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48 hours of La Biennale

 
Renate Bertlmann, Tender Touches (1976) Courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery.

Renate Bertlmann, Tender Touches (1976) Courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery.

Austria: Renate Bertlmann

In her work, Bertlmann uses all kinds of media, from drawings, paintings, objects, and installations through photographs, photo films, and videos to performances and texts, in which she often examines the erotic and biological conditions of the female existence. Bertlmann’s performance Pregnant Bride With Collection Bag — in which she dressed up as a pregnant bride and asked onlookers to donate to the upkeep of an important relic, which turned out to be a sculpture of a dildo — was censored by the Centre Pompidou in 1979.

Photo: Isuma Productions.

Photo: Isuma Productions.

Canada: Isuma, an Inuit artist collective

Last year, the curated exhibitions focused particularily on artists from peripheral, indigenious people. A similar tendency was noticeable at Documenta, where Swedish-Sami artist Britta Marakatt Labba made great success with her political embroideries. This year, Canada devotes their pavilion to Isuma. Igloolik Isuma Productions, Inc. was incorporated in 1990 as Canada's first independent Inuit production company. Isuma is 75% Inuit-owned, and its mission is to produce independent community-based media to preserve and promote Inuit culture and language and to tell authentic Inuit stories to Inuit and non-Inuit audiences worldwide. Isuma’s participation in Venice also marks the first presentation of art by Inuit artists in the Canada Pavilion. 

 
Photo: Galerie Zdeněk Sklenář.

Photo: Galerie Zdeněk Sklenář.

Czech Republic: Stanislav Kolíbal

By selecting this project by 93-year-old Stanislav Kolíbal, the jury honors the outstanding pioneer of Czech avant-garde art, and acknowledges his groundbreaking oeuvre, which continues to influence new generations of artists. Kolíbal’s work, which is titled Former Uncertain Anticipated, will play on oppositions between “stability and instability, unambiguity and ambiguity, [and] certainty and uncertainty,” according to a release. The artist will produce a wall drawing that will refer to the architecture of the pavilion itself, which was designed by Otakar Novotný in 1926.

Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Pssst Leopard 2A7+, 2013. Photo: König Gallery.

Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Pssst Leopard 2A7+, 2013. Photo: König Gallery.

Germany: Natascha Süder Happelmann (Natascha Sadr Haghighian)

With ongoing wars, millions of people on the move, extremist parties on the rise, and the upcoming EU elections, migration, identity, ethnicity, and racism have become hot topics. The alias Natascha Süder Happelmann will be used for the duration of the show—it is an amalgamation of misspellings of her real name that has been generated through machines to make it more European sounding. During the press conference announcing the nomination, the character Süder Happelmann wore a large rock obscuring their head, and remained mute throughout. Another person acted as Happelmann's representative, reading a statement and answering questions on Happelmann's behalf. Whether Haghighian was actually present at the announcement has not been verified. Sadr Haghighian had a solo show at Tensta konsthall in 2016.

 
John Akomfrah, Mimesis: Seven Ambiguities of Colonial Disenchantment (2018). © Smoking Dogs Films. Courtesy of Lisson Gallery.

John Akomfrah, Mimesis: Seven Ambiguities of Colonial Disenchantment (2018). © Smoking Dogs Films. Courtesy of Lisson Gallery.

Views from the exhibition at Centre Culturel Suisse, Paris, 2018. Photo: Pablo Gimenez-Zapiola.

Views from the exhibition at Centre Culturel Suisse, Paris, 2018. Photo: Pablo Gimenez-Zapiola.

Ghana: Felicia Abban, John Akomfrah, El Anatsui, Ibrahim Mahama, Selasi Awusi Sosu, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

This is the first time Ghana is participating in the Biennale, and they’re pulling out all the stops with a multi-generational panel of big-name artists. The title, “Ghana Freedom” is taken from a 1957 song that debuted on the evening of the country’s independence from Britain.

Switzerland: Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz

What the organisers say: “Challenging notions of gender, Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz question the norms that govern our representations and our life in society. What lends their work such force is that it moves beyond mere criticism or deconstruction.” The duo, a favourite of the biennale circuit, often revisit and reconsider historical moments in their films. In a recent project on view on the High Line, Silent, the musician Aérea Negrot performs John Cage’s score 4’33” in the centre of Oranienplatz in Berlin, which was home to a refugee protest camp from 2012 to 2014.

 
Photo: Ingela Ihrman.

Photo: Ingela Ihrman.

Sweden: Ingela Ihrman

Sweden shares its pavilion with Norway and Finland, and the curatorship shifts every year. This year, Finland has chosen Ingela Ihrman from Sweden. In her performative art, she plays with the ideas of nature and origin, scales and materiality. This time, sea weed, handmade using textiles and other materials, will take centre stage. This organism predates man and life on land. Don’t be surprised if a performance is scheduled during the biennale. Earlier, Ihrman has performed both as a frog in a gym and as a wolverine giving birth.