Rainy Weather Curtails the Venice Biennale’s Inaugural Performance Program

Artists Victoria Sin and Paul Maheke's outdoor work is postponed at the last minute due to safety concerns but the show is due to go on tomorrow.

Victoria Sin, If I had the words to tell you we wouldn't be here now (2019). Chi-Wen Gallery. Photo Ivy Tzai.

The weather has played havoc with the Venice Biennale’s inaugural performance program. Shortly after the US artist boychild performed her Untitled Hand Dance (2019), activating the little-used space of the Arsenale’s garden, rain forced the postponement of Victoria Sin and Paul Maheke’s scheduled performances this afternoon, May 8. The artists took the disappointment in their stride, and are hoping for less precipitation and more sunshine later this week.  

The program is an innovative strand of artistic director Ralph Rugoff’s main exhibition, “May You Live in Interesting Times.” The Biennale decided that it was unsafe for the two performances to go ahead because of the risk posed by sound equipment, a spokesperson for the Delfina Foundation tells artnet News. The London-based foundation co-organized the performance program  with the Biennale. 

A performer activate Suki Seokyeong Kang's Land Sand Strand (2016-2019). Photo by Naomi Rea.

A performer activate Suki Seokyeong Kang’s Land Sand Strand (2016-2019). Photo by Naomi Rea.

The program kicked off successfully this morning, with performers activating the South Korean artist Suki Seokyeong Kang’s Land Sand Strand inside the main exhibition at the Arsenale. Meanwhile, performances by the  Korean-Canadian artist Zadie Xa and Angola-born Nástio Mosquito attracted audiences in the Giardini.

The weather took a turn for the worse at around 4 p.m., however. It began to rain shortly before the outdoor performances in the Arsenale garden were slated to begin. While boychild’s delicate performance of hand movements exploring the hands as a signifier of class and gender was able to go ahead because of its acoustic nature, the two remaining outdoor performances were called off.

“The rain today was a good reminder that art can’t have it all,” Maheke says. “It’s a bummer it had to be canceled but I very much look forward to tomorrow’s performance,” the France-born, British-based artist adds. Maheke’s performance Seeking After the Fully Grown Dancer *deep within* is based on a dance technique called “authentic movement,” which the artist performs as a solo dance while speaking to the audience. 


Paul Maheke, Seeking After the Fully Grown Dancer *deep within* (2016-18). Courtesy the artist and Galerie Sultana, Paris.

Sin is due to perform If I had the words to tell you we wouldn’t be here now, a drag performance engaging how assumptions embedded in the English language serve to create identities or reaffirm existing categories. “We’re disappointed about the cancellation which was out of our control,” Sin says.

The artists are expected to perform at the same time on Thursday and Friday. So far, the weather forecast is looking better for tomorrow, although storms are expected on Friday.

Scheduled performance by duo Florence Peake & Eve Stainton went ahead this evening because it was staged safely inside the Arsenale’s Teatro Piccolo. Readings by Tomás Saraceno, performances by Alex Baczynski-Jenkins, and Tarek Atoui are also due to take place during the Biennale’s preview week.

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