The 60th edition of the Venice Art Biennale began on April 20. This prestigious art event presents works by artists from all over the world, and the exhibitions prepared by them are seen by hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. In this year's edition, the main slogan of the Venice Biennale is “Stranieri Ovunque - Foreigners Everywhere”, or “Foreigners are Everywhere”. In keeping with this title, artists of various origins organized unique expositions, addressing topics such as the migration crisis and the problem of national identity. Among the exhibitors there was no lack of representation from our country. In the Polish Pavilion in Venice, an exhibition entitled “Repeat After Me II” is underway, curated by Marta Czyż. 

Foreigners are everywhere

The slogan for the Venice Biennale 2024 comes from the name of the Turin-based collective Stranieri Ovunque, which fought racism and xenophobia in Italy in the early 2000s. In 2004, Palermo-based Claire Fontaine's collective launched an art series of the same name, consisting of colorful, neon sculptures proclaiming “Foreigners Everywhere” in various languages. These works can also be seen at this year's Biennale. Although the key theme of the event is rooted in Italian culture, the issue itself is quite universal and often seen in recent art around the world. The migration crisis, armed struggles over territory or the problem of national identity are themes eagerly taken up by today's artists, as they illuminate the unresolved social and political issues of the contemporary world or are the direct cause of the individual's struggles. As a result, at this year's Biennale, artists of different origins presented their own perspective on the fact that foreigners are everywhere. It is worth emphasizing that the theme of the exhibition is not a pretext to seek divisions or supremacy of any of the countries involved. On the contrary, the 60th edition of the Venice Biennale engages viewers in a search for unity, regardless of superficial and obvious differences such as gender or just nationality. At the end of the day, each of us is in fact a foreigner. 


“Repeat after me II”

Poland has been participating in the Venice Biennale since 1932, presenting exhibitions in its own pavilion, of which the Zachęta National Art Gallery is the guardian. Every year, Zachęta organizes a competition for the best exhibition project at the Biennale, the winner of which represents the country at the event. This year's edition was won by an exhibition entitled “Repeat After Me II,” realized by the Ukrainian collective Open Group and curator Marta Czyz. The Open Group collective was founded in 2012 oku in Lviv. Currently, there are three permanent members of the group: Yuriy Biley, Pavlo Kovach and Anton Varga, but others are also invited to individual projects. The group is engaged in performative projects exploring human interactions in the context of space, an important element of which is collaboration with viewers and participants. The exhibition they have prepared, “Repeat After Me II,” is a collective portrait of witnesses to the ongoing war in Ukraine, presented in the form of two videos from 2022 and 2024. The protagonists of the recordings are civilian war refugees talking about the war with the help of remembered sounds of weapons. The exhibition then engages viewers by inviting them to repeat the sounds they heard in the form of karaoke. The Open Group collective allows viewers to listen to the “soundtrack” of war, learn the language that accompanies such an experience, and learn the sounds whose knowledge can save lives. By participating in “Repeat After Me II,” the audience's senses are put to the emotional test of persevering amid the sounds of war. At the exhibition, the viewer can listen, repeat and learn military sounds or retreat to a prepared karaoke bar offering instruction on the threatening armed future. The Polish pavilion at this year's Biennale criticizes policies based on nationalism and imperialism, as well as the very toleration of such policies on the international stage and in diplomatic agreements. 

The 60th Venice Biennale will run until November 24, 2024. We encourage you to learn more about the projects prepared by other countries and to take a closer look at the “Repeat After Me II” exhibition, and we recommend a visit to the Polish Pavilion to anyone planning to visit Venice soon.

Added 2024-05-10 in by Rozalia Ziołkowska

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