Doomsday and disorder

A flaming fountain of fire could be an apt summary for the mood of the past two years. This image, from a video installation by French-Swiss artist Julian Charrière, is in a group exhibition of 11 artists responding to the phenomena which have ravaged society and the planet in recent decades, from environmental destruction to economic inequality and racism. The artists have turned to the concept of entropy, the thermodynamic principle which defines disorder and unpredictability within a system. Visions of chaos range from Si On’s “Doomsday”, a polemic against mass consumption in the form of a giant wave of discarded clothing, to Oliver Beer’s playful installation of microphones in hollow vessels. KF

Biennale newcomers

A man in a long white thawb tunic looking cautiously at the camera next to a large painted pink goat
Anwar Sonya in his studio in Oman © David Levene

Eight countries will stage national pavilions at the Biennale for the first time. Among the newcomers are Kyrgyzstan, whose immersive installation “Gates of Turan” by Tehran-born artist Firouz FarmanFarmaian, is housed in a yurt and explores nomadic identity, and Oman, which debuts with an exhibition tracing 50 years of the sultanate’s contemporary art and includes the final works of the late sound artist Raiya Al Rawahi. Multimedia artist Tsherin Sherpa will use the inaugural Nepal pavilion as a chance to break down the country’s stereotype as a mythical utopia, while Kampala-based artists Acaye Kerunen and Collin Sekajugo, representing Uganda, turn attention to local craft traditions and interrogate the western dominance of mainstream culture. KF

Crystal trees

The interior of a church is dotted with white textured glass tubes sitting on short wooden planks
‘Trees Grow from the Sky’ (2022) by Rony Plesl © Petr Krejci; Rony Plesl

The Biennale returns with a lively programme of exhibitions beyond the Giardini and Arsenale, offering dialogues between contemporary art and Venetian architecture. One of the most unusual visual contrasts this year is located at the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Visitazione, where a glowing crystal forest stands in the 15th-century church. These are no divine apparitions, but rather the work of Czech glass sculptor Rony Plesl, who draws attention to the material’s sublime qualities by using fluorescent uranium glass. Four sculptures bearing the imprint of an 80-year-old oak tree and bas-relief figures of Christ ponder the themes of transformation and transcendence which animate this early-Renaissance space. KF

A cosmic journey

A hand reaches out from a large pile of charcoal on a gold-scattered plain
Still from ‘Liquid Light’ (2022) by Lita Albuquerque © Courtesy the artist

Los Angeles artist Lita Albuquerque will be questioning our place in the universe during the Biennale. Her exploration of the cosmos takes a literal turn in Liquid Light, featuring a film which tells of a female astronaut who spreads arcane knowledge along her celestial travels. Communication, and its ultimate failure, is subsequently imagined as a journey across a remote landscape, shot on location in Bolivia. This “multi-dimensional” event includes an installation in collaboration with Venetian artisans and dance performances by Jasmine Albuquerque, the artist’s daughter. KF

Art from war

A woman in military fatigues with a machine gun hanging down her back turns to look at the camera
‘The war diary. February-April, 2022. Kyiv’ (2022) by Yevgenia Belorusets © Courtesy the artist

While many artists and curators are engaging with this edition’s surrealist theme, “The Milk of Dreams”, some are confronting the nightmare of war. Instead of their usual Future Generation Art Prize show, the PinchukArtCentre and Victor Pinchuk Foundation will present an exhibition dedicated to Ukrainian art which reflects on the current Russian invasion. The work of Yevgenia Belorusets, Nikita Kadan and Lesia Khomenko, who have all borne witness to the recent destruction, will be shown alongside historical Ukrainian art. A number of international artists including Marina Abramović, Olafur Eliasson and Takashi Murakami proclaim their solidarity by presenting their own takes on the horrors of war. KF

Space to feel

A woman in a red dress holding a machete look down severely at the camera in front of a high hedge
Still from ‘Lagareh — The Last Born’ (2022) by Alberta Whittle © Jaryd Niles-Morris

The Scotland + Venice partnership presents Alberta Whittle, who makes empathy the focus of her mixed-media exhibition, created collaboratively with other artists and performers. Working with tapestry, film and sculpture, Whittle makes her Barbadian heritage a backdrop for reflections on parallels between historic and contemporary expressions of racism, colonialism and police brutality. She wants viewers to slip out of the “apathy and numbness” that such themes can instil and instead provide “a space for people to feel”. Whittle’s film also will be screened in cinemas across Scotland. DD

Clay and opulence

A man scattering red pigment from his red hand on to a large red circle
Bosco Sodi making work for the Palazzo Vendramin Grimani © Andrea Avezzù

Visitors to the Grand Canal will notice rows of red, raw spheres lining the ground floor of the Palazzo Vendramin Grimani. They are the work of Mexican artist Bosco Sodi: he has created 195 clay objects, part of an installation that examines cultural and commercial exchanges through the raw, unprocessed materials he uses. The coarse, textured surfaces and vivid pigments of his paintings are juxtaposed with the opulent rooms of the piano nobile, representing a reversal of a historically one-way flow of trade and materials between Europe and the Americas. DD

Shine bright

A man sitting on a ladder in front of a series of paintings which look like the sky
Ugo Rondinone © Don Stahl

Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone is among the artists contrasting contemporary ideas and historic settings. In Venice he engages with notions of the sublime in response to the 13th-century architecture of the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista. Rondinone always offers reflections on nature and humanity in bold, expressive ways and in burn shine fly he promises more of this with new sculptures. “The work should dazzle us and send us into a deep reflection about the marvels and mysteries of life,” he says. DD

Lebanese eggsploration

Greyscale graphic of an egg shape with the centre cut out
Aline Asmar d’Amman’s design for the Lebanese pavilion seen from above

An egg-like structure acts as a symbol of hope for a city ravaged by catastrophe — this is the idea behind the architecture of the Lebanese pavilion, designed by Beirut-born architect Aline Asmar d’Amman. She has built a brutalist oval shell that will be housed under the roof of the Arsenale to evoke both the “unwavering hope” of the Lebanese people and Beirut’s streets, which seem under constant construction and renewal. The works of two artists — an installation by Ayman Baalbaki and a film by Danielle Arbid — will feature in the space, examining the urban character of Beirut and its people in response to crises and instability. DD

Nature, ethics and aesthetics

Fifteen people, mostly submerged in a river up to their heads, look at the camera intently
Still from ‘Hik Bersamak: Indigenous Pop!’ (2022) by Projek Rabak © Projek Rabak

The relationship between humans and nature is scrutinised from the perspective of indigenous people in this exhibition, with works from Malaysian artists and members of the Semai tribe. The pieces in Pera + Flora + Fauna invite conversations about indigeneity and nature in relation to ethics and aesthetics: who owns nature; who controls indigenous history and narratives; and the impact of industrialised cultures on the environment. An on-site performances looks at the connection between movement and spirituality based on Malay traditional healing rituals. DD

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