Almost two years have passed since curator Okwui Enwezor decided to focus an entire Venice Biennale on artists whose practices were – in some way or another – political. Not too critical or overtly explicit, All the World’s Futures subtly legitimised what would become an actual trend in the arts in the years that followed. Since then, political art has been climbing the institutional ladder: from being on the fringe of the art world, it became the centre of the art world.
Even though political art has been around for the majority of the 20th century, it feels as though its ability to translate and address the complexity of our contemporary world has finally been recognised more widely, and its capacity to represent the non-linear narratives that are the fibres of our society, eventually awarded. In this time where words are often misleading and images can be deceptive and ephemeral, the art language – whose infinite materials give the ‘engager’ the freedom to interpret – has become one of the most reliable media to describe the world. And 2017 will prove that art is not only a good translator, but is also a powerful voice of its own.
Differently from other mediums, it does not always have to stick to the restricting rules of our system; it can break free from dominant ruling histories, allowing diverse and inspiring stories to be built. In light of the crises that have been bombarding us in the last few years (no, 2016 hasn’t been the only catastrophic year), the four-part group show Looking at one thing and thinking of something else allows contemporary artists to address political issues that have been at the core of this downfall. Through irony, speculative approaches, critical analysis and fictional projections, artists such as Eva and Franco Mattes, and Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme will effectively demonstrate the crucial role of contemporary art within politics.