Katy Siegel

Francis Alÿs, Politics of Rehearsal, 2007, stills from a black-and-white video, 30 minutes. From “Think with the Senses, Feel with the Mind: Art in the Present Tense,” Arsenale.

IF THE VENICE BIENNALE is still a treasure trove of trends for early adapters, look for cutting-edge art and fashion this year to feature . . . Harry Truman. Two artists as different as Francis Alÿs and Louise Bourgeois—Alÿs in a video that samples a Truman speech, Bourgeois in a series of blue marker drawings called Untitled (Harry Truman), 2005—refer to the little haberdasher, hardly the kind of figure usually called upon to electrify an artistic experience. Why Harry Truman? Why now?

In 1945, Truman’s presidency inaugurated the two decades that make up the short American century, a golden age when the US was economically flush and culturally thriving, and when, in the eyes of many, the country held the moral high ground, in contrast to a disgraced Europe. Of course, the shining promise always masked a darker reality: the atomic bombs Truman dropped on Japan, and the

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