BY frieze in Critic's Guides | 09 APR 24

What to See in Venice’s Giardini and Arsenale

From Koo Jeong-A’s scented pavilion to Julien Creuzet’s ‘layers of history’, here's what not to miss during this year’s Biennale 

BY frieze in Critic's Guides | 09 APR 24

Koo Jeong A | ‘ODORAMA CITIES’ | South Korean Pavilion, Giardini | 20 April – 24 November

Koo Jeong A, _Kangse SpSt_, 2024, bronze, plywood metal, pigment paint, scent diffuser, sensor, 317 × 74 × 162 cm. Courtesy: the artist © KOO JEONG A

To make this new, scent-based work, Koo Jeong-A surveyed 600 people about how they remembered different cities’ smells, reproduced those smells and will diffuse them in the pavilion. In frieze’s April issue, the artist describes how their project will respond ‘to the segregation represented by the national pavilions in the Giardini’. They add, ‘I would like to go beyond these boundaries to create a new vision for a united nationhood.’

– MARKO GLUHAICH, associate editor

Manal AlDowayan | ‘Shifting Sands: A Battle Song’ | Saudi Arabian Pavilion, Arsenale | 20 April – 24 November

Manal AlDowayan, Shifting Sands: A Battle Song, 2024, installation view. Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia; photograph: Andrea Avezzù

Manal AlDowayan is known for her community-oriented projects that track the changing status of women in Saudi Arabia. In preparation for Venice, the artist invited 1000 women to take part in group singing workshops across three Saudi cities. The title of the resulting exhibition reflects the significance of staging these workshops in a country where female entertainers were banned from singing on State-run television until 2017. As a long-time advocate for gender parity, AlDowayan is the ideal person to reflect on the rapid transformation – from relaxing the ban on female drivers to the rise of secular music festivals – which have taken place in the Kingdom over the past few years.

– CHLOE STEAD, assistant editor

Sol Calero | ‘Foreigners Everywhere’ | Arsenale/Giardini | 20 April – 24 November

Sol Calero, La Cantina de La Touriste, 2022, installation view. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: Bjørn Mortensen

For her inclusion in the last Bergen Assembly, Sol Calero re-envisioned the interiors of Kafé Mat & Prat – a qualification centre for immigrants that teaches languages and job skills – in her most ambitious site-specific installation to date. With its hand-painted furniture and colourful wall murals, La Cantina de la Touriste (Tourist Canteen, 2022), transplanted what the artist calls ‘tropical aesthetics’ to Northern Europe. Given Calero’s continued interest in the exotification of Latin American culture, I am looking forward to seeing how she will interpret the title of this year’s edition of the biennale, ‘Foreigners Everywhere’.

– CHLOE STEAD, assistant editor

Julien Creuzet | French Pavilion, Giardini | 20 April – 24 November

Julien Creuzet, ‘Attila cataract your source at the feet of the green peaks will end up in the great sea blue abyss we drowned in the tidal tears of the moon’, 2024, exhibition view. Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia

In a 2021 interview with curator Cédric Fauq for frieze, Julien Creuzet noted that his aim, with his extensive body of work, and meticulous grounding in theory, is to ‘manipulate the various layers of history’. I am excited to see how Creuzet reckons with language, creolization (a nod to Martinican theorist Édouard Glissant) and the relationship between France and the Caribbean in Venice. At a press conference held at Martinique’s Maison Éduoard Glissant earlier this year, organizers, including curators Céline Kopp and Cindy Sissokho, spoke of the artist’s engagement with the ‘vitality’ of the Caribbean through the forms of literature and poetry, as evidenced in his artwork titles which in themselves often feel like short, concise stories – ‘Attila cataract your source at the feet of the green peaks will end up in the great sea blue abyss we drowned in the tidal tears of the moon’ is no different.

– VANESSA PETERSON, associate editor

Disobedience Archive | ‘Foreigners Everywhere’ | Arsenale/Giardini | 20 April – 24 November 

Disobedience Archive, 2024, installation view, 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, 'Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere'. Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia; photograph: Marco Zorzanello

Disobedience Archive was started by Marco Scotini in 2005 and collects documentary materials from decades of social disobedience across the world. Past exhibitions of this itinerant project have reacted directly to their context, and the Venice presentation will be no different. Designed by architect Juliana Ziebell, it will include works by 39 artists and collectives and be divided between themes of diaspora activism and gender disobedience.

– MARKO GLUHAICH, associate editor

‘Everything Precious is Fragile’ | Beninese Pavilion, Arsenale | 20 April – 24 November

Romuald Hazoumè, Carpe Rouge, 2019, plastic and natural ostrich feathers, 53 × 72 × 14 cm. Courtesy: Galerie MAGNIN-A

With African countries still underrepresented in the Venice Biennale – the subject of an in-depth essay in the latest issue of frieze – the announcement that Benin will have its first pavilion in the 2024 edition caused considerable excitement. Curated by Azu Nwagbogu, ‘Everything Precious is Fragile’ will feature four contemporary Beninese artists – Ishola Akpo, Moufouli Bello, Romuald Hazoumè and Chloé Quenum – and will draw inspiration from Yoruba Gèlèdé philosophy. Benin will be one of several countries focusing on indigeneity, with Nwagbogu telling Art Review in March that the exhibition aims to ‘challenge [the] epistemic injustice of the silencing of indigenous voices [the] world over.’

– CHLOE STEAD, assistant editor

Nour Jaouda | ‘Foreigners Everywhere’ | Arsenale/Giardini | 20 April – 24 November

Nour Jaouda, Everything touches everything else (detail), 2023, dye and pigment on canvas, steel, 170 × 80 cm. Courtesy: © Nour Jaouda

In the work of Nour Jaouda, dyed textured cloth is stitched, sewn and re-assembled to form a landscape of movement and cultural histories, both personal to the artist and collective. Born in Cairo into a Libyan family, Jaouda’s practice is one of multiple origins and sits somewhere in between sculpture and painting. Her tapestry compositions take on forms from Islamic prayer mats while the steel structures – that often accompany and at times support the textile pieces – refer to architectural shapes from Jaouda’s direct environment. Working with natural pigments, delicate hues of forest greens and earthy tones are infused onto pieces of fabric sourced from the markets of Cairo and London. The absorption of these pigments acts as a palimpsest of memories, documenting real-time alongside inconsistencies of the past.

– BROOKE WILSON, editorial trainee

Kapwani Kiwanga | ‘Trinket’ | Canadian Pavilion, Giardini | 20 April – 24 November

Kapwani Kiwanga, Terrarium, 2022, installation view, 'The Milk of Dreams: 59th Venice Biennale', 2022. Courtesy: the artist and Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, Johannesburg, London; Galerie Poggi, Paris; Galerie Tanja Wagner, Berlin; photograph: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano

I first experienced Kiwanga’s dazzling installations at the previous Venice Biennale curated by Cecilia Alemani. There, I encountered Kiwanga’s arresting Terrarium (2022), a series of large-scale, translucent paintings and glass sculptures filled with sand. As a counterpoint to the piece’s stunning arrangement, the work is a solemn harbinger for what our world will soon become: a barren desert. This year, Kiwanga will represent Canada, and will be the first Black woman to do so in the history of the pavilion, and only the second Black person to represent the country. (Stan Douglas was the first in 2022.) If her last outing at the Biennale is a testament to what we might see at this year’s edition, I could only expect the very best from Kiwanga, someone whose adroitness as a visual artist is matched only by her deftness as an anthropologist, mining the vast histories of anti-colonial resistance in the most sensitive of subtle ways within her practice.

– TERENCE TROUILLOT, senior editor

Andrea Mancini and Every Island | ‘A Comparative Dialogue Act’| Luxembourg Pavilion, Arsenale | 20 April – 24 November

Luxembourg Pavilion Artistic team, 2023. Courtesy: © Alessandro Simonetti

With design collective Every Island, Andrea Mancini will transform the Pavilion into a site of dynamic exchange to facilitate an exploration into individual authorship and group collaboration. Throughout the Biennale, four artists will create individual soundscapes, which will in turn form an audio library. Each artist will then engage in a series of performances, where the collection of sounds is openly accessed and altered with new live material among the pavilion’s experimental infrastructure, which is set to include four movable sound walls, a light installation and metallic flooring – all tools to enhance or deliver audio. Movement is echoed by each artist that passes through, allowing fragments of sound – both past and present – to be in continual discussion and extending the offer of conversation to its listeners. 

– BROOKE WILSON, editorial trainee

Yuko Mohri | ‘Compose’ | Japanese Pavilion, Giardini | 20 April – 24 November

Yuko Mohri, ‘Compose', 2024, installation view. Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia

Sculpture seldom listens; it is often silent, though it can be noisy if it moves, bangs about, topples over. Not so for the work of the artist Yuko Mohri, who will represent Japan in this year’s Biennale. Her delicate, elliptical sculpture responds to and records the sounds and movement of the spaces in which it is shown. Decomposition (2023) created a kind of music out of rotting fruit in the gallery. ‘I have always been interested in sound, especially acoustics – which is to say how sound relates to its environment and to all the elements that exist within that environment,’ Mohri tells Koo Jeong A in the current issue of frieze. Her project will be created entirely from materials gathered from the city. Expect her unusual approach to reveal some broader realities about a city perpetually cast as a symbol for a contentious present and a jeopardized future.

– ANDREW DURBIN, editor-in-chief

WangShui | ‘Foreigners Everywhere’ | Arsenale/Giardini | 20 April – 24 November

WangShui, Lipid Muse, 2024 live multichannel simulation, installation view, ‘Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere’. Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia; photograph: Andrea Avezzù 

 WangShui comes to Venice following their ongoing exhibition ‘Window of Tolerance’ at Haus der Kunst in Munich, which saw the artist experiment with AI to uncover the implicit patterns in their own oeuvre. The show centres on an LED video simulation, operated by programmed neural networks and models ‘a posthuman reality show in real time’, featuring shapeshifting avatars. In the Arsenale, expect to see more of WangShui’s thoughtful play with technology and the senses.

– MARKO GLUHAICH, associate editor

Wael Shawky | ‘Drama 1882’ | Egyptian Pavilion, Giardini | 20 April – 24 November

Wael Shawky, I Am Hymns of the New Temples, 2023, video still. Courtesy: Ministero della Cultura -Archaeological Park of Pompeii, in the context of Pompeii Commitment. Archaeological Matters © Wael Shawk

Some of Wael Shawky’s most renowned works feature meticulously hand-crafted marionettes that depict historical events from an Arab perspective. Shawky’s presentation in Venice will include a video work on the Urabi Revolution in Egypt, which was suppressed by the British. However, it’s his ‘extracurricular’ paintings of fantastical landscapes and hallucinatory sculptures that most hold my attention. In previous exhibitions, audiences were as likely to encounter a bas relief of a comic-book dinosaur overlooking Mecca as they were to watch a film providing a deeply considered reappraisal of the Crusades. Ultimately, I find all this imaginative exploration quite striking from an artist whose thematic focus typically revolves around the weighty project of imperialism.

– ANGEL LAMBO, associate editor

Eimear Walshe | ‘Romantic Ireland’ | Irish Pavilion, Arsenale | 20 April – 24 November

Eimear Walshe, ROMANTIC IRELAND, 2024. Courtesy: Eimear Walshe; photograph: Faolán Carey

Eimear Walshe’s multi-TV video installation for Venice is populated by characters in anachronistic costumes and anonymizing tight rubber gimp masks with eye and mouth holes. The press information tantalizingly tells us that the filmed opera was created using four iPhones, with each of the seven actors taking turns shooting, a gesture at decentralization. In representing Ireland, Walshe promises not to cow to the country’s ‘imaged mythologies’ while engaging with its colonization, revolution and partition.

– SEAN BURNS, assistant editor

Main image: Sol Calero, Pabellón Criollo, 2024, mixed media, dimensions variable. Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia; photograph: Matteo de Mayda

Contemporary Art and Culture