Cecilia Alemani’s 2022 Venice Biennale Will Explore the Power of the Human Imagination to Adapt to a Changing Planet

The exhibition's title "The Milk of Dreams" is inspired by surrealist artist Leonora Carrington.

Cecilia Alemani. Photo by Andrea Avezzù Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia.
Cecilia Alemani. Photo by Andrea Avezzù Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia.

The curator and artistic director of the next Venice Biennale, Cecilia Alemani, has announced the title and theme of the 59th edition of the prestigious international art exhibition.

The biennale will be titled “The Milk of Dreams,” a name borrowed from a book by the surrealist artist Leonora Carrington. While living in Mexico in the 1950s, the artist invented and illustrated a series of mysterious tales which, according to Alemani, describe “a magical world where life is constantly re-envisioned through the prism of the imagination, and where everyone can change, be transformed, become something and someone else.”

The exhibition, which Alemani promises will take us on an equally imaginative and transformative journey, will run in Venice from April 23 through November 27 in 2022. It was originally slated to take place this year but was pushed back due to the public health situation.

Roberto Cicutto and Cecilia Alemani. Photo by Andrea Avezzù Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia.

Roberto Cicutto and Cecilia Alemani. Photo by Andrea Avezzù Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia.

Alemani, who is the first Italian woman and the fifth woman ever to helm the prestigious event, announced the details this morning, June 9, with the biennale’s president Roberto Cicutto.

The curator said in a statement that the exhibition concept has been grounded in conversations she has had with artists since she was named to the role last January.

“The questions that kept emerging seem to capture this moment in history, when the very survival of the species is threatened, but also to sum up doubts that pervade the sciences, arts, and myths of our time,” Alemani said. “How is the definition of the human changing? What constitutes life, and what differentiates animals, plants, humans, and non-humans? What are our responsibilities towards the planet, other people, and the other organisms we live with? And what would life and the Earth look like without us?”

Alemani said that the exhibition will focus on three primary themes: the representation of bodies and their metamorphoses; the relationship between individuals and technologies; and the connection between bodies and the Earth.

She also expanded on the links to Carrington’s mysterious tales that have served as a jumping off point for the concept. “Told in a dreamlike style that seemed to terrify young and old alike, Carrington’s stories describe a world set free, brimming with possibilities,” Alemani said. “But it is also the allegory of a century that imposed intolerable pressure on the individual, forcing Carrington into a life of exile: locked up in mental hospitals, an eternal object of fascination and desire, yet also a figure of startling power and mystery, always fleeing the strictures of a fixed, coherent identity.”

The biennial’s president Cicutto said in a statement that Alemani’s concept ties in with the title of the ongoing architecture biennale in Venice, “How will we live together?” 

These two choices are the product of the current times, which lack all certainty and burden humanity with immense responsibilities,” he said. Following a temporary exhibition investigating the history of the biennale last summer, which Alemani co-curated, the president added that the starting point for the next biennale seems to be “the reinvention of new and more sustainable relations between individuals and the universe we live in.”


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