The delicately decorated walls of Ca’ Giustinian resonate with words that leave no doubt about their meaning: “Stranieri Ovunque-Foreigners Everywhere” is the title of the conservative Adriano Pedrosa presented for the 60th International Art Exhibition during the last press conference of Venice Art Biennale. This title comes from the eponymous series of neon sculptures launched in 2004 by the Paris-born and based in Palermo artistic collective Claire Fontaine, a significant work whose message, even after almost two decades, has not lost its relevance.
Pedrosa, after a law degree from the Universidade Estadual do Rio de Janeiro and a master’s degree in art and critical writing from the California Institute of the Arts, began his career as an artist himself before becoming an exhibition curator. Among the most important functions held in the past, he was deputy curator of the 24th Biennale of São Paulo (1998), co-curator of the 27th Biennale of São Paulo (2006), co-curator of the 12th Biennale of Istanbul (2011). ) and curator of the São Paulo pavilion at the 9th Shanghai Biennale (2012). Since 2014 he has been artistic director of the São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand Art Museum – MASP, where his curatorial approach has mainly focused on different types of sociocultural marginalities, devoting personal exhibitions to women artists which have long been undervalued, as well as the start of the current series Stories (Histoires), with which he explored themes such as childhood (2016), sexuality (2017), the African diaspora (2018), feminism (2019) and the complexities of Brazilian history (2022).
Today, Pedrosa is the first Latin American conservative in the history of Venice Biennale and his choice of curator could not be more in dialogue with the historical and artistic phase in which we live. This edition will focus on the relativism of the concept of “foreigner”, which not only implies different incarnations of “otherness”, shifting and existing across countries, nations and borders, such as indigenous people, homosexuals, immigrants, foreigners, exiles, but affects us all indistinctly, no matter where or who we are. The exhibition will be divided into a Nucleo Contemporaneo and a Nucleo Storico: the latter will bring together works from the 20th century in Latin America, Africathe Arab world and Asia. Identity was already a central subject in That of Cécilia Alemani Biennale of Arts in 2022 and this year Venice Architecture BiennaleOrganized by Lesley Lokkohas already been an important reminder of the need for broader cultural and geographical perspectives, as Venice Biennale president Roberto Cicutto mentioned during the press conference.
Venice is the ideal setting for this exhibition, as it has hosted diasporic cultures, such as Armenian and Jewish, for centuries. It is also worth emphasizing that “Foreigners Everywhere” was announced in the midst of a socio-political and historical context that required addressing in a much more systematic way the multiple meanings of foreignness, not only in Italy but also throughout the European continent and beyond. Pedrosa himself reminded us that “Stranieri Ovunque” was originally the name of a Turincollective based on the fight against racism and xenophobia in the early 2000s: apparently, many things have not changed, or even gotten worse from this point of view, but the stories and practices around the world art The world has changed profoundly since then.
From an Italian perspective, it is interesting to note that Pedrosa also stated that a special section of the Nucleo Storico would be dedicated to the Italian artistic diaspora that invested in several countries in and outside Europe in the 20th century .th century. It should be remembered that Italy has long been affected by the phenomenon of emigration, causing the displacement of approximately 12 million people between the last decades of the 19thth century and the 70s. This happened not only for economic reasons, but also political ones, involving artists and intellectuals, especially under the fascist regime of the 20s and 30s: it quickly became clear that this phenomenon would have could lead to particular identity dynamics. An emblematic example that Pedrosa did not mention, but which could be particularly relevant, is the case of Lucio Fontana (1899-1968), whose cultural heritage is still controversial between Argentinathe place where he was born and spent part of his life, and Italy, where his family came from and where he later returned to become the founder of spatialism and one of the greatest sculptors of the 20th century .th century.
At this point we could also mention another important artist of the recent past, the Lithuanian filmmaker, poet and artist Jonas Mekas (1922-2019), who was forced to leave his country for political reasons to become a refugee in the Netherlands . UNITED STATES in the late 1940s. Mekas said of himself that, despite the metropolitan context in which most of his works came to life, he was still a “farmer” deep in his soul. If an overlap of different cultural and geographical influences is already part of the life of every human being, artists who cross borders and even the most distant corners of the world continue to show us in a significant way that the precariousness and marginality that have characterized their lives, as well as the connection with their roots, are among the main reasons that made their research valuable and unique.
In conclusion, we had the opportunity to ask Adriano Pedrosa a question about the role of empathy in contemporary art and whether it could become relevant at the 2024 Venice Art Biennale. He responded by saying that he really hopes that this will be seen as part of the message since the existence of the foreign, the queer and the outsider can no longer be left on the sidelines. .