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60th International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia 2024

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MAHKU (Movimento dos Artistas Huni Kuin), Kapewe Pukeni [Bridgealligator], 2024, Site-specific installation, 750 m2,

60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere, Photo: Matteo de Mayda, Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia

Stranieri Ovunque - Foreigners Everywhere

60th Biennale di Venezia

By Sara Buoso

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Claire Fontaine, Foreigners Everywhere / Stranieri Ovunque (60th International Art Exhibition / 60. Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte), 2004-24, Sixty suspended, wall or window mounted neons, framework, transformers, cables and fittings, dimensions and colors variable, 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere,

Photo: Marco Zorzanello, Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia

The 60th Venice Biennale (April 20 – November 24, 2024), titled Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere, curated by Adriano Pedrosa, artistic director of MASP, the Museum of Arts of São Paulo, Brazil, addresses an uncompromising yet necessary topic: the condition of being a foreigner at the present time. Pedrosa addresses this theme by raising questions about identity, place, and power relations, and reflecting on the diverse connotations these terms can assume in ethical, social, political, artistic, and cultural contexts. Whilst a viewer may be tempted to approach the exhibition through a post-colonial framework of inquiry, Pedrosa elegantly chooses to avoid any binary classifications and provides instead solid and unquestionable evidence for an art-historical counter-narrative by foregrounding critical questions of the politics of representation in relation to "The Other." Aesthetically, it is almost impossible not to be fascinated by the full and contagious vivacity suggested by the works presented. Even while dealing with materiality and traditional practices, the works intend to articulate new meanings and values to challenge the classical distinction between artisanal/applied arts and fine arts.

Stylistically and rhetorically, Pedrosa situates his area of investigation within the legacy of the Modernist Movement, particularly the language of geometric abstraction. His purpose, however, is to advance a Southern Modernism and Southern Global perspective that follows the routes of migrations that characterized the 20th century where the utopian spirit of the Modernist Movement in the West has eventually assumed ethical and political connotations in relation to these specific geo-political contexts. But none of these are neutral operations, and Pedrosa’s exhibition is not exempt from reflexive thinking and provocations: Is it possible to reconstruct and reposition Southern Global Art? is it possible to reconstruct and propose new forms of dialogue and encounters? In this view, Western art criticism must remain speechless. It is best to leave any critical exercise or judgment aside and revisit the good practice of listening.

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Aligi Sassu, Tobiolo, 1965, Oil on canvas, 81 × 96 cm, Archivio Aligi Sassu, Monza,

60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere, Photo: Marco Zorzanello, Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia

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Lauren Halsey, From the series Keepers of the Krown, 2024, Glass fiber reinforced,

concrete and mixed media, 125 × 125 × 665 cm, 60th International Art Exhibition –

La Biennale di Venezia, Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere 

Photo: Marco Zorzanello, Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia

A situated practice is at the roots of Nucleo Storico at the Corderie of the Arsenale, which rigorously retraces the phenomenon of Italian migrations from the end of the 18th century and its artistic and cultural impact. Interestingly, photography and its legacy prove to be the privileged medium to initiate a deconstructive method of inquiry, as seen in the black-and-white portraits of Bolivian figures and customs portrayed by Luigi Domenico Gismondi, whose work initiates a critical discussion of the different connotations of the terms “ethnic” and “indigenous” art, favoring the latter in view of sustainable local and global perspectives. This shares affinities with the symbolic and political interests of the photographer Tina Modotti during her residency in Mexico during the Revolution from 1910-1917, and the drawing of a visionary new cartography by Anna Maria Maiolino, as seen in Mapas Mentais (Mental Maps), to suggest how the experience of migration can inform a personal affective condition prior to specific geopolitical connotations.

On a wider scale, the exhibition suggests how the phenomenon of migration carries with it the migration of tropes. This is eloquently expressed in the mythologies touched on by the Italo-Spanish artist Aligi Sassu, who traces a path using religious values as formative elements for cultural identity, as well as in the archetypal vision of artist and designer Costantino Nivola, who, in his sand-cast works, fuses elements from the prehistory of Sardinian culture with those of native Americans as seen in the murals of the Science Center at Harvard University. This questioning of the legacy of Modernism culminates in an interrogation of the language of geometric abstraction, as seen in Pintura o Circulo negro (Painting the Black Circle), 1963, by Italo-Argentinan architect and designer Clorindo Testa, who had been invited to the Biennale in 1964, suggesting how the language of geometric abstraction, once divorced from formalisms, can assume a diverse syllabus from a Southern perspective, as shown in his technique of gestural graphism.

Following this historical reconstruction, the section Nucleo Contemporaneo suggests a new dialogue founded on the role of education and the community as keys to address new meanings and values. The video installation Disobedience Archive, directed by Marco Scotini and designed by Juliana Ziebell with video contributed by 39 artists from 1975 to 2023, is divided between diaspora activism and gender disobedience to deal with the relationship between archival practices and activism. Along the same line, the French-Moroccan artist, Bouchra Khalili, with the video-installation work The Mapping Journey Project, 2008-11, draws on strategies of storytelling in collaboration with members of communities excluded from citizenship, with a particular focus on Mediterranean migration routes, to depict the romantic vision of the Constellations Series, 2011, which cites ancient astronomy and mythology to envision a sense of belonging through the drawing of an imaginary contemporary cartography.

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Disobedience Archive – Marco Scotini, 2024,Ursula Biemann, Black Audio-Film Collective, Seba Calfuqueo, Simone Cangelosi, Cinéastes pour les sans-papiers, Critical Art Ensemble, Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing, Marcelo Expósito with Nuria Vila, Maria Galindo & Mujeres Creando, Barbara Hammer, mixrice, Khaled Jarrar, Sara Jordenö, Bani Khoshnoudi, Maria Kourkouta & Niki Giannari, Pedro Lemebel, LIMINAL & Border Forensics (Lorenzo Pezzani, Jack Isles, Giovanna Reder, Stanislas Michel, Chiara Denaro, Alagie Jinkang, Charles Heller, Kiri Santer, Svitlana Lavrenchuk, Luca Obertüfer), Angela Melitopoulos, Jota Mombaça, Carlos Motta, Zanele Muholi, Pınar Öğrenci, Daniela Ortiz, Thunska Pansittivorakul, Anand Patwardhan, Pilot TV Collective, Queerocracy, Oliver Ressler and Zanny Begg, Carole Roussopoulos, Güliz Sağlam, Irwan Ahmett & Tita Salina, Tejal Shah, Chi Yin Sim, Hito Steyerl, Sweatmother, Raphaël Grisey and Bouba Touré, Nguyễn Trinh Thi, James Wentzy, Želimir Žilnik

60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere Photo: Marco Zorzanello, Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia

Pedrosa identifies two leitmotivs that have emerged distinctly from the research pursued by the artists invited to the Biennale: an interest in fabrics and textile traditions and their metaphorical meanings, and the importance that blood relationships play in defining individual genealogies over migrations. These are evident in the installation Orbital Mechanics, from the Electric Dub Station series, 2024, by visual artist Antonio Jose Guzman and designer Iva Jankovic, an installation whose materiality reinterprets the history of the sacred indigo fabric traditionally associated with colonial history, but here decorated with abstract patterns of cross-cultural DNA sequences as evidence of global connections in the Black Atlantic. Guzman and Jankovic’s installation includes a sonorous and performative element by revisiting the ancient Indian dyeing tradition of Ajrakh transmitted orally from generation to generation and here fused with electronic music, dub, punk, and Senegalese drums, culminating with the performance, Messengers of the Sun, a ceremonial dance for thinking about hybrid culture and identity.


Metaphorically rethinking the social fabric through the language of geometric abstraction, the Palestinian-Saudi artist Dana Awartani, in Come, let me heal your wounds. Let me mend your broken bones, 2024, proposes a requiem to honor her native roots and her land, a territory significantly marked by acts of terrorism, with particular attention to Gaza in the Arab world, whilst facing the impossibility of representation. Through her use of painted silk fabrics, the artist’s composition is marked by tears impressed onto the layers of her suspended geometrical and abstract work, which she darns by recuperating an ancient medicinal practice in conjunction with the ancient Kerala textile dyeing technique as a highly symbolic gesture of healing.


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Bouchra Khalili, The Mapping Journey Project, 2008-2011, Video installation, 8 single-channel videos, color, sound, Variable dimensions

60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere, Photo: Marco Zorzanello, Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia

From a different geo-political context but in a similar perspective, the New Zealand based Mataaho Collective presents the fiber installation Takapau, 2022, which delves into Māori life and knowledge systems. Reinterpreting the use of takapau, a finely woven mat traditionally used in childbirth ceremonies, as an envelope to mark a transition between Te Ao Marama (the realm of light) and Te Ao Atua (the realm of the gods), the artists configure an immersive installation imbued with the play of light and shadow on woven patterns, rethinking the spirituality of the pure geometry of a triangle, initiating a renewal ceremony.

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Foreigners Everywhere / Stranieri Ovunque (60th International Art Exhibition / 60. Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte), 2004-24

60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere, installation view Nucleo Storico, Photo: Marco Zorzanello, Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia

The journey among Oceania, Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South Americas is balanced through a dialogue between history and the contemporary, culminating in the works at the Gaggiandre as an homage to the sacred land. American artist Lauren Halsey, influenced by the style of Afrofuturism, presents Keepers of the Krown, 2024, an installation consisting of a series of monumental columns inspired by the daily life of South Central Los Angeles, recontextualizing the shape of the hathoric column through visual and symbolic inscriptions and reflecting the relationship between architecture and community through a political gesture.

Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere continues at the Central Pavilion in the Giardini of the Biennale, where the exhibition takes an intellectual turn by addressing a question about subjectivity and identity through the politics of representation. Such a claim is flagged by the monumental mural created on the facade of the pavillion by the Brazilian collective MAHKU, Movimentos dos Artistas Huni Kuin, which visualizes a striking and necessary contrast with the neo-modernist architecture to claim an indigenous posture. Inside the pavilion, this claim is reflected in the section titled Portraits, comprising portraits of 112 artists active between 1905 and 1990, addressing a counter-narrative for thinking about art and art criticism from the viewpoint of a Global South. To a Western eye, references to the lessons initiated by fauvism, primitivism, and cubism seem to have evolved by acquiring particular connotations as seen in the portraits of Egyptian artist Mariam Abdel-Aleem, Tunisian artist Aly Ben Salem, Indian artist Jamini Roy, Vietnamise artist Lê Phô, Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu, South African artist Dumile Feni, Peruvian artist Elena Izcue, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, and Brazilian artist Ismael Nery, to name just a few of the artists who are often omitted from history.

Within this frame, the Nucleo Storico initiates an intragenerational dialogue, with the section, Abstraction, aiming to suggest a global modernism for a Global South. It is evident how the rationalist posture that constitutes the legacy of the Modernist Movement in the West, its utopian vision and formalisms, have assumed different connotations in these contexts, translating its spiritual ethos into specific social and geo-political conditions, radically challenging the syllabus of this language. Eloquent in this regard is the painting Composition, 1988, by Indian artist, Zubeida Agha who suggests a counter-narrative for the language of geometric abstraction through an asymmetrical trajectory and modulations of black, red, and yellow triangular figures. These figures suggest depth while also evoking affect through traces of irregular lines and shapes.

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Antonio Jose Guzman & Iva Jankovic, Orbital Mechanics, from the Electric Dub Station series, 2024, Ajrakh Hand Block Printed, Indigo Dyed Fabrics printed, Site Specific Installation, Variable Dimensions, Messengers of the Sun, from the Dub Waves & Interferences series, 2024, Performance Performers: Antonio Jose, Guzman & Puppets Family, Dance Academy, Treviso, Percussionists: Elisa “Helly” Montin and Moulaye Niang, Music: Transillumination #1 / EDS Bass Mash Up Vol. 5, by Guzman & Jankovic, 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere

Photo: Marco Zorzanello, Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia

Along the same line, the geometry drawn by Argentinian artist Kazuya Sakai in Pintura No. 9., 1969, developed during his residency in Mexico, reflects a careful study of composition and polychromy through the drawing of angular and sharp geometric shapes, all imbued with intense and saturated tones and timbres, all merging into a polychromatic three-dimensionality.


Concrete experimentation defines the composition of Brazilian artist Judith Lauand for Acervo 290, concreto 18 (Collection 290, concrete 18), 1954. Lauand generates a balanced rhythm and a dynamism of the pictorial surface by focusing on the relationship between shapes and color planes whilst developing complex structures that contemplate both geometrical and organic structures. Alongside her use of triangular figures, her study of geometry and color culminates in a single circle which creates a vanishing point as a formal and elusive pictorial operation.


Afro-patterns designate the stylistic trait of South African artist Esther Mahlangu, in Untitled, 1990, a painting derived from the artist’s revisiting the tradition of Ndebele custom, a technique of drawing freehand, privileging straight lines and balanced compositions to foreground angular shapes and patterns colored with blue and purple tones and vibrant shades.

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Dana Awartani, Come, let me heal your wounds. Let me mend your broken bones, 2024, Darning on medicinally dyed silk 520 × 1250 × 297 cm

60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere, Photo by: Marco Zorzanello, Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia

The language of geometric abstraction, however, is not limited to a pictorial investigation. The sculptural forest Bambus, 1960s, by Brazilian artist Ione Saldanha, explores the physicality of pictorial media to emphasize an energetic use of color, recuperating natural and organic materials through ancient and artisanal traditions, and inviting the viewer to engage with a physical and an embodied experience of this language.

At the Central Pavilion, these genealogies merge in the second section of Nucleo Contemporaneo by drawing from the etymology of the term “stranger” and extending it into a dialogue with The Other. Here, Pedrosa attempts to legitimate other subjectivities along with the figure of the indigenous artist, such as the folk artist, the queer artist, and the outsider, those who live at the margins of the art world. Among the most interesting contributions, the work by American artist Louis Fratino demonstrates a mastery of drawing and painting by depicting scenes of everyday queer life in domestic spaces, shifting the boundaries between familiar tones and homoerotic imagery in terms of love and violence.


Finally, the large-scale tapestry Rainbow Mountains: Moon & Weather, 2024, by Bolivian artist Liz Collins delineates a spiritual geometry of circular figures that move fluidly between art and design and imbue the space with a vibrant optical energy derived from her study of elemental forces and natural phenomena of nocturnal skies to evoke the drawing of an immersive horizon connotated by spiritual and symbolic vision whilst reconnecting with nature and the spiritual in geometry through the language of abstraction.

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Mataaho Collective, Takapau, 2022, Installation (polyester hi-vis tiedowns, stainless steel buckles and j-hooks), Site specific reconfiguration, Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa,

60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere, Photo by: Marco Zorzanello, Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia

Almost at the end of this journey, a viewer at the Biennale may feel entitled to ask: Between historical references and present contributions, what is the future of the legacy of global modernism in the Global South? With the aim of sustaining the alliance between fine and applied arts, the journey suggested by Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere continues in the Applied Arts Pavilion at the Arsenale through the work of Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes, who presents a series of paintings and tapestries, Pindorama, 2020–2022, where the boundaries between abstraction and figuration, patterns and palettes are fused within the fabrics of her work, calling for autonomy and authenticity. Materiality, practices, affective tones, fabrics, blood relationships, geometry, abstraction, ultimately all inform the ethical and political posture of Pedrosa’s ambitious exhibition in the name of heterogeneity and affirmation.

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Ione Saldanha, Untitled from the series, Bambus, n.d, Acrylic on bamboo, Various dimensions, Antonio Almeida and Carlos Dale Jr Collection, Sao Paulo,

60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere Photo: Matteo de Mayda, Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia


Foreigners Everywhere / Stranieri Ovunque (60th International Art Exhibition / 60 Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte), 2004-24, 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia

Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere, installation view Applied Art Pavilion

Photo: Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia


Sara Buoso is an art-critic and curator. She holds a PhD in Art Theory and History, Central Saint Martins, London, specializing in photology and practices of light. She is a lecturer of Contemporary Art History at the Academy of Arts and New Technologies, Rome. 

Sara Buoso

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