First Impressions of the Biennale: Appetizers and Sparkling Wine in a Parallel Reality – Culture

Men in everyday clothes. Artist Lesia Khomenko paints ununiformed Ukrainian men defending their cities in the early days of the war: a technology engineer, a lawyer, a chemist, and her boyfriend, a musician.

What images are capable of, and what art can move, is the most important question to be addressed at this Venice Biennale. In the Ukrainian wing who grew up under difficult circumstances. In the “Ukraina Square”, it was erected in the center of Giardini. In the Scuola Grande della Misericordia, where the Pinchuk Center for the Arts evokes the freedom of Ukraine in an exhibition planned quite differently. There are now Yevgenia Peloroste’s war memoirs printed on wooden desks. Nikita Kadan installed pieces of sheet metal cut from the streets of Kyiv as ready-made warning devices. Photos of Private Lesya Khomenko can also be seen there.

This Saturday, the world’s most important art gallery opens its doors to the public. Traditionally, almost everyone active in the art world has been in the Lido in the previous three days. Curators from Mexico City, artists from Harare, museum directors from Beijing, and galleries from New York roam back and forth between Giardini and Arsenal. Preview days are a big date for the global art scene. If the traveling circus of the art of pleasure did not already feel the contradiction for climatic reasons – then at the latest now, when the artists travel only briefly from Kyiv and then quickly return to the war. Breathe in with the Aperol Spritz from the channel. It’s absurd.

History meets art, meets Venice, meets biennale, and changes meanings. This is what the curators of the Ukrainian pavilion said at their press conference in Venice. Is it possible to communicate with Russian artists, for example, with those who canceled their participation in Venice in protest? Artist Pavlo Markov’s answer is no. Currently the only possible contact takes place on the battlefield.

Art meets gun and war

At the opening of the exhibition organized by the Pinchuk Art Center in Kyiv, Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Pinchuk took the stage on Thursday evening, followed by the painting “War and Piece” by Takashi Murakami. Sunflowers and skulls. Later, President Zelensky received him in a video message, blaming decision-makers for helping his country. Then there are the appetizers, champagne, and parallel facts. This is the case at Lido at the moment.

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For Biennale Director Cecilia Alemani, it was also a difficult biennial because it had to be prepared under the conditions of Covid. In fact, the Italian curator intended to visit many of the workshops, especially those of women, especially in areas hitherto ignored by the Western art world. Now she has organized a world exhibition by Zoom. With some work, it was not clear until the end whether they would reach Venice in time. Covid and war, logistical problems everywhere.

Pavlo Markov’s Fountain of Exhaustion was brought by car from Ukraine by curator Maria Lanko. Work is now suspended in Arsenale upstairs and almost drowning there. Like Turkey, South Africa, Singapore, Lithuania and many countries of the Global South, Ukraine does not have a fixed position in the Biennale. Only Western and American countries have their own buildings in the Giardini for the Great Gallery founded in 1895. Despite her successful efforts to promote regional and social diversity, not even the director of the Yamani Biennale can erase these colonial traces.

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