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Chantal Akerman: Now, 2015, Arsenale, 56th Venice Biennale. Foto: Lotte Løvholm.

"All the World’s Futures" is Dark and Dense

All the World’s Futures is crowded, easy to get lost in, hard to comprehend. It presents one hundred thirty-six artists dealing with labour, territory, war, geo-politics, neo-liberal structures and myths. It is about several futures that are now

AF Lotte Løvholm

09.05.2015 - 22.11.2015

The light is dim in the exhibition space of curator Okwui Enwezor’s exhibition “All the World’s Futures” for the fifty-sixth Venice Biennale. In the old rope factory at Arsenale sounds of screaming birds and drone ambience coming from a five channel video installation “Now” (2015) by Chantal Akerman mix with sounds of wind bells from the twenty-four hour video work “Animatas” (2014) by Christian Boltanski shot in the otherworldly landscape of the Atacama Desert in Chile. Every once in a while Boltanski’s wind bells are interrupted by somebody pulling Hiwa K’s bell located rooms away, K’s work “The Bell” (2014-2015) consists of video projections and an ornate bell made of metal from weapons with a rope attached inviting to ring.

To this soundtrack “Souvenirs for the Landlocked” (2015) an installation by Meriç Algün Ringsborg welcomes visitors with red metal floor and curious livingroom-familiar objects, among them a Maersk blue globe on a brass stand with commercial shipping routes. In front The Propeller Group has caught the traces of bullets in the piece “The AK-47 vs The M16” (2015) with a gel sculpture presented in a vitrine and a video documentation of the shots on a screen behind. Opposite there is a model airplane workshop “Indoor Flight” (2015) by Ernesto Ballesteros where visitors are kept at a distance by low hanging ropes. The airplane modeller is around to test model airplanes with slow and patient movements: he sends off an unpainted wooden plane, the plane flies, the plane lands, he picks it up and starts the plane again. 

As a fragile component to the indoor flight session you find Ricardo Brey’s thirteen glass vitrines with meticulously placed objects in archival folders among them a bread loaf on top of two photo albums in an open cardboard archive box, on the wall behind are forty-one drawings by Jumana Emil Abboud one of them depicting a naked bold woman sitting with open legs surrounded by a sea of ducks in “Company” (2008) and on the opposite wall you find eight subtle and poetic paintings by Ji Dachun, easy to overlook in the compact and dimly lit room, one of many rooms in the massive exhibition.  

The overwhelming amount of art works on display in the packed exhibition “All the World’s Futures” are part of Enwezor’s strategy of insisting on the world’s multiplicity and density. And an awareness of one’s own position and situation of reception influenced by (in most visitors’ cases) Western art tradition could come in handy when visiting the exhibition. Enwezor represents a turning point in art history by fighting reductive ways of portraying everything that does not fit into Western historiography. He insists on decentering traditional notions of modernity by presenting several modernities. Influenced by historian Dipesh Chakrabarty Enwezor looks at modernity with the term provincial in mind and he suggests that there is no single linear timeline in modernism. The notion of contemporary art is linked to modernity and it is therefore important to look at art in a local context instead of applying a universal thought that is in fact a Western construction. Artworks are within this approach better discussed when looking specifically at the local context they are inscribed in, thereby escaping the universalism in historical experience.

There is an exit sign after an arched doorway in the room with the screaming birds, drone ambience, the globe, the model airplanes, the bells, the gel trace of bullets, the vitrines, the naked woman with the ducks, the subtle and poetic paintings. On your way to the exit your are confronted with an option of signing a contract in the Adrian Piper performance “The Probable Trust Registry: The Rules of the Game #1-3” (2013) with one of the following statements: “I will always do what I say I am going to do”, “I will always mean what I say” and “I will always be too expensive to buy”. Piper is not around and the shy Biennale staffs do not offer much more guidance than handing out an ipad with a smile asking for a signature. I sign and the printer spits out two pages: There is a second page with twelve paragraphs I have not read… Note to self: do not sign contracts when caught in an art daze. 

At this point there are still hundred twenty-six artists to go and equally as many (if not more) provincialities to engage with. The artworks in “All the World’s Futures” are in the dark and some of them are equally dark. They emphasize a state of emergency. At the fifty-sixth Venice biennale it is not about having a pleasant time: it is about dealing with the multiplicity of this world, and it is supposed to be confusing, disturbing and overwhelming. For those ready to take it in Enwezor offers a preparation for the dizzyingly density of the futures that are now and to come.

Christian Boltanski: Animatas, 2014, Arsenale, 56th Venice Biennale. Foto: Lotte Løvholm.

Meriç Algün Ringborg: Souvenirs for the Landlocked, 2015, Arsenale, 56th Venice Biennale. Foto: Lotte Løvholm.

Ricardo Brey: Asterion, 2010, Arsenale, 56th Venice Biennale. Foto: Lotte Løvholm.

The Propeller Group: The AK-47 vs The M16 2015, Arsenale, 56th Venice Biennale. Foto: Lotte Løvholm.

Adrian Piper: The Probable Trust Registry: The Rules of the Game #1-3, 2013, Arsenale, 56th Venice Biennale. Foto: Lotte Løvholm.

Adrian Piper: The Probable Trust Registry: The Rules of the Game #1-3, 2013, Arsenale, 56th Venice Biennale. Foto: Lotte Løvholm.

Arsenale All the World’s Futures work by Ibrahim Mahama: Out of Bound, 2015. Foto: Lotte Løvholm.

Central Pavilion All the World’s Futures, works by Glenn Ligon: A Small Band, 2015, and Oscar Murillo: signaling devices in now bastard territory, 2015. Foto: Lotte Løvholm.

Ernesto Ballesteros: Indoor Flight, 2015, Arsenale, 56th Venice Biennale. Foto: Lotte Løvholm.

F. Jumana Emil Abboud: Company, 2008, Arsenale, 56th Venice Biennale. Foto: Lotte Løvholm.

Hiwa K: The Bell, 2014-2015, Arsenale, 56th Venice Biennale Foto: Lotte Løvholm.

Ji Dachun: Murmur, 2015, Arsenale, 56th Venice Biennale. Foto: Lotte Løvholm.

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