fbpx Biennale Arte 2024 | Introduction by Pietrangelo Buttafuoco
La Biennale di Venezia

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Introduction by

Pietrangelo Buttafuoco

President of La Biennale di Venezia

Foreigners, Everywhere.

This 60th edition of the International Art Exhibition is all there in the title Foreigners Everywhere – Stranieri Ovunque. Strong words, explosive when paired that evoke both current scenarios and possible universes, on whose borderline the curator’s line of thought is constructed, sharp in its longer focus and vibrant with complex contrasts nearer to hand.
Adriano Pedrosa has curated a Biennale Arte that reflects his personal approach to study and research, which is free of any prejudice in favour of the already established – where the vertigo of the unknown is an integral part of the process of exploration and enjoyment, and disorientation becomes a potent instrument for identifying new compass points.
And the compass is important to understanding this paradigm shift. Pedrosa is the first South American curator of the Biennale Arte and he is well aware that the compass points themselves are anthropized symbolic forms, with the North at the head – complete with a tall hat – and the South at the foot, a bare foot needless to say.

A stranger among strangers is the (barefoot) wanderer making his way along the most daunting of goat tracks, the beggar under whose rags a God may be hiding, that deity unknown to himself from whom the renewal of dynasties springs. He is Aeneas quitting the flames of Troy to found – as a foreigner – a universalising civilization where no one is a barbarian and all are citizens. This is the principle guiding the selection of the artists, privileging those who have never previously participated in the Exhibition. Casting unaccustomed light on the paths of Modernism outside the Anglosphere. Foregrounding overlooked geographies on the margins of current dictates, albeit clear enough on the mappa mundi. Giving substance to voids that were never such – akin to what is going on in Rachel Whiteread’s sculptures – and coming back, finally, to auroral thinking, to that nostalgia for things that never had a beginning – as we see in language too, as the flatus vocis acquires meaning.

Pedrosa explains, with explicit reference to Oswald de Andrade’s Manifesto antropófago, how it was necessary for the ‘Modernisms’ of the global South to cannibalise hegemonic postcolonial cultures in order to establish themselves. A form of artistic resistance that in the case of Brazil recalls the pre-invasion cannibalistic rituals of the Tupinambá people. De Andrade was in fact inspired to write his Manifesto by a painting of Tarsila do Amaral entitled ‘Abaporu’, which in the Tupi language means “the man who eats people.” And it is eating, nourishing oneself, that constitutes for him a sacred root – and certainly not a mere anthropological phenomenon – as in the familiar Mediterranean example of those two provocateurs, Dionysus and, later, Jesus the Nazarene. Two versions of the resurrected ‘slain God’, two banquets attended by people eating other people: Dionysus – born from the thigh of his father Zeus, torn to shreds, chewed up and swallowed by the Maenads – and Jesus, son of Mary the Chosen One, become eucharistically the host in the liturgy, a presence in the rite and the embodiment of the Almighty’s promise, food for all.

This edition of the Biennale Arte features both a contemporary and a historical nucleus, with a large presence of Italian artists from the 20th-century diaspora, whose works are displayed on the glass easels originally designed by architect Lina Bo Bardi for the São Paulo Museum of Art. For the first time, an indigenous Amazonian art collective – MAHKU (Movimento dos Artistas Huni Kuin) – also takes centre stage, with a large-scale work on the facade of the Central Pavilion. Seven hundred square metres of hallucinatory visions inspired by sacred ayahuasca-based rituals, experiences mirrored by those – no less sacred – that the Old Continent has experimented through, for example, Ernst Jünger’s Annäherungen.

Two constant threads run through the curator’s selection: an explicit desire to focus on works that adopt the language of textiles; and the blood kinship that connects several of the artists on show. A return, then, to the corporeal res extensa and to visceral human relationships, understood as a repository of tradition and the transmission of knowledge, in an age dominated by the immaterial and the depersonalisation of form and content.

This Biennale Arte, then, hosts samples of marginalised, excluded, oppressed beauty, erased by the dominant matrices of geo-thinking. The interlacing themes of Pedrosa’s Exhibition – the different, the foreigner, the journey, integration – will reverberate nowhere better than in the calm and ever-renewed waters of the lagoon city. Once again Venice - over the centuries an open cradle of knowledge and communication between peoples, ethnicities, religions - is the natural forum in which to marshal new points of view and Fare Mondi (‘Making Worlds’) - to adopt the local lexicon of an earlier Biennale Arte 2009.

The city that as many as 129 years ago had the idea of staging the first International Art Exhibition thus renews its commitment to curiosity and the love of knowledge. That same impulse that drove Marco Polo – the 700th anniversary of whose death will be celebrated in this same 2024 – to meet and explore cultures seen as distant and threatening: finding acceptance, as a foreigner in those lands, by virtue of a sincere openness to human and equal exchange. Those were times when the Rialto market teemed with languages, ethnicities, styles and vitality. And many countries had Fondeghi – trade centres in modern terms – in Venice: Turks, Syrians, Germans... showcasing their goods and expertise. Biennale Arte – with its National Pavilions, artefacts, artists and visitors from all over the world – was already there in embryo.

For Venice, in fact, diversity has stood from the outset as a basic condition of normality. A process of mirroring and confrontation with the Other, never perceived in terms of denial or rejection. Pedrosa has been on an eleven-month long physical and mental journey, taking in Chile, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Angola, South Africa, Singapore, Indonesia, the Middle East, before landing here in the lagoon to construct his own Fable of Venice, his Sirat al Bunduqiyyah. Venice is the only European city to have had, since 1000 AD, a name in Arabic. A constellation of meanings that functions as a fine counterpoint to the 60th International Art Exhibition. Bunduqiyyah: different, mestizo, mixture of peoples, foreigner.

Foreigners, Everywhere.


Profound thanks to my predecessor Roberto Cicutto as President of La Biennale di Venezia, from whose wise words I have profited and will continue to profit.

Thanks also to the whole team at La Biennale di Venezia, living testimony to the critical spirit, the imagination and the power of visual language.

Biennale Arte
Biennale Arte