Sustainability steals the show during the Venice Biennale 2019

rethink sustainability

Sustainability steals the show during the Venice Biennale 2019

Going down in history

The roots of the Venice Biennale sit firmly in the notion of the avant-garde. With a history spanning over 120 years, today the Biennale is, arguably, the most prestigious and renowned cultural institution in the world. A festival of firsts, the Biennale created the original national pavilion, admitted foreign art into its halls and constructed an exhibition space that celebrated all artistic forms from architecture to dance. The success and prominence of the festival lies in its power as a platform for artists to express themselves freely, take pride in their provenance and comment on pressing or controversial issues. One of the most pressing issues we all face today is the ongoing dangers of global warming and its effect on our climate.

One of the most pressing issues we all face today is the ongoing dangers of global warming and its effect on our climate.

As one of the fundamental problems, we all must face together, it was an expected thematic throughout the exhibition.


What does the future look like?

Sustainability made a recurring appearance all throughout the Biennale. Most notably in the Nordic Countries pavilion, in the Giardini, which hosted Finland, Sweden and Norway's contribution to the exposition. Titled “Weather Report: Forecasting Future” the artworks centred on the interconnectivity between humans and the earth in the context of threatening externalities such as climate change and global warming. In predicting the future, the exhibits points to our human shortcomings – how we fail to pay attention to species that exist on another scale to us – from microorganisms to insects.

…the exhibits points to our human shortcomings – how we fail to pay attention to species that exist on another scale to us – from microorganisms to insects.

Furthermore, the project subtly points to our own responsibility in protecting the planet when it comes to our personal choices. Positioned in a large, airy glass box, the space itself represents a microcosm that we must, at any cost, defend and nurture.


The rise of modern wastelands

The Arsenale was no different. The art is sometimes set on a smaller scale but still packs a punch. Photography won out on many fronts in relation to our treatment of the planet. Anthony Hernandez, a US photographer, took a startling reel of images that focused on what he calls “contemporary ruins”. From ghetto style camps, disused factories and piles of rubbish, his work harshly depicts spaces where the ruined dreams of capitalism lay crumpled. Illustrating more than just failure, his work points to our obsessive over-consumption, ability to discard objects and our ongoing battle with waste. He expertly communicates our seeming indolence and suggests that now is the time to act…otherwise the whole world might just turn into a defeated landscape.

Bringing animals back to life?

Our behaviour on this earth was not the only element under close scrutiny at the Biennale. Jimmy Durham, a sculptor, took to the stage to send a poignant message about species who are on the verge of extinction as a result of human-induced climate change. His sculptural series consists of large skeletal mammals assembled with everyday objects such as clothes, blankets but combined with materials such as steel, glass and wood. The pieces take on a rather haunted look, draped in fabric but clearly emaciated. A word of warning to humans who are slowly stripping these animals of their habitat and their livelihood.

Art and design serve as extraordinary platforms to take stock of society, offer a fresh, compelling perspective but most of all, touch the viewer emotionally.

Art and design serve as extraordinary platforms to take stock of society, offer a fresh, compelling perspective but most of all, touch the viewer emotionally.

It propels the viewer to think differently, perhaps take a stand and stay in commune with the artwork itself. Many of the artists present during the Biennale feel the growing dangers and climate risks. And they believe it warrants commentary and even artistic protest. Now is clearly the time for change.

Art and design serve as extraordinary platforms to take stock of society, offer a fresh, compelling perspective but most of all, touch the viewer emotionally.

Art and design serve as extraordinary platforms to take stock of society, offer a fresh, compelling perspective but most of all, touch the viewer emotionally.

It propels the viewer to think differently, perhaps take a stand and stay in commune with the artwork itself. Many of the artists present during the Biennale feel the growing dangers and climate risks. And they believe it warrants commentary and even artistic protest. Now is clearly the time for change.

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