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The Venice Biennale 2024 Highlights: Part 1

We've returned from a whirlwind week attending the opening of the 2024 Venice Biennale, and are delighted to share what caught our eye in particular- across the Giardini, Arsenale, national pavilions and satellite exhibitions around the city.

Interior view of 'Stranieri Ovunque' at the Arsenale, Venice, 2024. Image courtesy of Artsy.
Interior view of 'Stranieri Ovunque' at the Arsenale, Venice, 2024. Image courtesy of Artsy.

With so much to take in, we will provide our highlights over three separate instalments, starting with the 60th International Exhibition 'Stranieri Ovunque', or 'Strangers Everywhere', presented in both the Giardini and the Arsenale.

Barbara Sanchez-Kane, "Pret-a-Patria", 2021

Barbara Sanchez-Kane deconstructs and dissects notions of masculinity through fashion, performance, sculpture and painting. In Pret-a-Patria, Sanchez-Kane designs and creates a new military uniform and orchestrates a performance that results in a video and sculptural installation. The work alters the military image of the state to comment on the hegemonic symbols of masculinity and power it puts forward, extending these themes across mediums for a multi-disciplinary experience.

Capturing the performance segment of
Capturing the performance segment of Sanchez-Kane's work, Venice, 2024.

Salman Toor, "The Beating", 2019

Salman Toor, "The Beating", 2019. Image courtesy of Luring Augustine. 2024.

Explicit bodily violence has been absent from Toor’s oeuvre, but in 'The Beating', one man strikes another with a cricket bat whilst onlookers passively observe. Toor has commented before on how, in Pakistan and India, the cricket bat symbolised national pride and fervent masculinity of such loyalties and cultural identity. There is a tension in using the cricket bat against the community members within the scene, as well as tension in placing such a violent scene within otherwise beautiful colour and texture of the scene. In the context of queer freedoms in South Asia and ongoing inevitable homophobia, Toor has commented that, "dignity, or the violent slashing of it, was on my mind. In it, there is the theatre of violence, but also the passivity among the figures who watch.”

Ahmed Umar, "Talitin, The Thira", 2023

Ahmed Umar, "Talitin, The Thira", 2023
Ahmed Umar, "Talitin, The Thira", 2023. Image courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia. 2024.

Umar's performance engages with his Sudanese roots shaped by a childhood in Mecca, and simultaneously engages with queer histories of Muslim migration. Talitin, The Third (2023) enacts a Sudanese bridal dance that traditionally culminates weeklong wedding celebrations. Umar performs the bride expected to display her beauty and wealth while choreographing the newlyweds’ journey from courtship onwards. Male children are eventually prevented from joining in the dance alongside their female relations, and Umar's work reclaims this otherwise gendered practice.

Rember Yahuarcani

Rember Yahuarcani, "El territorio de los abuelos", 2023.

Yahuarcani’s paintings draw on the narratives of the Uitoto mythology and Western art traditions and techniques. Since 2003, his artistic vocabulary has moved from a descriptive style found in his early paintings to the creation of large-scale lyrical, oneiric landscapes like the ones included in the Biennale. Through delicate traces and bright colours, Yahuarcani presents scenes that invite us to immerse ourselves in Uitoto thinking, storytelling, and daily life in order to see and feel the world from a different belief system.

Beatriz Milhasez exhibition in the Applied Arts

Interior view of Beatriz Milhazes at the Applied Arts in the Arsenale, Venice, 2024.

Milhazes’s five large-scale paintings, specially created for the Applied Arts Pavilion, refer to the palette and patterns of a variety of traditional woven textiles from different cultures, many of which are displayed in the gallery. For Milhazes, their complex structures create “an incredible source of motifs” based on the human observation of nature’s inner regularity. In "Memórias do Futuro I", her own repertoire of targets, rays, waves, and florals intersects with the hues and patterns appropriated from these textiles.

Victor Fotso Nyie

Victor Fotso Nyie, "Gioia", 2023

Fotso Nyie's works in figurative sculpture, which are often portraits that meld the form of traditional African wood statuettes with imaginative science fiction characters. The iconography of the double-baked clay figures, which were subjected to a third firing with gold, merges biographical elements with Pan-African vernacular culture, particularly the spiritual knowledge from West Africa.

Sangodare Gbadegesin Ajala

View of Sangodare Gbadegesin Ajala batik on cloth in the Arsenale, Venice, 2024.

Sangodare Gbadegesin Ajala practiced as a traditional Sàngó (god of thunder) high priest and herbalist. His hand painted batik textiles were made using a wax resist dyeing method where designs are drawn in wax and then dyed later (he had a deep knowledge of herbology). The result is his dense and entangled images- often depicting individual consecrated to Yoruba deities (that included himself), and incorporating Yoruba wisdom, cosmology and ritual.

Dean Shameshima, "being alone" (Series), 2022

Two works from Dean Shameshima's "being alone" (Series), 2022. 2024.

In each of the twenty-five black and white photographs that comprise Dean Sameshima’s recent series being alone, the outline of a solitary viewer sits bathed in light emitting from the glowing screen of a Berlin porn theatre. These cinemas offer the kind of encounter that has been described as an “anonymous being-together”, a space wherein an individual can project not only his own desire and sexual fantasy onto the screen but disidentify with the confining projections of the external world.

Be sure to sign up for "The Edit", our redesigned newsletter, and look out for our second and third instalments of Biennale highlights coming soon.



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