Curating the Indigenous at the Venice Biennale: Reading Viva Arte Viva through Posthuman Theory and Indigenous Critique
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In the times of the global climate crisis, there seems to be a turn towards the Indigenous in the academia and contemporary art world. It can be linked to the theoretical movements that attempt to reposition Western power-knowledge. Postcolonialism had been addressing the lack of representation of people of colour in the knowledge production processes and exposing the power relations rooted within it. Consequently, it seeks to reposition Indigenous knowledge to the centre of knowledge production processes. Posthumanism, one of the major contemporary turns in Western thought, acknowledges the violence committed through humanism and advocates for the inclusion of missing people and missing knowledge in knowledge production processes. It rethinks and attempts to displace the binaries that define humanism and resulted in exclusion and marginalisation of other forms of knowledge. As a consequence, we can witness more and more contemporary art exhibitions where Indigenous knowledge, which is not defined by the binaries between nature and culture, reason and spirituality, is framed within the posthuman concepts. Viva Arte Viva, the central exhibition of the 57th Venice Biennale, can be seen as an example of such curatorial strategies. It attempts to rethink humanism through redefining its constructed binaries and looking for spaces in-between, and, thus, stages artworks about Indigeneity within this framework. However, Indigenous scholars argue that the lack of representation of Indigenous peoples in the discussions about Indigeneity results in the misinterpretation and misrepresentation of Indigenous cosmologies and, thus, the exploitation of Indigenous knowledge. The analysis of individual works that talk about Indigeneity in the Viva Arte Viva exhibition helps us to see the blind spots of such forms of inclusion.