Time travel, dying worlds, AI: the most futuristic pavilions at the Venice Biennale

Science fiction and the climate crisis, humans and AI, revolutions past and present, meet at this year’s Venice Biennale (often called the “Olympic Games of the Art World” because of its scale and importance). The 59th edition will open on April 23 and will run until November 27, featuring work by 213 artists from 58 countries.

The main show’s theme is The Milk of Dreams, after a book by Leonora Carrington in which the surrealist artist describes “a magical world where life is constantly rethought … where everyone can change, be transformed.”

The national pavilions also draw on this theme, imagining a world without us and exploring contemporary ideas about science and myth; question definitions of “human beings” and “evolution”. See five of the most futuristic pavilions.

We walked the earth

Centaurs lie wounded, mutated, dying, in the Danish pavilion.  It is not clear what happened to them and the world they live in.  (Marco Cappelletti)
Centaurs lie wounded, mutated, dying, in the Danish pavilion. It is not clear what happened to them and the world they live in. (Marco Cappelletti)

The Danish Pavilion invites the public to step into an eerie world where elements of idyllic farm life merge with elements of sci-fi to form a haunting picture of an uncertain future. We Walked the Earth presents a centaur family of three. In one room, the man has died by suicide and is hanging from a chain hanging from the ceiling. In the adjacent room, the female lies on the floor and gives birth to a baby who appears to be of a different race.

The art is a reflection of life, death and the uncertainties that surround life on Earth, said artist Uffe Isolotto. As visitors walk through these spaces, they can see the family’s belongings, food, and equipment. It is not clear what happened to them and the world they live in.

Scattered Impressions

AI directs part of the show in the Croatian pavilion. Tomo Savić-Gecan’s untitled performative artwork is designed for the post-truth era.

It concerns five performers who receive instructions from an AI algorithm four times a day. The instructions are shaped by what has made headlines around the world. The performers go where the AI ​​directs them and pop up unpredictably in other pavilions and exhibition spaces. They position themselves according to the AI’s instructions, down to the details of how to move and even what to think about.

What does it mean to be human, the project wonders, at a time when technological systems are effectively burying objective facts, even as our responses to the “alternative facts” presented are tracked and mined?

Visitors can experience the project without realizing it. For those who want to look it up, the Croatian Pavilion and its website provide real-time updates.

2011 1848

This exhibition by Stan Douglas unfolds in two locations that together form the Canadian Pavilion. The first exhibition consists of four large depictions of events in 2011: the Arab Spring; the aftermath of the Stanley Cup riots in Vancouver; youth and police clash in Hackney during London riots; and the containment of Occupy Wall Street protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge.

The second exhibition is a video installation in a 16th-century salt warehouse, focusing on music as a form of transnational cultural resistance.

As the title suggests, 2011 ≠ 1848 compares and contrasts the events of 2011 with those of 1848, a year of populist revolts that began in Sicily and France and then spread across Europe, aiming to overthrow monarchies and replace republics. to found. The central question of the project is how generational differences in information dissemination can influence the course of an uprising. It was the print media in 1848, social media in 2011.

The Sami Pavilion

The Scandinavian Pavilion (representing Sweden, Finland and Norway) has been renamed this time in recognition of the indigenous Sámi people who were the original inhabitants of Sápmi or Lapland. The art on display, by the artists Pauliina Feodoroff, Máret Anne Sara and Anders Sunna, speaks of the massacre wrought by the opposing Sámi by Scandinavian colonialists.

Sara’s two-part sculpture, for example, is composed of the stomach and tendons of reindeer, important animals in Sami culture, marked with two scents, one intended to evoke fear, the other hope. Sunna’s painting Illegal Spirits of Sápmi (2022) charts the legal battle that the Sámi have fought for over 50 years to retain the right to their traditional practice of reindeer herding. Sunna comes from a family of forest reindeer herders.

The fate of the comets

History of the Night in the Italian Pavilion consists of static scenes representing post-industrial decay.  (Andrea Avezzu)
History of the Night in the Italian Pavilion consists of static scenes representing post-industrial decay. (Andrea Avezzu)

The two-part project on display in the Italian Pavilion is titled History of the Night and Fate of the Comets. Gian Maria Tosatti’s walk-through installation uses the rise and fall of industrial Italy as a metaphor for man’s relationship with nature.

The first part, History of the Night, resembles a series of warehouses with tools, old machines and tables, all of which are reminiscent of post-industrial decay. The dimly lit second part, Fate of the Comets, has flashing lights representing the light at the end of the tunnel, contrasted with the nothingness of the rest of the room, a metaphor for an unknown future.


The pandemic has meant: that the Venice Biennale was postponed for the first time since 1944 (from 2021), and only the second time ever.

It is a predominantly female biennial, with 191 of the 213 artists being women.

Five countries are participating for the first time: the Republic of Cameroon, Namibia, Nepal, the Sultanate of Oman and Uganda.

Russian Pavilion has been left empty after the curator and artists withdrew to protest the war in Ukraine. The Ukrainian pavilion is occupied by artist Pavlo Makov with his Fountain of Exhaustion, an installation that has taken on additional significance since it was also seen in Kiev at the start of the Russian invasion in February.

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