The artists to discover at the Venice Biennale

Internet-based identity, emotions exposed with yarn and otherworldly theatre at the sinking city’s art haven

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Roxman Gatt
courtesy of Roxman Gatt

This year has not one, not two, but three major biennials on. Alongside the controversial Documenta in Athens and Kassel and the sculpture biennial curated by Kasper König in Munster, there is the regular big boy Venice. Like the Eurovision Song Contest, La Biennale is all about good surprises. Up until November, these are ten artists to search out in the sinking city.

JEREMY SHAW

Berlin-based Canadian artist Shaw makes work about euphoria and the inability to express that other worldly experience in art. With work ranging from video installations of people on DMT to surreal sci-fi films of post human religious ecstasy, his new film being debuted at Venice should be a stand out choice. Also on show are a selection of his psychedelic wall pieces, where fractured experience is paralleled in prismic formations over found photo imagery. Smart, weird and always absorbing.

AHMET OGUT

Turkish artist Ahmet Ogut, whose past projects have included a moving university where all the professors are refugees, is creating an installation for the NSK pavilion – one of the more political collateral events during the biennale. NSK, who are launching their project with a lecture by Slavoj Zizek, was founded in 1992 by the collective Neue Slowenische Kunst, who did not want be identified with any existing nation state (and have issued their own passports for citizens including John Baldessari and Boris Groys).

SASHA PIROGOVA

Pirogova’s project for the Russian pavilion is part of a labyrinthine exhibition based on the idea of the ‘theatre of the world’. Pirogova’s section will be a video performance work about ritual, darkness and eternal life. Fingers crossed its like her haunting piece “Movements”, where classical sculptures moved around like they had come to eerie life.

ROXMAN GATT

You’ve got to love an artist who proclaims their interests as “Technology, love, sadness, popular and low culture, humans/robots, aliens, and avatars”. Her work is equally as informed by the virtual pages on our blue screens as feminism and the consumption of women in pop culture, resulting in everything from poetry to beautiful abstract digital paintings.

DINEO SESHEE BOPAPE

The Ukrainian Future Generation Prize founded by the Pinchuk Foundation is always a highlight at Venice for younger artists, and this year is no different. The winner of this edition is Dineo Seshee Bopape, who creates multimedia installations with everything from feathers to the kitchen sink thrown in. Other must-see artists on show are Martine Syms, Njideka Akunyili Crosby and special prize winner, Kenyan-British artist Phoebe Boswell.

NEOTERISMOI TOUMAZOU

Sitting firmly amongst fashion, art, and architecture, this Nicosia-based collective’s work feels so damn fresh we all know why artists are flocking to Greece. Their timely work looks at the ruins of contemporary culture – and what could feel more now than their run down installation spaces with a dose of political activism? The Cyprus in Venice show is curated by hot critic Jan Verwoert, so should definitely be seen. If not, you can always get some nice conceptual knitwear on their site.

LARRY ACHIAMPONG

The new off-site project “Diaspora Pavilion” is based around concept of hooking up 20 emerging British artists, with 20 mentors and 20 young curators – all with the angle of showing the breadth of artists outside the usual white male default box. Larry Achimapong is a damn good young artist on show, with a practise ranging from film work, to sound installation and digital montage, looking at the effect of social media and the internet on identity.

MIKA TAANILA

Tannila’s weird and brilliant donation to the Biennale is “The Earth Who Fell To Man”, a nod to Nicolas Roeg's Bowie sci-fi movie, and ode to the history of cinema. He has created a crazy set of books attacked and mutilated with the aim of echoing film editing techniques. Found footage and fantastic cinematography all play into this unusual Finnish artist’s good stuff.

SARA AL HADDAD

The UAE isn’t necessarily where you'd expect to find new names, but this year’s pavilion entitled Rock, Paper, Scissors: Positions in Play changes that. Highlight Sara Al Haddad creates sculptures and text pieces with fabrics, thread, yarn and textiles. There is a good dose of poetry in the Dubai-based artist's works which engages as much with materials as it does with exposing her own emotions and anxieties.

KATJA NOVITSKOVA

Novitskova’s sculptural cut-outs and animal references will be on show at the Estonian pavilion (Venice is all about smaller countries waving their flags). She has her own very recognisable aesthetic, which highlights the fragility of image media in our digital lives, and is another sign that post-internet nuances are now the establishment.

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