The Arena of the 56th Venice Biennale

Words by Riccardo Barluzzi
July 24, 2015

Designed by architect David Adjaye, the ARENA is a gathering-place of the spoken word, the art of the song, scores, scripts, recitals, film screenings, and public discussions devoted to diverse theories and explorations of Capital. Over the course of All the World’s Futures, artists, musicians, composers, actors, intellectuals, students, and members of the public have been invited to contribute to the program of readings and performances that will flood and suffuse surrounding galleries with voices in an epic display of orality.

The Arena rogramme includes:

Isaac Julien
Das Kapital Oratorio(live readings 30′ each)
Courtesy Galería Helga de Alvear

Daily, tree times a day

The linchpin of the ARENA program is the Das Kapital Oratorio, an epic live reading of all three volumes of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital (Capital). In this meticulously researched bibliographic project, based on the concept of the Sikh event known as the Akhand Path (a recitation of the Sikh holy book read continuously over several days by a relay of readers), Das Kapital serves as a kind of oratorio read live as a dramatic text by trained actors throughout the exhibition’s seven months’ duration. Accompanying the live reading of Marx’s seminal and still controversial book is a continuous sequence of other oral performances involving the recital of librettos, lyrics, scripts, and the like.

Conceived by Okwui Enwezor with Isaac Julien in collaboration with Mark Nash
Directed by Isaac Julien
Produced by Luz Gyalui
Research and coordination by Tim Roerig
Performed by Ivana Belac, Francesco Bianchi, Elena Bondi, Jacopo Giacomini, Caroline Jones, Jenni Lea Jones, Philip Jones, Ivan Matijašic, Andrea Romano and Steven Varni


Jason Moran & Alicia Hall Moran
Work Songs(40′)
Courtesy the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York


Jason Moran and Alicia Hall Moran’s Work Songs maps and investigates the tempos of work songs sung in prisons, fields, and houses. They have set out to map these work songs both conceptually and emotionally. In the ARENA, a solo voice performs a cycle of work songs. Additionally, at the Arsenale, Moran and The Bandwagon perform newer work songs that have been composed within the past ten years, which focus on the instrumental aspects of work songs. The melodic content embedded in these work songs expose the mantras that have assisted workers everywhere and across the ages.

Performed by Rashida Bumbray, Roosevelt André Credit, Lisa E. Harris, Steven Herring, Andrea Jones-Sojola, Alicia Hall Moran, Anthony Mills, Latasha N. Nevada Diggs, Jamet Pittman and Phumzile Sojola


Jeremy Deller
Broadsides and Ballads of the Industrial Revolution(20′)
Courtesy the artist and Hayward Gallery, London


Jeremy Deller explores the question of life and working conditions in factories, based on archival materials from the nineteenth century through the present. Deller’s work investigates such issues as the absence of workers’ rights, zero-hour contracts, scheduled work and break hours, and the concept of “work time” through the study and performance of song sheets that were once sold in the streets. These early factory songs were a cross between folk and popular music. Some lyrics are about work in general, while others address working conditions in the factories. Although known as “factory songs,” these lyrics were not likely sung inside the factories themselves, due to the deafening noise of the machinery.

Performed by Sara Bertolucci, Andrea Biscontin, Marco Cisco, Federica Delle Crode, Daniela Gungui, Michael Miazzi, Alessia Pugliati and Jennifer Reid


Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige
Latent Images: Diary of a Photographer(120′)
Courtesy Galerie In Situ Fabienne Leclerc, Paris; CRG
Gallery, New York; The Third Line, Dubai


Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige present a daily reading of their artist book Latent Images: Diary of a Photographer (2009–2015), the third part of their Wonder Beirut project. The book is based on hundreds of reels of film originally exposed, but until now never developed, by the Lebanese photographer Abdallah Farah between 1997 and 2006. Farah’s work bears witness to postwar Beirut, relaying political, social, personal, and everyday events over almost a decade. In this limited-edition volume, the image descriptions replace the photographs; short fragments of text describe the invisible images while creating a new imaginary space. A diverse group of individuals take turns reading the book with their multiplicity of voices. The point is thus to communicate a narrative orally and to displace the notion of latent image in favor of an emergence of the image through the body.

Performed by Pamela Breda, Geoffrey Carey, Joanna Kate Dolan, Nicholas Kahn, Marta Lovatto, Vito Lupo, Adriano Iurissevich, Margherita Manino, Arianna Moro, Ilona Morokina, Eva Maria Ohtonen, Sofia Pauly, Gabriel Pressman, Mattia Stasolla, Isadora Tomasi, and Antonella Tosato

For the detailed calendar please visit the 56th Venice Biennale website.

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