Ocula Magazine   |   Insights   |   Exhibition

Ocula Magazine contributor Mohammad Salemy and editor Stephanie Bailey were in Venice to review some of the exhibitions taking place parallel to the 59th Venice Biennale.

Parallel Projects in Venice: Exhibition Highlights

Mónica de Miranda, Path to the Stars (2022) (still). Video, colour, sound. Courtesy the artist and Nuovo Icona.

Mónica de Miranda
Oratorio di San Ludovico, Calle dei Vecchi, Dorsoduro 2552
20 April–29 May 2022

The small church known as the Oratorio di San Ludovico is a compact space, consisting of a small nave where Path to the Stars (2022), a new film by Mónica de Miranda, is perfectly installed where the altar should have been.

Curated by Paula Nascimento, a large landscape-format screen is supported by a wooden scaffold grid, at the bottom of which a chroma key-green tube light is placed, extending a sense of the uncanny to the illuminated space.

Installation view: Mónica de Miranda, Path to the Stars (2022), in no longer with the memory but with its future, curated by Paula Nascimento – Beyond Entropy Africa at the Oratorio di San Ludovico, Venice (23 April–29 May 2022). Photo: the author.

Installation view: Mónica de Miranda, Path to the Stars (2022), in no longer with the memory but with its future, curated by Paula Nascimento – Beyond Entropy Africa at the Oratorio di San Ludovico, Venice (23 April–29 May 2022). Photo: the author.

Taking its title from a poem by Angolan poet and politician Agostinho Neto, Angola's longest river is brought to life through Miranda's veering, wide angles, as we follow a woman rowing a narrow boat in army fatigues down the Kuanza River, describing, through a narrated voice, 'an unending landscape' with 'the matrix of humanity' in its current.

Mónica de Miranda, Path to the Stars (2022) (still). Video, colour, sound.

Mónica de Miranda, Path to the Stars (2022) (still). Video, colour, sound. Courtesy the artist and Nuovo Icona.

Doubling as an audiovisual poem and portrait of the river's landscape, the rousing soundtrack of overlapping calls, warps, and soft beats, gives a sci-fi, futurist quality to the cast of characters that flash up on the riverbank, like a pearl diver 'on the trail of time'.

As is the case with Miranda's work, the Atlantic's history runs through these scenes, which circle around a sense of displacement and alienation that feels like a summoning. As one line from the script, isolated on the wall preceding the nave, reads: 'When we recall it is no longer with the memory, but with its future.' SB

Exhibition view: Kelly Akashi, Life Forms, Barbati Gallery at Palazzo Lezze, Venice (20 April–4 July 2022).

Exhibition view: Kelly Akashi, Life Forms, Barbati Gallery at Palazzo Lezze, Venice (20 April–4 July 2022). Courtesy Barbati Gallery.

Kelly Akashi: Life Forms
Barbati Gallery, Palazzo Lezze, San Marco 2949, 30124
20 April–4 July 2022

A Gothic Renaissance-era Venetian Palazzo in a prime Biennale city cross-square hosts Kelly Akashi's Life Forms, the inaugural exhibition for this new space.

A series of cast bronze hands, each holding a blown-glass balloon, line the walls like mediaeval lamps in the ground-floor gallery. Here, a bronze sculpture of what seems to be a flower veil covering a body created from knitting bronze casts of hand-crocheted flowers, Heirloom (2022), builds on a marble sculpture included in Faultline at François Ghebaly, Los Angeles, in 2021.

Exhibition view: Kelly Akashi, Life Forms, Barbati Gallery at Palazzo Lezze, Venice (20 April–4 July 2022).

Exhibition view: Kelly Akashi, Life Forms, Barbati Gallery at Palazzo Lezze, Venice (20 April–4 July 2022). Courtesy Barbati Gallery.

Upstairs, a series of sculptures play with the Venetian interiors. Among them are beautiful glass flowers rendered in Murano glass screwed to steel stems shaped into coils, each one named after its namesake: Lily, Fireweed, Red Poppy (all 2022). These industrial yet fine art objects are positioned on the floor, wall, and hang like dramatic chandeliers, or mobiles, given enough room to breathe and connect to the space.

Akashi has long worked with glass, so it makes sense to see these new sculptures in Venice, a place that equally invites reflections on the channels of time that shape and frame material relationships between body, object, and memory. SB

Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press, Pranayama Organ (2021). High-definition digital film. 10:38 mins. Soft parts: Wing, Flap, Fin (2022). Bespoke beanbags. Dimensions variable. Exhibition view: Patronato Salesiano XIII, Venice (19 April–22 May 2022). Photo: Enrico Fiorese.

Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press, Pranayama Organ (2021). High-definition digital film. 10:38 mins. Soft parts: Wing, Flap, Fin (2022). Bespoke beanbags. Dimensions variable. Exhibition view: Patronato Salesiano XIII, Venice (19 April–22 May 2022). Photo: Enrico Fiorese.

Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press
Patronato Salesiano Leone XIII, Calle S. Domenico, 1281
19 April–22 May 2022

First shown in Seoul with Barakat Contemporary in 2021, the staging of Pranayama Typhoon by Fiona Banner, also known as The Vanity Press, in Venice is a good example of why it's never 'always old' to see a work that's already been shown. Though this location perhaps ups the ante.

Arranged in front of a monumental screen installed inside a darkened basketball court are two giant, soft sculptures that double as seating, resembling the figures in the epic, seaside duel between inflatable state-of-the-art fighter planes—hence, 'Typhoon'—in the film, Pranayama Organ (2021); 'Pranayama' being an ancient Indian breathing technique.

Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press, Pranayama Organ (2021). High-definition digital film. 10:38 mins. Soft parts: Wing, Flap, Fin (2022). Bespoke beanbags. Dimensions variable. Exhibition view: Patronato Salesiano XIII, Venice (19 April–22 May 2022). Photo: Enrico Fiorese.

Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press, Pranayama Organ (2021). High-definition digital film. 10:38 mins. Soft parts: Wing, Flap, Fin (2022). Bespoke beanbags. Dimensions variable. Exhibition view: Patronato Salesiano XIII, Venice (19 April–22 May 2022). Photo: Enrico Fiorese.

High ceilings amplify a church organ rendition that references 'Wild is the Wind' (1976) recorded by Banner during the 2021 lockdown in London, whose association with Bowie's epic cover of said classic extends to where Banner filmed the fight, Pett Level, the location for the 'Ashes to Ashes' (1980) music video.

The most arresting thing about this ridiculously moving fight, so beautifully filmed and staged, is its impact. The visual treatment of the action, with the camera's smooth orbits and amplifying angles anchored by the saturated colours of a hazy dawn sky, somehow pushes the scene beyond absurdity into profound farce. SB

Anna Boghiguian, The Chess Game (2022). Exhibition view: KUB, Scuola di San Pasquale, Venice (20 April–4 July 2022). © Anna Boghiguian, Kunsthaus Bregenz.

Anna Boghiguian, The Chess Game (2022). Exhibition view: KUB, Scuola di San Pasquale, Venice (20 April–4 July 2022). © Anna Boghiguian, Kunsthaus Bregenz. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Fulvio Orsenigo.

Otobong Nkanga and Anna Boghiguian
Scuola di San Pasquale, Campo San Francesco della Vigna, Castello, 2786
20 April–4 July 2022

When Otobong Nkanga first entered the Scuola di San Pasquale in Venice's Castello quarter, she apparently began singing spontaneously. As Kunsthaus Bregenz director Thomas D. Trummer observed, 'she was encountering space not by seeing but by hearing.'

Staged to celebrate its 25th anniversary, the Kunsthaus Bregenz's inspired pairing shows new works by artists Otobong Nkanga and Anna Boghiguian, created for the 17th-century venue, whose 'cuboidal space and fall of light', the exhibition statement points out, 'create[s] an environment similar to the architecture of Peter Zumthor's Kunsthaus Bregenz'.

Otobong Nkanga, Tied to the Other Side (2022). Exhibition view: KUB, Scuola di San Pasquale, Venice (20 April–4 July 2022). © Otobong Nkanga, Kunsthaus Bregenz.

Otobong Nkanga, Tied to the Other Side (2022). Exhibition view: KUB, Scuola di San Pasquale, Venice (20 April–4 July 2022). © Otobong Nkanga, Kunsthaus Bregenz. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Fulvio Orsenigo.

On the ground floor, Nkanga's large and lavish tapestry Tied to the Other Side (2022), an explosion of dripping, organic forms rendered into textile with a DORNIER weaving machine from the TextielMuseum in Tilburg, is the fifth following the four tapestries Nkanga made for KUB, recently closed at Kunsthaus Bregenz (21 October 2021–6 March 2022). Behind the tapestry are two poems written in 2020; one explores the intricacies of matter, and the other, the far-reaching dimensions of the psyche.

Upstairs, Anna Boghiguian's The Chess Game (2022) includes a series of epic cut-outs arranged over a giant chessboard. Each piece points to a figure, mostly from Austrian history: Marie Antoinette, Wittgenstein, Egon Schiele—a preview of a show in Bregenz in 2022. SB

Exhibition view: Marlene Dumas, open-end, Palazzo Grassi, Venice (27 March 2022–8 January 2023). Photo: Ocula Advisory.

Exhibition view: Marlene Dumas, open-end, Palazzo Grassi, Venice (27 March 2022–8 January 2023). Photo: Ocula Advisory.

Marlene Dumas
Palazzo Grassi, Campo San Samuele, 3231
27 March 2022–8 January 2023

The Palazzo Grassi exhibition of paintings by Marlene Dumas, titled open-end, is the artist's first all-encompassing solo show in Italy, as well as a conceptual statement about the apparent lack of meaning in her pictorial practice, emphasising at once an 'end', which, in the pandemic context, as Dumas says, has 'its own implications', at once 'fluid and melancholic'.

The exhibition unfolds across the two floors of the 18th-century palazzo, showcasing some of Dumas' best-known paintings. The emotional quality of her brushstroke, which poetically re-creates second-hand images from newspapers, magazines, and films disrupts and reforms the psychological characteristics of decontextualised bodies.

Left to right: Marlene Dumas, iPhone (2018),

Left to right: Marlene Dumas, iPhone (2018), courtesy David Zwirner; Alien (2017), courtesy Pinault Collection; Spring (2017), courtesy private collection; courtesy David Zwirner, Amazon (2016), private collection, Switzerland. Exhibition view: Marlene Dumas, open-end at Palazzo Grassi, Venice (27 March 2022–8 January 2023). © Palazzo Grassi © Marlene Dumas. Photo: Marco Cappelletti con Filippo Rossi.

Exploring the outcome of personal experiences and her sympathy towards the 'wretched of the earth', Dumas' portraits of pop stars, universal characters, Black and Brown bodies, and the human form draw attention to the tactile quality of her colours and traits, which resemble mouldy surfaces, disfigured, rusty metals, and decomposing, corpse-like figures.

Although not visibly political, Dumas' commitment to an ethical stance against any type of discrimination and exclusion is clear in the visual impact of her art and the subtle and disturbing eroticism at the essence of her artistic message. MS

Exhibition view: Penumbra, Fondazione In Between Art Film at Complesso dell'Ospedaletto, Venice (20 April–27 November 2022).

Exhibition view: Penumbra, Fondazione In Between Art Film at Complesso dell'Ospedaletto, Venice (20 April–27 November 2022). Courtesy the artists and Fondazione In Between Art Film. Photo: Andrea Rossetti.

Penumbra
Complesso dell'Ospedaletto, Barbaria de le Tole Castello, 6691
20 April–27 November 2022

The exhibition Penumbra, curated by Alessandro Rabottini and Leonardo Bigazzi, respectively the director and artistic curator of the Fondazione In Between Art Film, in the Complesso dell'Ospedaletto in Venice, features eight video works by Masbedo, Karimah Ashadu, Ana Vaz, Emilija Škarnulytė, James Richards, He Xiangyu, Jonathas de Andrade, and Aziz Hazara.

The concept of penumbra (semi-darkness) is explored both on the level of physical darkness and in metaphorical terms, as a threshold between different states and conditions of life. The videos speak of different contexts and navigate the grey area between vulnerability and immunity, desperation and affirmation, and individual resilience in history, while exploring the human relation to landscapes and environments.

Exhibition view: Penumbra, Fondazione In Between Art Film at Complesso dell'Ospedaletto, Venice (20 April–27 November 2022).

Exhibition view: Penumbra, Fondazione In Between Art Film at Complesso dell'Ospedaletto, Venice (20 April–27 November 2022). Courtesy the artists and Fondazione In Between Art Film. Photo: Andrea Rossetti.

The works evoke a similar tension, from the voiceover narrating traces of war on the island in Pantelleria (2022) by the duo Masbedo, to the depiction of the struggles of Nigerian miners and their relationship to hardship in Plateau (2021–2022) by Karimah Ashadu, the joyous affirmation of diversity within marginalised communities in Olho da Rua (2022) by Jonathas de Andrade, and the disturbing anamnesis of everyday objects in Qualities of Life (living in the radiant cold) (2022) by James Richards.

What this accumulates to is a display of different experiences, both human and non-human, communicating and interacting in the semi-darkness of a fragmented, complicated world. MS

Exhibition view: Alluvium, OGR Torino at Complesso dell'Ospedaletto, Venice (20 April–27 November 2022).

Exhibition view: Alluvium, OGR Torino at Complesso dell'Ospedaletto, Venice (20 April–27 November 2022). Courtesy the artists and OGR Torino.

Alluvium
Complesso dell'Ospedaletto, Barbaria de le Tole Castello, 6691
20 April–27 November 2022

The project Alluvium, a creation of the Iranian collective Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, and Hesam Rahmanian in collaboration with OGR Torino, is hosted in one of the spaces of the Complesso dell'Ospedaletto, within the same complex hosting the exhibition by Fondazione In Between Art Film.

The installation, comprising iron sculptures holding terracotta plates decorated with repainted photographic scenes taken from the 'flow of news' detritus that the name of the exhibition suggests (alluvium meaning loose clay in Latin), tells a story of resistance to hegemonic journalistic narratives while acting as a coordinated effort to integrate the physical properties of the materials into the space.

This counter-narrative is conceived as a constant stratification of meaning that draws inspiration from the practice of Islamic ceramics and Persian miniatures, creating new ecosystems of significance—what the trio of artists call the 'negotiated fields of interaction'. MS

Kader Attia, Shifting Borders (2018). Mix-media installation, chairs, prosthetic legs, shoes; three-channel HD digital film projection on 4 screens: Recycling Colonialism, The Paradoxes of Modernity, Catharsis: The Living and The Dead Are Looking for Their Bodies. Exhibition view: to where the flowers are blooming

Kader Attia, Shifting Borders (2018). Mix-media installation, chairs, prosthetic legs, shoes; three-channel HD digital film projection on 4 screens: Recycling Colonialism, The Paradoxes of Modernity, Catharsis: The Living and The Dead Are Looking for Their Bodies. Exhibition view: to where the flowers are blooming, Gwangju Biennale at Spazio Berlendis, Venice (20 April–27 November 2022). Courtesy Gwangju Biennale Foundation.

to where the flowers are blooming
Spazio Berlendis, Cannaregio, 6301
20 April–27 November 2022

The special exhibition of the Gwangju Biennale in Venice, to where the flowers are blooming, is a political homage to the Gwangju Uprising of 18 May 1980, or the '5.18 Democratization Movement', as it is known in South Korea.

The exhibition displays three parts. The first, dedicated to the memoirs of the uprising, comprises an archive of documents related to the movement. The second displays a recollection of the traumatic heritage of the uprising in Gwangju.

Parallel Projects in Venice: Exhibition Highlights Ahn Chang Hong, Arirang Series 2014'1 (2014). Courtesy the artist.

The latter includes a video installation by Kader Attia, Shifting Borders (2018), which explores the political reasons and irrational motives that echo along the surface of Korean history, and the 49th Hexagram (2020) by Ho Tzu Nyen, which links the Gwangju revolt to the 49th hexagram of the I Ching (late 9th century BC) in an anime-style depiction of the uprising.

The third part tries to bridge the gap between activism in the 1980s in South Korea and modern-day activism, beginning with Hong Sung-Dam's 'May Print' series (c. 1980s) showing a series of stylised depictions of the 1980 repression, and Kim Chang-Hun's SHINE: Gwangju Soundscape (2018), which captures sounds recorded where 5.18 took place, and finally, Park Hwayeon's reconstruction of the square facing the city's old provincial office.

Inspired by a novel by Han Kang, the exhibition is a powerful re-enactment of the tragedy of Korea's past and the hopes that present movements can generate. MS

Bruce Nauman, Contrapposto Studies, I through VII (2015–2016). Jointly owned by Pinault Collection and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Exhibition view: Bruce Nauman: Contrapposto Studies, Punta della Dogana (23 May 2021–27 November 2022). © Palazzo Grassi. © Bruce Nauman by SIAE 2021.

Bruce Nauman, Contrapposto Studies, I through VII (2015–2016). Jointly owned by Pinault Collection and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Exhibition view: Bruce Nauman: Contrapposto Studies, Punta della Dogana (23 May 2021–27 November 2022). © Palazzo Grassi. © Bruce Nauman by SIAE 2021. Courtesy Palazzo Grassi. Photo: Marco Cappelletti.

Bruce Nauman: Contrapposto Studies
Punta Della Dogana, Dosoduro 2, 30123
23 May 2021–27 November 2022

The bulk of the exhibition consists of two large rooms, each with floor-to-ceiling projections facing each other, showing new works of an aging Nauman pacing in his studio, Walks in Walk Out (2015).

These high resolution and highly manipulated videos are a far cry from the artist's early works, shot with low resolution and black-and-white cameras from the late 1960s—works like Nauman's classic installation Sound Breaking Wall (1969), an L-shaped wall emanating the sound of exhaling and laughter, among the older performance documentations and videos shown in one large room with monitors placed on plinths.

Exhibition view: Bruce Nauman: Contrapposto Studies, Punta della Dogana (23 May 2021–27 November 2022). © Palazzo Grassi. © Bruce Nauman by SIAE 2021.

Exhibition view: Bruce Nauman: Contrapposto Studies, Punta della Dogana (23 May 2021–27 November 2022). © Palazzo Grassi. © Bruce Nauman by SIAE 2021. Courtesy Palazzo Grassi. Photo: Marco Cappelletti.

In all four of these later projections, the moving images of Nauman's body while duplicated several times vertically are also cut into horizontal stripes, producing a mesmerising effect that could be read as a reflection on the disembodying impact of digital technologies.

Demonstrating Nauman's interest in newer technologies, two videos of Nauman walking up and down his studio are shot with 3D cameras and require 3D glasses to view: Walking a Line (2019) and Natura Morta (2020).

Maybe most younger visitors to Nauman's exhibit won't fully appreciate what is on display here, and this artist's significance for video, performance, and installation art. But it's a nostalgic moment for those of us who remember when Nauman loomed large over contemporary art. MS —[O]

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