By Tamlyn Martin
What a privilege it was to attend this year’s Venice Biennale. Best of all, I got to visit with my wonderful Italian exchange student from Cape Town, who lives nearby and knows his way around the floating city. The show is elegantly tilted “The Milk of Our Dreams” after a book by surrealist artist, Leonora Carrington. The Main Shows gave me a powerful feeling for the radical impact that the Covid pandemic has had and the unavoidable evidence of climate change, felt through European heat waves also added gravity to the powerfully curated Arsenal shows. The shows have the feeling of being birthed by their wonderful curator or “mother” Cecilia Alemani. As a female artist and curator myself, I could feel on a profoundly deep level the lengths to which Cecilia has gone to honour fully include the subversive feminine so often underrepresented in large international shows of this nature.
“Cecilia Alemani has fully embraced the etymological meaning of her position, (curator) of which “cura” means “caring”.
Many historically underrepresented female artists are delicately placed amongst contemporary artists work, quite literally threading links that have been neglected for way to long. I also loved the binding of science, femininity, and technology. There are many fresh debates around notions of clean, dirty, sanitary, polluted, ethical, corrupted, organic, and engineered… all drawing humbling attention to human imperfection and fallibility in the most tender of ways.
It was such a delight to discover 2 of my favourite African artists right at the opening of the Arsenals –
Zimbabwean artist PORTIA ZVAVAHERA works dancing her beautiful “Dega- esque” compositions across the walls in feminine, symbolic wood block patterns . Find her beautiful work here – https://www.stevenson.info/artist/portia-zvavahera
Then not far on a huge mixed medium, poetic tapestry by Cape Town based artist Igshaan Adams, who’s delicate works explore his spirituality and the complexities of gender identity in the Muslim faith – find his work here…
Another truly exciting space that garnered great accolades (being chosen as one of the top 10 international Pavilions) was the Zimbabwean show. It was so moving to see Ronald Muchatuta work shining on the international stage after introducing so many collectors to him in Cape Town over the past few years. The other exhibiting artists, Wallen Mapondera, Kresiah Mukwazhi, Terrence Musekiwa all bought into sharp focus the exquisite poetic materiality of contemporary African art, thanks to the wonderful curatorship of Fadzai Veronica Muchemwa. See more here
Finally, the true cherry on the top of the cake was meeting my life long hero Nicolas Bourriaud the revolutionary art theorist and curator who coined the concept of relational art that is so profoundly evident throughout the whole biennale. His show PLANET B. Climate change and the new sublime, is the first of 3 such chapters that will be created through his dynamic creative Radicants art collective. What a privilege to chat to him about the show and to see artists from Africa included, including Kendel Geers. Such a potent blending of ecological and technological themes. I especially loved the casts of termite mounds and loved telling Nicolas how much his work has impacted so many African artists! Find out more about the his work and the Radicants here.