“May you live in interesting times”… is how the Biennale is inviting us, or perhaps, even better, wishing us to grasp our uncertain, sometimes even stormy but, certainly, interesting times, through the vision of today’s art.
And the Biennale really is interesting.
The enthusiasm (and the thousands attending it) with which it has been received once again during its preview-days proves this; its history, spanning over 120 years, proves it; its artists’ remarkable attendance (79 of them) and as many as 90 national participations this year, proves this; last but not least, the multitude of showcasing events flanking it over this period within the city fabric proves it.
But let us get to the main aspects of this Art Biennale, or better, of this 58th international Art Exhibition by the Biennale of Venice, directed by British Ralph Rugoff.
Let’s say at once that a minimal complete tour would take at least two days, but the pleasure of discovering the Biennale can also stem from one or more visits at different times and in several locations. For example, one may can choose a visit to the Giardini, featuring a part of the central exhibition and the historical pavilions (the first one was set up by Belgium in 1907), an expression of the initial participating countries, not only structurally but also with truly independent exhibitions, or, regarding the exhibition set up inside the Arsenal venues, a continuation of the central exhibition and exhibits, also representing individual nations participating in this case. A third choice may finally encompass what can be described as the exhibition spreading throughout the city, represented in this case by the 21 collateral exhibitions presented by international institutions, and by a series of venues also representing countries with no pavilions.
But as many know, the Biennale is not just art, at least in the strictest sense of this word. Indeed, the month of June will see another stage unfurling for the International Contemporary Dance Festival, reaching its twelfth edition this year.
Canadian choreographer and dancer Marie Chouinard is directing its intensive programme, starting on 21 June, for the second consecutive edition.
Its calendar will feature absolute and national premieres over ten days; utterly novel contributions created for outdoor theatre within the heart of the city; meetings with artists and a selection of films.
Arsenal venues will be flanked by the Malibran Theatre, and by Via Garibaldi in the Castello district.
But the month of June will not only be the Biennale, other important events are going to entertain Venetian guests, almost overwhelming them, and starting with four events interpreting the great maritime tradition of Venice. The first weekend will feature the Maritime Republics Palio (1 June), a famous rowing competition among what were once the four queens of the sea and The Sensa Fête (2 June), a re-enactment of that ancient Serene Republic rite known as “wedding the sea” . Two other challenges will take place on the following Sunday: the Trans-Adriatic, a sailing raid between the two coasts of the Adriatic and the Vogalonga (9 June), a spectacular rowing marathon in the lagoon.
Sea and passion will still focus attention from 18 to 23 June, this time for the great comeback of the Nautical Salon taking place inside the ancient, suggestive context of the Arsenal.
Regarding art, we can also highlight the vast exhibitions scenario, and the special night promoted by Art Night Venice (22 June), the fascinating nocturnal event dedicated to culture, with exhibitions, talks and performances organised by Ca’ Foscari University with the collaboration of the Municipality and practically all the small and large cultural institutions in town.
Let us end this month by recalling the intense music and opera programme by the Theatre La Fenice; the official seasonal opening of the Lido beach (from 1 June); traditional fêtes at Saint Peter in Castello and at Saint Peter in Volta; the regattas for the Sensa e for Saints John and Paul.