Ralph Rugoff And Aaron Cezar Announce Performance Programme For 58TH Venice Biennale

A series of dynamic performance has been announced for the opening week and final weekend of the 58th Venice Biennale of Art. There will be fourteen performances utilising the gardens and galleries of the Giardini and Arsenale, as well as the Teatro Piccolo Arsenale. The programme was devised by Ralph Rugoff, Artistic Director of the 2019 Venice Art Biennale, and Aaron Cezar, Director Delfina Foundation and commissioned by Arts Council England.

This is a Biennale with work that sits between categories, It is a strategy for not getting pigeonholed – Ralph Rugoff

Biennale director Ralph Rugoff told a breakfast at the Delfina Foundation yesterday, “The idea that came to mind was to have a performance programme at the beginning and the end of the Biennale and that was something my budget wasn’t going to allow to happen.

Ralph Rugoff At the Delfina Foundation announcement breakfast
Ralph Rugoff At the Delfina Foundation announcement breakfast

Everyone wants to have a Biennale these days but no one wants to pay for it, so this is a perfect opportunity for the UK as a great hub for performance art to join with artists coming from all over the world to add something to this Biennale. This will highlight what we love about art. That is to be complex and embrace contradictions and explore new perspectives and not follow formulas. To surprise and produce pleasure in unanticipated ways and be critical. This is a Biennale with work that sits between categories, it is a strategy for not getting pigeonholed. It’s a way to call into question those easy categories and make sense to the world.”

Zadie Xa, Linguistic Legacies and Lunar Exploration
Zadie Xa, Linguistic Legacies and Lunar Exploration Performance

Aaron Cezar Director of the Delfina Foundation, who is coordinating the programme said, “The artists chosen are artists whose imagery doesn’t exist in mainstream culture. The performances will take place both indoors and out, in the Giardini, Arsenale Teatro Piccolo Arsenale, and other places scattered around Venice. Ther work will be both durational and fixed. A lot of the subject matter will centre on both nationality and gender.”

The performance programme expands on the theme of this year’s Central Exhibition. Titled May You Live in Interesting Times, the 2019 theme seeks to highlight art that exists in between accepted categories and genres, and which questions the rationales behind such categorical thinking. The special performance programme will exemplify this kind of approach, testing aesthetic, behavioral and social conventions in a wide range of events.

The opening week of the performance programme includes Alex Baczynski-Jenkins, boychild, Paul Maheke & Nkisi, Nástio Mosquito, Florence Peake & Eve Stainton, Victoria Sin, and Zadie Xa. These artists are defining this and the next generation of performance with diverse and hybrid practices spanning music, movement and visual art. Together, the artists interrogate identity politics through the concepts of nationality, gender, and intersectionality. They consider the architecture of representation and how language, as articulated through the body and the voice, can reaffirm or refuse conventions.

 Florence Peake and Eve Stainton, Apparition, 2018
Florence Peake and Eve Stainton, Performance Apparition, 2018

The performances will activate the ‘in-between’ spaces of the biennale’s gardens and galleries in short and durational episodes, occurring at designated times or occupying space without notice. The Teatro Piccolo Arsenale will host scheduled performances and create a more concentrated space where certain narratives can be thoughtfully unravelled and reimagined.

The final weekend of the Venice Biennale will be punctuated by discursive events, lecture performances and other activities, including from Cooking Sections, Vivian Caccuri, Vivien Sansour, and Bo Zheng. More information on the final weekend will be announced in due course, as well as a full schedule of the opening week.

Cooking Sections, CLIMAVORE On Tidal Zones, 2015
Cooking Sections, CLIMAVORE On Tidal Zones, 2015

Peter Heslip, Director Visual Arts, Arts Council England commented: “We are delighted to be working with Ralph Rugoff and Aaron Cezar as commissioners of the performance programme. The selected artists reflect the vibrancy and diversity of a performance art scene in England which is truly international in its outlook. The artists represent a range of practices which call on multiple artistic traditions and look ahead to new ways of thinking about art in the world today. Building on previous Arts Council England supported programmes in Venice, we are excited to support artists and curators to present their most ambitious work at this significant and career-defining platform.”

Ralph Rugoff said, ”The selection of artists for the performance programme reflects the international and diverse character of artists working in and influenced by the UK, all of whom will add significant, strong and utterly unique voices to the International Exhibition of the 2019 Venice Biennale. It has been an inspiring process to work on this programme with Delfina Foundation, a London organisation renowned for its nurturing of talent from across the globe.”

Aaron Cezar, who has devised the programme with Ralph Rugoff, said, “Performance is not only alternative way of recording and rewriting history, but in keeping with the theme of the Biennale, performance can also help us process the current urgencies that we face at home and abroad. This programme boldly points to the uncertainties that define the times that we live in and reflects on them as opportunities for radical change.”

Alex Baczynski-Jenkins, Federico, 2015
Alex Baczynski-Jenkins, Federico, 2015

Founded in 2007, Delfina Foundation is a London-based independent, non-profit foundation dedicated to facilitating artistic exchange and developing creative practice through residencies, partnerships and public programming. Delfina has hosted over 350 artists, curators and writers in residence from around the world, partnering with institutions such as Tate Modern, V&A, ICA, Frieze, Chisenhale and Art Jameel – a major strategic partner. Delfina’s board of trustees generously provide 20% of its annual funding, which is complemented by individual supporters, foundations, public funding and partnerships.

Arts Council England is the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspire us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2018 and 2022, we will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. www.artscouncil.org.uk

Top Photo: Paul Make, Seeking After the Fully Grown Dancer 

Dates: OPENING WEEK: 08/05 — 12/05/19

FINAL WEEKEND: 23/11 – 24/11/19

Venues: Gardens and Central Exhibition of the Giardini & Arsenale Teatro Piccolo Arsenale

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