Delayed for a year because of the pandemic, the Venice Biennale, titled “The Milk of Dreams,” has finally opened to previews this week.
Curator Cecilia Alemani has spoken about how the process of putting together the massive endeavor in difficult conditions (Zoom studio visits, working remotely, etc.) made her appreciate the physical and non-technological dimensions of art-viewing even more. And indeed, this is a very physical show, with a focus on embodied knowledge, sensation, and artworks with physical presence.
It also has a pointedly self-reflective perspective on art history, and it’s notable that the world’s most famous survey of new art has one face turned away from the contemporary. Specifically, it incorporates a number of concentrated shows-within-the-show, each one intensively examining a theme that, in turn, is meant to serve as a lens through which to look at some the more contemporary work.
In the plunging Arsenale space, there are two such mini-exhibitions. One, with the prolix title “A Leaf a Gourd a Shell a Net a Bat a Sling a Sack a Bottle a Pot a Box a Container,” is a selection of artworks that reflect on the vessel as a metaphor. The other, “The Seduction of the Cyborg,” pays homage to female artists who have, in various way, thought about the body as a reprogrammable machine.