Should art be political? In this messy Trump/Brexit/refugee zeitgeist, people look to art for answers. But what sort of answers can art provide? Curator Christine Macel’s aim with the 2017 Venice Biennale was to seemingly sidestep the contemporary politics a bit, and to instead emphasize and celebrate art itself – the creative spirit, perhaps. After all, we are more than our current divisive issues, and indeed: art binds us. But “Vive Arte Viva” while cool-sounding, is a bit formless. And she’s been criticized for not being somehow more specific, more engaged, more pointed toward the current strife around the world.
Most commentary on the fair has celebrated the more overtly political. Popular standouts include the Giardini pavilions of the US and UK (ironically enough, given how much flack these titans get internationally). These pavilions aren’t obviously political until you read the words around them – they’re both about a sort of self-flagellation. It’s cool, apparently, for imperialist countries to aim low.