Yesterday in a padded room.

THE THOUGHT OF RALPH RUGOFF, THE CURATOR OF THE BIENNALE
The Venetian exhibition focuses on themes that include sexual identity, minorities and migrations

Gaggiandre Photo by Andrea Avezzu Courtesy of La Biennale diVenezia.
Gaggiandre Photo by Andrea Avezzu Courtesy of La Biennale diVenezia.

New Yorker Ralph Rugoff, the new curator of the 2019 Venice Biennale, has chosen to call the exhibition May You Live in Interesting Times, quoting a Chinese anathema in which “interesting” means “threatening”. Noteworthy, the saying is actually an invention, a quite topical issue in the age of fake news. Rugoff’s Biennale reflects on the meaning of art and on its function. Although art can neither stop authoritarianisms, nationalisms, social fears and racisms, nor help the multitude of migrants who face their tragic fates, it can teach us to be wary of categories and concepts that are proposed as dogmas, and to question our reference points.

THE SHOW INVITES US TO LEAVE
OUR CERTAINTIES AND THE TASTE OF
ALREADY KNOWN THINGS BEHIND

Our approach to art should be a conversation in which an open relationship is established between author and work of art, between work of art and observer, between observer and many other people, the same way ripples expand when a pebble is dropped into water. Drawing inspiration from Umberto Eco’s book on the open work, in which the value of art is said to lie in ambiguity and in the manipulation of paradox and contradiction, Rugoff considers art as an endless chain that, once it is triggered by the work, results in a process of creative learning that is full of aesthetic delight and of the pleasure of thinking.

AT THE CORE THERE IS ECO’S IDEA:
IT IS THE PUBLIC THAT COMPLETES THE WORK
WHEN THEY GIVE THEIR OWN INTERPRETATION

There are different and often opposite ways to interpret the things of the world; order will be present at the Biennale through the contemporaneous presence of different orders, which will be enlightened by the certainty that complexity is a value. The exhibition will focus on issues related to sexual identity, oppressed minorities, walls and borders; there will be a majority of female artists and few great names. Rugoff speaks of a bipolar Biennale in which the two different exhibitions that will take place at the Arsenale and at the Giardini – Proposition A and Proposition B – will have the same mission: to draw visitors away from certainties and the reassuring taste of what is already known. The works on display will be valuable not just as objects, but also because they highlight other, distant, inaccessible or off-limits worlds. “It is the audience who completes the work”. Together with “the one who takes care” of the 58th Biennale, we hope that this Venetian exhibition will bring up many questions, encourage us to expand our outlooks towards other ways of existence, make every crystallized vision of the world more fluid and direct it towards a wealth of alternative, unpredictable and amazing perspectives, freeing us from the cages of established habits.

Myriam Zerbi

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