May 11, 2019 marks an important day for the 58th Venice Biennale, as this is when the exhibition officially opens to the public and when the awards are being given to the most notable participants.
The pavilion of Lithuania is the 2019 recipient of the Golden Lion for Best National Participation, with their artificial beach within the Marina Militare. Artists Rugilė Barzdž iukaitė, Vaiva Grainytė and Lina Lapelytė were praised for their contemporary opera performance, curated by Lucia Pietroiusti.
Belgium’s Mondo Cane national presentation received a special mention, while the US artist Arthur Jafa was awarded the Golden Lion for the Best Participant in the International Exhibition May You Live In Interesting Times.
Praised for ”the inventive use of the venue to present a Brechtian opera as well as the Pavilion’s engagement with the city of Venice and its inhabitants,” the Lithuanian pavilion surely is one of the highlights of the 58th art exhibition in Venice.
More than 20 singers and participants in bathing suits are reenacting a leisure life within the sand-filled space, their towels laying on top of it. From the mezzanine gallery, the visitors can observe them on the beach and listen to them sing and tell their personal stories, of various kinds and never the same.
The Lithuanian performance Sun & Sea (Marina) takes place every Saturday until October 31st, 2019, and the audience can participate in it between 10 am and 6 pm, the only requirement being that they be willing to spend at least 3 consecutive hours on the beach.
That Lithuania got this prestigious prize for their marvelous theatrical and performative piece is no wonder, as the artists involved range from theatre director and filmmaker, to a poet, playwright and a writer, to a composer and a musician. On the other hand, Lucia Pietroiusti is Serpentine Galleries’s Curator of General Ecology and Live Programmes.
Commenting on the Special mention as National Participation to Belgium, the Jury of the 58th Venice Biennale said:
Unsparing in its humour, the Belgian Pavilion offered an alternative view of the under-recognised aspects of social relations across Europe. The uncanny staging of a series of fictional characters in the form of mechanised puppets based on folkloric stereotypes allow the Pavilion to act on several registers, while creating two if not more parallel realities.
For his 2019 film The White Album, which can be found in the Central Pavilion of the Giardini, Arthur Jafa was honored with the Golden Lion for the Best Participant in the International Exhibition, this year under the theme May You Live In Interesting Times. The American artist’s work was called “an essay, a poem and portraiture” reflecting upon the issue of race, but also upon our capacity for love, and the importance of family.
The Silver Lion for a Promising Young Participant in the International Exhibition went to Cyprys-born and Berlin-based Haris Epaminonda, ”for her carefully constructed constellations of images, objects, text, forms, and colours that are built out of fragmented memories, histories and imagined connections; for showing us that the personal and the historical can be compressed into a powerful yet loose web of multiple meanings.”
In April 2019, the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement of the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia was given to Jimmie Durham.
This year, two Special Mentions were also awarded to two additional participants, Teresa Margolles and Otobong Nikanga.
The Jury of the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia is comprising Stephanie Rosenthal (President of the Jury, Germany), Defne Ayas (Turkey/Netherlands), Cristiana Collu (Italy), Sunjung Kim (Korea), and Hamza Walker (USA).
Featured images: Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte, Lina Lapelyte, Sun & Sea (Marina), opera-performance, Lithuania Biennale Arte 2019, Venice. © Andrej Vasilenko.