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In Venice: 73 international artists on climate change and environmental crisis
Installation image of Artists Need to Create on the Same Scale that Society Has the Capacity to Destroy: Mare Nostrum, Collateral Event of La Biennale Venezia 58th International Art Exhibition, May 8 - November 24, 2019. Photo courtesy of the artists and the Brooklyn Rail. Photo by Samuele Cherubini.

VENICE.- On the occasion of the 58th International Art Exhibition—La Biennale di Venezia—the promoter the Brooklyn Rail and the curators Phong Bui and Francesca Pietropaolo are organizing an official Collateral Event that addresses the environmental crisis in the age of climate change. The exhibition, Artists Need to Create on the Same Scale that Society Has the Capacity to Destroy: Mare Nostrum, brings together 73 artists whose selected works in a wide range of media invite critical awareness on the fragility of nature and human life while poetically invoking the regeneration of living systems. The exhibition has been installed in the Chiesa delle Penitenti, an 18th-century church located in the Cannaregio section of Venice. 1001 Stories for Survival, an interdisciplinary program of free public conversations with artists, scientists, scholars, and writers, poetry readings, and musical performances that will take place during the run of the Biennale Arte 2019, from 11 May – 24 November, 2019.

Positioned in the central space of the church, Wolfgang Laib’s installation Passageway (2013) sets the exhibition’s prevailing meditative tone as it offers a poetic rumination on the human being’s fleeting journey in life. Lauren Bon’s site-specific installation Inverted Mediterranean Pine (2019), made of papier-mâché, and painted with carbon sourced from the recent California wildfires, is poised over a pre-existing hole in the church floor, revealing the foundation and lagoon beneath. Bon’s sound-scape, Oratorio Mare Nostrum, (2019), also produced for this show, connects the lagoon and the moon cycles in a layered aural map of the Mediterranean Sea. Her sculpture St. Jerome’s Study (2007-2019) recalls themes of translation and obliteration, while drawing attention to the threat of oil spills on our sea. Shoja Azari and Shahram Karimi’s video projection on painting, Untitled: Meditation on Water Surface (2007), invokes a quiet moment of contemplation. While exploring the relationship between nature and technology, Julian Charrière’s new work from his ongoing series Metamorphism (2016–2019) poignantly amplifies the subjects of ephemerality and transformation. Shirin Neshat’s video Sarah (2016) creates a physical and emotional landscape, where the relationship between Woman and water is powerfully brought to the fore.

The Brooklyn Rail journal—a radical and free publication based in New York City—will be present with its staff during the course of the exhibition. The Brooklyn Rail team will recreate its “social environment” in Venice where it will produce its monthly issues as well as an issue of the River Rail, an offshoot of the Brooklyn Rail, focusing on the condition of the Mediterranean Sea by documenting our public programming. Presented within the Brooklyn Rail’s working space are Phong Bui’s portraits In Conversation #1 (2011–2019), calling forth the cultural significance of creative individuals, while evoking a democratic vista spanning generations, genders, races, and disciplines, as well as The Wall of Offering: To Venice With Love (2019), an altar-like installation of paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculptures by a wide range of established and emerging artists such as Yasi Alipour, Dana Buhl, Alex Katz, Jonas Mekas, Nathlie Provosty, Ugo Rondinone, Cordy Ryman, Amy Sillman, Jack Whitten and Lisa Yuskavage, among many others including Kiki Smith, whose sculpture of a young woman, Singer (2008), symbolically welcomes all viewers. The Wall of Offering invokes the spirit of cross-pollination that characterizes the collective energy of the Brooklyn Rail. Other works in this space include Newton Harrison’s video of lectures A Meditation on the Mediterranean (2019), his Book of Lagoons (1974–1984), and Lauren Bon’s Honey Collection from the Environmentally Endangered Mediterranean Countries (2008–ongoing).

On view in the courtyard is Lauren Bon’s neon work Artists Need to Create on the Same Scale that Society Has the Capacity to Destroy (2019), from which this exhibition takes inspiration, as well as Maya Lin’s Water Water Everywhere, Not a Drop to Drink (2019), a site-specific installation of blown-glass dew droplets, poetically encapsulates the theme of water.

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