to mark the 125th anniversary of its foundation, la biennale di venezia presents le muse inquiete (the disquieted muses). when la biennale meets history — an exhibition by the historical archives of contemporary arts (ASAC) held in the central pavilion of the giardini della biennale from now through december 8, 2020. with a design conceived by formafantasma, the exhibition marks the first to be curated by all the artistic directors of la biennale’s six departments. together, they have used the sources of the historical archives of la biennale and other italian and international archives to retrace key moments of the 20th century when the biennale crossed paths with the history of venice. the venice architecture biennale, which was originally scheduled for 2020, has been postponed until 2021 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

disquieted muses
le muse inquiete (the disquieted muses). when la biennale meets history, exhibition view
all images by marco cappelletti, courtesy la biennale di venezia

 

 

for the exhibition, the directors have chosen to present rare footage, first-hand accounts, and a range of artworks to examine the many times when the history of la biennale has overlapped with that of the world — revealing or generating institutional rifts and political and ethical crises, but also new creative languages. formafantasma has organized the show to weave through the rooms of the central pavilion, covering all six disciplines — from fascism (1928-1945) to the cold war and new world order (1948-1964), to the unrest of ’68 and the biennales chaired by carlo ripa di meana (1974-78), then from the postmodernism to the first architecture biennale and until the 1990s, and the beginning of globalization.

disquieted muses

 

 

through their collaborative research, cecilia alemani (art), alberto barbera (cinema), marie chouinard (dance), ivan fedele (music), antonio latella (theatre), and hashim sarkis (architecture) take visitors on a journey through the archive of la biennale di venezia. highlighting key moments when profound cultural transformations reshaped the boundaries of the venetian institution, the show testifies to the vital role that it has played at the most critical junctures, and how it has come face to face with history.

 

as an arena for diplomatic maneuvers and political alliances in the first half of the 20th century, la biennale was visited by monarchs, dictators, heads of state, and revolutionaries, but also by protests and celebrations where the arts echoed cultural paradigm shifts. in 1920 and 1948, la biennale rose from the ashes of two devastating world wars. in the 1960s and 70s the venetian institution was rocked by a wave of social and political transformation that redefined the relationship between the individual and the masses. in the 90s, after the collapse of the cold war blocs, la biennale adopted new artistic languages that opened its doors to new geopolitical influences

disquieted muses

 

 

in presenting the exhibition, roberto cicutto, president of la biennale di venezia, expressed his gratitude ‘for the generous support that the directors and staff of the historical archives and the entire biennale have given to this project, parallel to their work on the exhibitions and festivals. it is one that bolsters la biennale’s role as a hub of research in the contemporary arts, a fundamental driving force for investigating the present and future, and a strategic tool for development, even in terms of economic growth.’

disquieted muses

 

 

the displays designed by formafantasma are based on unpainted frames and tables in plywood, together with colored textiles and black and white prints of photos and documents sourced from la biennale’s archives. this modular system allows for different compositions to adapt to the various spaces of the central pavilion, adding a three-dimensional quality to the bi-dimensional works on show. the modules are connected by the use of brass inches, creating small booths for the display of sound pieces and video projections. meanwhile, the monochromatic pictures and documents also work as architectural elements to divide the space and provide a more intuitive understanding of the curatorial themes. the intervention on the building façade exemplifies this attitude — formafantasma selected six different historical photos staring from 1897, documenting how the pavilion hosting the show has been modified over the years to adapt to the styles and politics of the different eras. the exhibition is based on the possibility of demounting, repairing and eventually recomposing the structures in different arrangements for future archival exhibitions.

disquieted muses

 

 

in a period of global instability that has brought environmental disaster, a pandemic, and social revolutions, la biennale di venezia not only serves as a channel for the most innovative currents in the artistic realm, but also continues to bear witness to the many shifts that have shaped history.

disquieted muses

'disquieted muses' opens at la biennale di venezia with exhibition design by formafantasma

'disquieted muses' opens at la biennale di venezia with exhibition design by formafantasma

'disquieted muses' opens at la biennale di venezia with exhibition design by formafantasma

'disquieted muses' opens at la biennale di venezia with exhibition design by formafantasma

'disquieted muses' opens at la biennale di venezia with exhibition design by formafantasma

'disquieted muses' opens at la biennale di venezia with exhibition design by formafantasma

'disquieted muses' opens at la biennale di venezia with exhibition design by formafantasma

'disquieted muses' opens at la biennale di venezia with exhibition design by formafantasma

'disquieted muses' opens at la biennale di venezia with exhibition design by formafantasma

'disquieted muses' opens at la biennale di venezia with exhibition design by formafantasma

 

 

 

 

exhibition info: 

 

title: le muse inquiete (the disquieted muses). when la biennale meets history 

presented by: la biennale di venezia

with: the historical archives of contemporary arts – ASAC

location: central pavilion, giardini della biennale

dates: august 29 – december 8, 2020

exhibition design: formafantasma

exhibition photography: marco cappelletti, courtesy la biennale di venezia