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The distribution according to country, of part of the exhibition space at the Venice Biennale, is the origin for a political reflection on the mythical Biennale. The title that binds this edition together also begs another consideration: which “nations” are the ones that illuminate this Biennale?
Understanding the “State” as the essential element that configures the international political reality can seem indisputable. However, it is necessary to understand that the validity or durability of some received structures is not eternal.
The post-industrial society is one of large financial corporations, trans-national businesses, non-governmental organisations and international alliances “for security and peace” – read OTAN-. These and other institutions have gained an evident presence and position, insistently questioning the factual sovereignty of what has been the only holder of power since Westfalia (1648).
What is more, a commodity called “citizenship” has developed new forms of social interaction that occur across networks, far beyond the powers of the state. Information and the virtual overcome physical frontiers, conferring a fundamentally more cosmopolitan character than ever. New levels of organisation point to techno-political advances of which we have seen only the first indices, and they don’t seem to heed the concept of “nation”; pointing more to a world view based on citizenship as a conglomeration of individuals.
On the other hand, if we associate the word “nation” with that of “state”, the result is notoriously ambiguous. The exception seems to be the rule when referring to the ensuing concept (Nation-State): the quantity of deterritorialized nations, nations without State, nations dispersed across various States, multinational States (and their inevitable debates), etc., go hand in hand with the resulting “nationalisms” and their respective legitimising discourses, which, one has to say, have demonstrated since their appearance a huge capacity to adapt and resist.
All things considered, it can seem anachronistic to place the accent (illumination) on the (Nation-) States at a time when one is debating whether they have a future in a globalized world. The current times exude the constant tension between what is given and what is desired, the inherited and the present. Should the Biennale participate in the dynamics of this institutional transformation?
"A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world" (John Le Carré)