Alongside Gian Maria Tosatti, if by sheer scale alone, there's another artist that has put their stamp all over the 2022 Venice Biennale, it's Simone Leigh.
Art, as we know, is often called upon to represent the world around us.
Sometimes, it represents the world as the artist sees it, but other times, it requires the artist to make a leap and represent something that they would like to see.
Themes of identity, of autonomy, of self expression have consistently been presented at the Biennale over recent years.
This year, female artists represent the bulk of exhibiting artists, for the first time in all the Biennale's 59 editions.
Artists around the world are doing their bit to represent the world as they would like to see it.
This includes addressing the chauvanistic and Eurocentric nature that underlines a lot of history and societal thinking.
The exhibitions in the New Zealand and Israeli pavilions are just two among many that speak to the lack in the historical record of certain segments of the population. You know, the people that make daily life possible, that you and I are surrounded by, that we know, but that are never deemed worthy of being entered into the historical record.
With Sovereignty, Simone Leigh addresses a similar issue; the gaping lack in the historical narrative when it comes to people of colour, and specifically to women of colour.
Without that lineage and the merit that history confers, we have been led to believe that women of colour were invisibles, and that as invisibles, need(ed) no say in how to run their own lives.
To correct this inaccuracy, Leigh has essentially embarked on a mission to reinvent history through art, doing so on mostly on a monumental scale.
Her artworks for the Biennale immortalise women of colour, who are engaged in both the sacred and the mundane.
Their roles and rites, which have traditionally been overlooked and omitted from the collective narrative, are finally being given their just recognition, on a scale that is designed to make up for our past shortcomings.
Not even the US pavilion, replete with its neo classical facade, is big enough, nor up to the task of containing these women, whose toil is far more significant than we were ever prepared to admit.
Their presence is such that the exhibition spills out (and over) the US pavilion, essentially ensuring that this time around, they will be heard, they will be seen, and they will be noted.
Sovereignty is essentially the right of self determination.
Its what nation states covet and what certain segments of our population take for granted.
But for others, sovereignty has to be fought for at a personal level.
Enter Simone Leigh, who, adds a momumental scale to the cause, occasionally using materials we might otherwise associate with domestic areas and domestic chores (blue porcelain).
And somewhere along the way, during her bid to begin filling in the gaps in the historical record, Leigh has also walked away with the Golden Lion for her participation in the main show.
Another moment of history being made.
You'll need a ticket to Giardini to see this exhibition.
Simone Leigh's monumental sculpture is also on show at Arsenale in the main exhibition.
Artist; Simone Leigh
Curator; Eva Respini
Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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