We asked our Ampersand Foundation Fellow, Jo Stockham, for her thoughts following a visit to the 59th Venice Biennale. Below is a visual snapshot of her highlights:
The first work I went to see was Sonia Boyce’s beautiful installation ‘Feeling Her Way’ in the British Pavilion, which was the main reason for my visit. ‘Feeling Her Way’ is a testament to the contribution of black British female musicians. Seeing Jacqui Dankworth, Poppy Ajudha, Sofia Jernberg and Tanita Tikaram improvise together guided by Errolyn Wallen and perform solos within an installation part living room, part club, part recording studio, part archive was such a powerful introduction to the necessity of creative work. The call and question by Sonia ‘what does it mean to feel free… how might you play?’ was like a lens through which to see the entire Biennale.
In the French Pavilion ‘Dreams Have no Titles’ by Zenib Sedira (a beautiful immersive installation part film set with a dance floor at its centre) cross-referenced (Sonia Boyce and Gilane Tawadros appear in Zenib’s film) and amplified the themes, friendships and histories highlighted by Sonia’s focus on, collaboration, politics, song, perspective of French Algerian relations and diasporas.
Other highlights for me were the Singapore pavilion with the extended bookwork and film Pulp 111: A short Biography of the Banished Book by Shubigi Rao curated by Ute Meta Bauer, also valuing archives and the human stories surrounding them.
Yuki Kihara in the New Zealand Pavilion deconstructing Gauguin:
Outside the Giardini and Arsenale…
A small external show of stone loaves of bread Palianytsia by Ukranian artist Zhanna Kadyrova:
Visiting the Patronato Salesiano (a children’s basketball court) to see Fiona Banner’s work Pranayama Typhoon:
I took very few photographs as the energy of my phone was drained by maps as I tried to find my way around.. so undocumented (but remembered) are Stan Douglas’s work in the Canadian pavilion (I want to return to see his offsite film). The sight of the American pavilion with a straw roof and sculptures by Simone Lee; Helen Mauer’s work and the hospitality of Danielle Arnaud; the garden of figures by Precious Okoyomon and the contextualising show La Culla della Strega (the Witches Cradle) in the The Milk of Dreams show in the Giardini.
I saw a fraction of the work on show and want to return for the Diaspora pavilion, the Uganda pavilion, the Hong Kong pavilion, Frances Alys, the Marlene Dumas exhibition, the surrealist show at the Peggy Guggenheim… So much…
Written by Jo Stockham (Ampersand Foundation Fellow 2021-22).