May You Live In Interesting Times
The Awards Ceremony of the 58th International Art Exhibition took place on May 11th, 2019, at Ca’ Giustinian. Upon the recommendation of the Curator of the 58th Exhibition Ralph Rugoff, the board of La Biennale di Venezia, chaired by Paolo Baratta. The time in Venice was interesting indeed. The 79 artists invited brought to the public a combination of new, never-exhibited, as well as previously-exhibited works. Among all the matters, the more relevant issues touched by the artists have been the inclusion of minorities, female empowerment (50% of the artist were female), relation to technology and the environmental cataclysm of our society.
Ralph Rugoff the curator of the 58th edition has declared: «May You Live in Interesting Times include artworks that reflect upon precarious aspects of existence today, including different threats to key traditions, institutions and relationships of the “post-war order.” But let us acknowledge at the outset that art does not exercise its forces in the domain of politics. Art cannot stem the rise of nationalist movements and authoritarian governments in different parts of the world, for instance, nor can it alleviate the tragic fate of displaced peoples across the globe (whose numbers now represent almost one percent of the world’s entire population).»
The awards of the International Jury have been presented with the following motivations:
Golden Lion for Best National Participation to Lithuania for the experimental spirit of the Pavilion and its unexpected treatment of national representation. The jury was impressed with the inventive use of the venue to present a Brechtian opera as well as the Pavilion’s engagement with the city of Venice and its inhabitants. Sun & Sea (Marina) is a critique of leisure and of our times as sung by a cast of performers and volunteers portraying everyday people.
An opera-performance by: Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, Vaiva Grainytė and Lina Lapelytė
Curator: Lucia Pietroiusti
Commissioners: Rasa Antanavičiūtė and Jean-Baptiste Joly
Imagine a beach – you within it, or better: watching from above – the burning sun, sunscreen and bright bathing suits and sweaty palms and legs. Tired limbs sprawled lazily across a mosaic of towels. Imagine the occasional squeal of children, laughter, the sound of an ice cream van in the distance. The musical rhythm of waves on the surf, a soothing sound (on this particular beach, not elsewhere). The crinkling of plastic bags whirling in the air, their silent floating, jellyfish-like, below the waterline. The rumble of a volcano, or of an airplane, or a speedboat. Then a chorus of songs: everyday songs, songs of worry and of boredom, songs of almost nothing. And below them: the slow creaking of an exhausted Earth, a gasp.
Special mention as National Participation to Belgium. Unsparing in its humour, the Belgian Pavilion offered an alternative view of the under-recognised aspects of social relations across Europe. The uncanny staging of a series of fictional characters in the form of mechanised puppets based on folkloric stereotypes allow the Pavilion to act on several registers, while creating two if not more parallel realities.
Golden Lion for the Best Participant in the International Exhibition May You Live In Interesting Times to Arthur Jafa for his 2019 film The White Album (venue: Central Pavilion, Giardini), which, in equal measure, is an essay, a poem and portraiture. Jafa uses appropriated and original footage to reflect upon the issue of race. Just as the film critiques a moment fraught with violence, in tenderly portraying the artist’s friends and family, it also speaks to our capacity for love.
Silver Lion for a Promising Young Participant in the International Exhibition May You Live In Interesting Times to Haris Epaminonda for her carefully constructed constellations of images, objects, text, forms, and colours that are built out of fragmented memories, histories and imagined connections; for showing us that the personal and the historical can be compressed into a powerful yet loose web of multiple meanings.
This year, there are two Special Mentions awarded to the following participants:
Teresa Margolles for her sharp and poignant works that deal with the plight of women grossly affected by the narcotics trade in her native Mexico, and for creating powerful testimonies by shifting existing structures from the real world into the Exhibition halls.
Otobong Nkanga for her ongoing and inspired exploration across media into the politics of land, body and time.