Il Palazzo Enciclopedico / The Encyclopedic Palace, this is the title for the 55th International Venice Biennial of contemporary Art, curated by Massimiliano Gioni.
It evokes the title of an ideal project by the self-taught artist Marino Auriti who “on November 16, 1955 filed a design with the US Patent office depicting his Palazzo Enciclopedico (The Encyclopedic Palace), an imaginary museum that was meant to house all worldly knowledge, bringing together the greatest discoveries of the human race, from the wheel to the satellite. Auriti’s plan was never carried out, but it is the starting point of what I would call the topos of the eccentric, that Auriti shares with many other artists, writers, scientists, and prophets who have tried – often in vain – to create visions, that could possibly embrace the riches of the Knowledge.
This Biennial is very interesting not only for its singular works, but for the implications opened by Gioni’s complex display. Involving and legitimising professional and non professional artists, in fact, puts into question the status of what we normally call “Art” with capital letters, it erases the boundaries between Art and creativity, stressing the importance of the debate, instead of promoting the object.
Art is a form of perception-training, says Eco where we learn to know through our senses, this is why I’ve chosen this topic, says Gioni, where the Encyclopedia is not a way to store knowledge, but to stimulate it and to put it into question.
Gioni received the million dollar question: How did you chose the artists? You’ve chosen professional and non professional artists why?
Gioni answered that he wanted to let people reflect on who has the right of being considered artist or not, he wanted to open the debate on why some artists are more part of the system than others, what are the reasons why some artists are ‘In’ or ‘Out’. This topic is not simply formal, because to ask oneself why someone is ‘In’ or ‘Out’ is a highly political question, even in Italy. Going on with the question he continued saying that he didn’t only chose the artists, but the works too, this seems to be a minimal difference, but to him this is very substantial.
Many works were chosen because they deal with existential adventures and with the attempt of knowing and being able “to know and see” and all together they tell us many stories, the stories of many failures too, while looking for this ideal universal knowledge.
At the end of the institutional press conference I asked Massimiliano Gioni following question:
After the past two decades dealing with relational-art, this Biennial seems to become the Biennial of the relational display, we could even define it the “biennial of the shared language” where the curator, professional and non-professional artists become the protagonists of a cultural debate. Is this an attempt of substituting the New Aesthetic with a New Humanism?
Massimiliano Gioni answered, he didn’t want to make an absolutistic statement. In reality when he talks with artists and sees the shows, even those organised and curated by the artists themselves he has noticed, that they don’t particularly care about these distinctions. They don’t particularly care if an artists is famous or not, they look everywhere and are more focused on a sort of equivalence of images, and this was what Gioni wanted to reproduce. It’s curious, when you put Art near what is considered non-art something interesting happens, on one hand art becomes, again, a simple vision of the world and not only a product, on the other it helps us understanding the culture that surrounds us.
I found this answer quite interesting, first of all as it takes into account the figure of the artist and curator as a creator of complex scenarios and not only as the protagonist of an interior monologue expressed through an art-object. Secondly, I am fascinated by the scope of the decision to place “high and low” artists and their practices in dialogue, highlighting how the creation of value emerges not from the object or by the individual theories, but from the intellectual debate.
This Biennale full of interesting works highlights the “research”, a word often abused and distorted, watered down as a simple way of conceptualising, when in fact it is a complex process, quoting Austin and Searle we could dare to consider it as a complex “Speech Act”, in which the works are objects that catalyse dialectical visions and perceptions and real “alternative lifestyles” that only in an interlocutory process can be enjoyed and debated. Last but not least the opening of a magical emotional trend returns to art, the function of a grammar of the senses and of the emotions, not just of the meanings.
Words/Photo Annalisa Cattani: Artist and Curator, Theory of Argumentation Researcher, Collaborates with Radio Città del Capo (Bologna) and undo.net, Italy