Okwui Enwezor

Steve McQueen, Once 
upon a Time, 2002, 116 35-mm slides digitized for projection, sound, 70 minutes. From “The Encyclopedic Palace.”

UNDER THE RUBRIC “The Encyclopedic Palace,” curator Massimiliano Gioni has proposed a tantalizing vision for the Venice Biennale: Forsaking the field of art as the locus and playground of commerce, financial speculation, and inflated economic value, the grand international exhibition’s fifty-fifth iteration instead attends faithfully to the complex terrain of pure imaginative invention. Two tracks of thinking are immediately apparent in Gioni’s thesis. The first focuses on the microcosmologies of “outsiders,” while the second develops along a more conventional path of ethnographic realism. Spread across two venues—the Giardini’s Central Pavilion and the Arsenale—and freed of any requirement to adhere strictly to the category of art, myriad exemplars of each of these interests permit an in-depth exploration of the wild imagination at work. Yet the pedantic degree to

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