Let's be human (again) ! The Human Figure at Biennale 2022

«Il latte dei sogni» (The milk of dreams) is Leonora Carrington’s sentence chosen by curator Cecilia Alemani as title for the vibrant, emotional and very intriguing 59th Biennale Arte. Already by looking at the communication pieces, we could spot elements of the human body, but certainly surprising at the unveiling of the full exhibition is the amount of „human” presence we can feel.

In effect, when walking through the beautifully set Corderie in Arsenale or the central pavilion at Giardini, the feeling of being surrounded by human figures, by faces, by bodies, by man-made artefacts translated into amazing artworks is overwhelming. Clearly, the pandemic has had an effect on our willingness to feel warmly surrounded by other people, at least those who cannot arm us.  And never before looking into someone’s eyes has been made such an important, emotional and meaningful moment.

Through the «lens» of surrealism, the Biennale experience offers us the opportunity to look infinite times into a mirror – and reflect on what we see, reflect on who we are. There are so many references to women and to giving birth…to inner body parts as much as to bodies. It is impossible not to think about oneself. About our normal abnormality.

With amazingly perfect timing, in parallel to Biennale and also in Venice, the Collezione Peggy Guggenheim is hosting a tremendously powerful exhibition about Surrealism, mainly through the eyes of women artists, where the elaboration of the human factor strongly imposes itself.

As always, the Countries pavilions are not necessarily mirroring the Biennale main theme, but this year many actually do. By default, like the Italian pavilion by Gian Maria Tosatti, where the absence of humans is so total that it is overwhelming, or as in the Polish pavilion, where the «story telling» is carried by Malgorzata Mirga-Tas to the ultimate, enrobing dimension, inspired by Italian Renaissance. The Arsenale outer corridor, by Giulia Cenci, is another example of how the human elements are captured, then dispersed, disassembled, forcing the viewer to choose where to stand in respect to them and which perspective to choose in order to bring them together. There, is also a strong juxtaposition with the animal world, another element common to many pieces presented. Also contributing to the feeling of this Biennale being newly human centred is the remarkably smaller presence of digital fixtures,, compared to more recent editions.

As a main partner of Biennale Arte, Swatch is present both at Giardini, where Thai artist Navin Rawanchaikul stages a 14mts long diorama titled «the Description of the World», and at Arsenale with a selection of artists in residence at Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai. Navin’s work reflects this attention to the human factor through the celebration of Venice as a city of migrants across the centuries and an artist’s letter to Marco Polo sharing with him emotions and inventions. The artists selected for Swatch Faces 2022 at Arsenale explore several aspects of intimate and personal experiences.

Throughout the whole Biennale, and even in many collateral events around town, from oversize hand facts and masks, and statues, and mannequins to pictorial renderings to the association with anthropomorphic creatures from an unknown world (amazing installations at Palazzo Barbaro, especially by artists Bharti Ker and Oliver Beer), the feeling of being «human again» is comfortably overpowering – even with all imperfections related to the condition.

One would like to be able to thank Cecilia Alemani for having been able to bring it all together, despite doing so only «digitally»: maybe this unnatural condition eventually generated such accumulation of energy coming now to life in Venezia!

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