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59th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia

This photo tour with works by about 110 participants is intended to give an impression of the international exhibition The Milk of Dreams. The selection is not meant as a valuation.

The Milk of Dreams

The International Exhibition takes place in the Central Pavilion (Giardini) and in the Arsenale, including 213 artists from 58 countries; 180 of these are participating for the first time in the International Exhibition. There are 1,433 works and objects on display, 80 new projects are conceived specifically for the Biennale Arte.

The Biennale also includes 80 National Participations in the Giardini, Arsenale and in the city. Participating for the first time: Republic of Camerun, Namibia, Nepal, Sultanate of Oman, and Uganda; and this year with separate pavilions: Republic of Kazakhstan, Kirghizistan and Uzbekistan.

Roberto Cicutto, President of La Biennale di Venezia, and curator Cecilia Alemani at the press conference, 2 February 2022 (screenshot)

Key statements by curator Cecilia Alemani:

About the Title

The Milk of Dreams takes its title from a book by Leonora Carrington (1917-2011) in which the Surrealist artist describes a magical world where life is constantly re-envisioned through the prism of the imagination. It is a world where everyone can change, be transformed, become something or someone else. The exhibition The Milk of Dreams takes Leonora Carrington's otherworldly creatures, along with other figures of transformation, as companions on an imaginary journey through the metamorphoses of bodies and definitions of the human.

Guiding Questions & Thematic areas

This exhibition is grounded in many conversations with artists held in the last few years. The questions that kept emerging from these dialogues seem to capture this moment in history when the very survival of the species is threatened, but also to sum up many other inquiries that pervade the sciences, arts, and myths of our time. How is the definition of the human changing? What constitutes life, and what differentiates plant and animal, human and non-human? What are our responsibilities towards the planet, other people, and other life forms? And what would life look like without us?

These are some of the guiding questions for this edition of the Biennale Arte, which focuses on three thematic areas in particular
- the representation of bodies and their metamorphoses
- the relationship between individuals and technologies
- the connection between bodies and the Earth.

Time capsules

As visitors move through the exhibition in the Central Pavilion and the Corderie, they encounter five smaller, historical sections: miniature constellations of artworks, found objects, and documents, clustered together to explore certain key themes. Conceived like time capsules, these shows within the show provide additional tools of investigation and introspection, weaving a web of references and echoes that link artworks of the past - including major museum loans and unconventional selections - to the pieces by contemporary artists in the surrounding space. This wide-ranging, transhistorical approach traces kinships and affinities between artistic methods and practices, even across generations, to create new layers of meaning and bridge present and past. What emerges is a historical narrative that is not built around systems of direct inheritance or conflict, but around forms of symbiosis, solidarity, and sisterhood.

The role the Biennale at this historical juncture

"The Milk of Dreams was conceived and organised in a period of enormous instability and uncertainty, since its development coincided with the outbreak and spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. La Biennale di Venezia was forced to postpone this edition by one year, an event that had only occurred during the two World Wars since 1895. So the very fact that this exhibition can open is somewhat extraordinary: its inauguration is not exactly the symbol of a return to normal life, but rather the outcome of a collective effort that seems almost miraculous. During these endless months in front of the screen, I have pondered the question of what role the International Art Exhibition should play at this historical juncture, and the simplest, most sincere answer I could find is that the Biennale sums up all the things we have so sorely missed in the last two years: the freedom to meet people from all over the world, the possibility of travel, the joy of spending time together, the practice of difference, translation, incomprehension, and communion.

The The Milk of Dreams is not an exhibition about the pandemic, but it inevitably registers the upheavals of our era. In times like this, as the history of La Biennale di Venezia clearly shows, art and artists can help us imagine new modes of coexistence and infinite new possibilities of transformation."

Complete curatorial text

(From press information, La Biennale di Venezia)

Special Features by UiU:

Pavilions and exhibitions:

Further activities by La Biennale di Venezia

Forte Marghera Special Project, Mestre: Italian artist Elisa Giardina Papa will make a special work in the building called Polveriera austriaca.

Applied Arts Pavilion Special Project: Collaboration between La Biennale di Venezia and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) London. Artist: Sophia Al-Maria. Arsenale, Sale d'Armi.

The selected artists for the 1st edition of Biennale College Arte 2021/22 are: Simnikiwe Buhlungu, Ambra Castagnetti, Andro Eradze and Kudzanai-Violet Hwami. The 4 artists will receive a grant of 25,000 euros for the realization of the final work. The artworks will be presented, out of competition, as part of the 59th International Art Exhibition. Over 250 young emerging artists under 30 from 58 countries around the world have joined the call for participation.

Project dedicated to institutions that develop research and training programmes in architecture, the arts and related fields, and to Universities and Fine Arts Academies. The aim is to facilitate self-organised three-day visits for groups of at least 50 students and teachers, with the possibility of holding seminars in the exhibition venues offered free of charge and assistance in coordinating travel and accommodation.

A broad Educational programme has been scheduled for 2022 addressed to individuals and groups of students, children, adults, families, professionals, companies, and universities. All the initiatives aim at actively involving the participants, and are led by professional operators, carefully trained by La Biennale di Venezia. They are divided into two categories: Guided Tours and Workshop Activities.

Publications, Identity, Design

The official catalogue, titled "The Milk of Dreams", consists of two volumes:

Volume I is dedicated to the International Exhibition, curated by Cecilia Alemani. This volume includes the Curator's original contribution as well as a wide range of illustrations and critical essays by some of today's most cutting-edge thinkers and writers.
Contributors: Cecilia Alemani; Matthew Biro; Rosi Braidotti; Leonora Carrington; Mel Y. Chen; Silvia Federici, Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui and Manuela Hansen; Jack Halberstam; Donna Haraway; N. Katherine Hayles; Jennifer Higgie; Yuk Hui and Anders Dunker; Ursula K. Le Guin; Alyce Mahon; Achille Mbembe; Marta Papini; Igiaba Scego; Azalea Seratoni; Christina Sharpe; Chiara Valerio; Marina Warner.

Volume II is focused on the National Participations and the Collateral Events.

The Short Guide is conceived to lead the visitor through the exhibition spaces and briefly introduce to the work of the artists.

The graphic identity of Biennale Arte 2022 and the publication's design are by A Practice for Everyday Life, London. The graphic identity positions artists' works at its forefront, featuring details from artworks by Belkis Ayon, Felipe Baeza, Tatsuo Ikeda, and Cecilia Vicuna, united in their representation of eyes, which are symbolic of important ideas running through the exhibition: dreams, identity, the body, and reflection.

The Exhibition design is conceived by Formafantasma, a research-based design studio founded in 2009 by Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin. Their work is internationally recognized for its rigor and while investigating the historical, political and social forces shaping the discipline of contemporary design.

Awards of the 59th International Art Exhibition

Golden Lion for the best National Participation:
Great Britain
Sonia Boyce: Feeling Her Way
Artist: Sonia Boyce
Curator: Emma Ridgway;
Commissioner: Emma Dexter, British Council
Venue: Giardini

2 special mentions for National Participations:

Les rêves n’ont pas de titre / Dreams have no titles
Artist: Zineb Sedira
Curators: Yasmina Reggad, Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath
Commissioner: Institut Francais with the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Culture
Venue: Giardini

Uganda (New participation)
RADIANCE: They dream In Time
Artists: Acaye Kerunen and Collin Sekajugo
Curator: Shaheen Merali
Commissioner: Naumo Juliana Akoryo
Venue: Palazzo Palumbo Fossati, San Marco 2597

Golden Lion for best participant in the International Exhibition The Milk of Dreams
Simone Leigh
(1967, Chicago, USA. Lives in New York City, USA)

Silver Lion for a promising young participant in the International Exhibition The Milk of Dreams
Ali Cherri
(1976, Beirut, Lebanon. Lives in Paris, France)

Special mentions:
Lynn Hershman Leeson
(1941, Cleveland, USA. Lives in San Francisco, USA)
Shuvinai Ashoona
(1961, Kinngait. Lives in Kinngait, Nunavut)

Golden Lions for Lifetime Achievement:
Katharina Fritsch and Cecilia Vicuña

Awards – The Motivations

The awards of the International Jury have been presented with the following motivations:

Golden Lion for Best National Participation to Great Britain: Sonia Boyce proposes, consequently, another reading of histories through the sonic. In working collaboratively with other black women, she unpacks a plenitude of silenced stories. Boyce proposes a very contemporary language in relation to fragmented forms that the viewer in experiencing the pavilion can piece together. Important questions of rehearsal as opposed to the perfect attuned, as well as relations between voices in a form of choir, in a distance, and at varying points in the show are posed.

Special mentions as National Participations to:
France: in recognition of and gratitude for the long standing exchange of ideas and solidarity as the idea of of building communities in the diaspora. For looking at complex history of cinema beyond the west and the multiple histories of resistance in her work.
Uganda: in acknowledgement of their vision, ambition and commitment to art and working in their country. Acaye Kerunen in her choice of sculptural materials like bark-clothed rafia illustrates sustainability as a practice and not just a policy or concept.

Golden Lion for the Best Participant in the International Exhibition "The Milk of Dreams" to Simone Leigh for the rigorously researched, virtuosically realized, and powerfully persuasive monumental sculptural opening to the Arsenale, which alongside Belkis Ayón, provided a compelling entrée to the ideas, sensibilities and approaches constellated and animated throughout The Milk of Dreams.

Silver Lion for a Promising Young Participant in the International Exhibition "The Milk of Dreams" to Ali Cherri for an interdisciplinary and multilayered presentation that takes a meditation on earth, fire and water from a constructive perspective to a mythical dimension, reflecting The Milk of Dreams’s own opening up to other narratives that depart from the logic of progress and reason.

Two Special Mentions are awarded to the following artists of the International Exhibition The Milk of Dreams:
Shuvinai Ashoona reveals in her drawings and paintings a profundity of indigenous Inuk cosmogonies. An existence in which species are interdependent on each other, and which is not mediated by the coloniality of power of the human species. Acknowledging the violences of the colonial enterprise, Ashoona, in her work proposes possibilities of escaping the cul-de-sac by listening in, listening back and listening forward to indigenous knowledge.
Lynn Hershman Leeson: for indexing the cybernetic concerns that run through the exhibitions in an illuminating and powerful way that also includes visionary moments of her early practice that foresaw the influence of technology in our everyday lives.

Cecilia Alemani about her recommendation for the Golden Lions for Lifetime Achievement:

Katharina Fritsch

"The first time I saw one of Katharina Fritsch’s works in person was actually in Venice, at the first Biennale I ever attended, the 1999 edition curated by Harald Szeemann. The massive piece filling the main room at the Central Pavilion was titled Rattenkönig, the Rat King, a disquieting sculpture in which a group of giant rodents is crouched in a circle with their tails knotted together, like some strange magic ritual. Every time I’ve encountered one of Fritsch’s sculptures in the years since, I’ve felt the same sense of awe and dizzying attraction. Fritsch’s contribution to the field of contemporary art, especially sculpture, has been incomparable. She creates figurative works that are both hyperrealistic and fanciful: copies of objects, animals, and people, faithfully rendered in every detail, but transformed into uncanny apparitions. Fritsch often alters the scale of her subjects, shrinking them down or vastly enlarging them, and coating them in disorienting solid colours: it feels like one is looking at monuments from an alien civilisation, or artefacts on display in a strange posthuman museum." (Cecilia Alemani)

Cecilia Vicuña

"Vicuña is an artist and a poet, and has devoted years of invaluable effort to preserving the work of many Latin American writers, translating and editing anthologies of poetry that might otherwise have been lost. Vicuña is also an activist who has long fought for the rights of Indigenous peoples in Chile and the rest of Latin America. In the visual arts, her work has ranged from painting, to performance, all the way to complex assemblages. Her artistic language is built around a deep fascination with Indigenous traditions and non-Western epistemologies. For decades, Vicuña has travelled her own path, doggedly, humbly, and meticulously, anticipating many recent ecological and feminist debates and envisioning new personal and collective mythologies. Many of her installations are made with found objects or scrap materials, woven into delicate compositions where microscopic and monumental seem to find a fragile equilibrium: a precarious art that is both intimate and powerful." (Cecilia Alemani)

Cecilia Vicuña in UiU

Jury, 59th Internat. Art Exhibition

Adrienne Edwards, President of the Jury (USA)
Engell Speyer Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Whitney Museum of American Art and Co-Curator of the 2022 Whitney Biennial

Lorenzo Giusti (Italy)
Director of GAMeC Bergamo

Julieta González (Brazil)
Artistic Director at Instituto Inhotim in Brumadinho, Brazil

Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung (Germany)
Founder and Artistic Director of SAVVY Contemporary in Berlin

Susanne Pfeffer (Germany)
Director of the MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main

Like for all Venice Biennials since 2001, Universes in Universe will publish an extensive Special about the 59th International Art Exhibition in 2022. In the meantime, see:
Venice Biennale Special 2019

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Practical information:

Opening times, Giardini and Arsenale, 2022:
27 September - 27 November, 10 am - 6 pm
Closed on Mondays (except 31 October, 21 November)

Buy tickets online

Access to the exhibition venues will be regulated in accordance with the provisions in force - further information

Organizer, contacts:

La Biennale di Venezia
Art and Architecture
Ca' Giustinian
San Marco 1364/A
30124 Venezia, Italy
Website | Email

Visual Art Press Office:
Tel.: +39 41 - 5218849 / 846 / 716

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© Photo on top: © Haupt & Binder, universes.art

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