The 2011 Venice Biennale Gets a Name, and a Post-National Theme

The 2011 Venice Biennale Gets a Name, and a Post-National Theme

With only a little more than eight months to go before the opening ofthe 2011 Venice Biennale, its director, Bice Curiger, has begun to reveal plans for the exhibition. The show will be titled "ILLUMInations" — a play on the word"illuminations" and "nations," in case you missed that — and will be based in an impressionistic way on the work of Venetian master painter Tintoretto.

"La Biennale is one of the world's most important forums for the dissemination and 'illumination' about the current developments in international art," Curigier said in a statement. "In many contemporary artists (the ones who interest me most), I find the same search for light, both rational and febrile, that animates some of Tintoretto's later works. Tintoretto too was worried about overturning the conventions of his time, through a near reckless approach to compositionthat overturns the well-defined, classical order of the Renaissance. I am interested in the light in those paintings, which is not rational butecstatic."

In order to achieve this concept, Curigier plans to pose an artistic quiz of sorts to participants, "asking the artists from every country and the artists of ILLUMInations to answer five questions regarding thistheme." The details of this unusual curatorial questionnaire have not yet been revealed.

While the notion of having nationally-identified pavilions as theorganizational basis of the exhibition is sometimes "considered anachronistic," the curator said, she is in favor of their use. However,under her direction, the term 'nations' will apply "metaphorically to recent developments in the arts all over the world, where overlapping groups form collectives of people representing a wide variety of smaller, more local activities and mentalities." She adds that the biennale's Arsenale space, which is where work by artists of mixed nationalities are show, "offers me an opportunity to bring together the works of artists who use the space as a medium through the creation of 'para-Pavilions.'"

The 54th edition of the biennale will run from June 4 to November27, though select professionals will be granted special access to the venues — including the Giardini, the Arsenale, and other temporary exhibitions spaces that are likely to be commandeered by exhibiting parties — from June 1 to 3.

While every Venice Biennale is special in its own way, this year will mark the first time that India has participated, and could see the return of an Iraq, which has not participated in decades. Many countrieshave announced the artists they are bringing to the exhibition (seeARTINFO's full list here), though a good handful have yet to announce their picks.

Last year the biennale's top prize, the Golden Lion, went to American artist Bruce Nauman. Last month, the U.S. announcedit would defend its crown with the young duo Allora & Calzadilla.