At the Venice Art Biennale, pavilions open to diversity


From our special correspondent

A couple of queer artists occupying the Austrian pavilion, a community claiming to be a “third gender”, the Fa’afafine in Samoa, under the spotlight of the New Zealand pavilion: the bursting of sexual identities has erupted in this 59and edition of the Venice Biennale. While the curator of the general exhibition has chosen to invite 80% female or non-binary artists from a wide variety of origins, many national pavilions adopt this same approach.

In the British pavilion, Sonia Boyce, crowned with the Golden Lion, pays homage to the black singers whose voices she records, alternately fragile, powerful, united, in liberating improvisations. In the French pavilion, Zineb Sedira – special mention from the jury – weaves her mixed identities, in homage to the militant cinema that followed the independence of Algeria. In that of the United States, Simone Leigh, the first African-American woman to occupy this place, has transformed the architecture into an African palace where her sculptures return colonial images to celebrate the black woman. His giant ebony presented at the entrance to the international exhibition also earned him a Golden Lion. In the Hong Kong pavilion, thwarting Chinese censorship, Angela Su recounts through drawings, sculptures and films the life of a politically engaged acrobat who dreamed of flying even if it meant risking her life. And many women still reign in the pavilions of Luxembourg, Ireland, Argentina, Romania, Germany, Switzerland, Israel…

Another strong trend this year is the place given to ethnic minorities. The pavilion of Sweden, Norway and Finland welcomes three artists from the Sami community and a fourth exhibits her embroideries of snow landscapes at the Arsenal. In the Polish pavilion, a Roma artist transposes Italian frescoes into her own culture, mixing patchworks and brightly colored paintings.

In the Belgian pavilion, Francis Alÿs celebrates the universal beauty of children’s games. Since 1999, he has filmed and painted them all over the world, even in conflict zones such as Afghanistan. His anthology of images is a magnificent hymn to the inventiveness, the joyful sociability and the dancing, jumping and singing bodies of all these kids. Among them, this little boy who, in a mine in Lubumbashi (DR-Congo), climbs a slag heap by pushing a tire in front of him, before curling up inside to slide down the slope in a vertiginous acceleration. Magical !


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