) and Peng Yu (b. 1974 People’s Republic of China), both live and work in Beijing

69. Taylor, Henry
b. 1958 USA, lives and works in Los Angeles

70. Trockel, Rosemarie
b. 1952 Germany, lives and works in Cologne

71. Upson, Kaari
b. 1972 USA, lives and works in Los Angeles

72. Ursuţa, Andra
b. 1979 Romania, lives and works in New York

73. Vo, Danh
b. 1975 Vietnam, lives and works in Mexico DF

74. Wa Lehulere, Kemang
b. 1984 Republic of South Africa, lives and works in Cape Town

75. Weerasethakul, Apichatpong
b. 1970 Thailand, lives and works in Chiang Mai
for the work in Arsenale, in collaboration with
Hisakado, Tsuyoshi
b. 1981 Japan, lives and works in Kyoto

76. Wertheim, Margaret and Wertheim, Christine
b. 1958 Australia, both live and work in Los Angeles

77. Yi, Anicka
b. 1971 Republic of Korea, lives and works in New York

78. Yin Xiuzhen
b. 1963 People’s Republic of China, lives and works in Beijing

79. Yu Ji
b. 1985 People’s Republic of China, lives and works in Shanghai and Vienna

 

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- avril 24, 2019

Ralph Rugoff
La Biennale di Venezia
La Biennale di Venezia
La Biennale di Venezia
La Biennale di Venezia
La Biennale 2019