PRINT September 2019

Venice 2019

Ed Atkins, Untitled, 2018, HD video, color, sound, 16 minutes. From the series “Old Food,” 2017–19.

The malediction “May you live in interesting times,” adopted by curator Ralph Rugoff as the title of this year’s Venice Biennale, implies that epochs of strife and catastrophe have one saving grace: They’re never dull. But Wagner fans will tell you that even a Götterdämmerung has its longueurs—and in the Lithuanian pavilion, ERIKA BALSOM writes, the Golden Lion-winning opera Sun & Sea (Marina) envisions apocalypse as a boring afternoon at the beach: “While the world dies, we remain inert, basking in the burning sun.”

Here, art historians CLAIRE BISHOP, JANET KRAYNAK, and Balsom reckon with a Biennale whose stealth leitmotif—the drone, a technology whose name connoted monotony before it was associated with ultraviolence—is an eerily fitting Valkyrie for our twilight of the gods.