I hope there is a future

"I hope I have a future"

DEFAULT: Il Palazzo Enciclopedico - at least in terms of the title and on paper, your Biennale exhibition is very ambitious: figurative and abstract works by artists and lay people from all over the world on the past, present and future, on spirituality, geology, anthroposophy, psychology, philosophy. Everything is possible, the danger is arbitrariness.

Massimiliano Gioni: Marino Auritis Encyclopedic Palace grew out of the dream of being everything and ended up being nothing. When I first mentioned the title, many said the encyclopedia was old-fashioned, over-ambitious. But the experiences we have through Wikipedia, for example, are similar to those of a medieval writer. We believe in associative thinking rather than linear. That is also the premise of this exhibition. I hope it becomes clear that the encyclopedia I am about to tell does not mean "Enlightenment". I do not claim to impart all knowledge. It is almost the opposite, rather the longing to catch a corner of the universe.

DEFAULT: Doesn't that sound a bit esoteric too?

Gioni: Today information means: economy, market, money, control. But there is also secret knowledge. Paradoxically, information and mystery are more and more connected - this is also similar to the baroque: knowledge is a constant reassessment. You can only know everything if you understand the secret. I experience this every day when I am confronted with my ignorance from Google to Wikipedia, where there is a dramatic connection between information and economy. On the other hand, artists are more interested in the mysterious than in transparency.

DEFAULT: What did you think when you first saw Marino Auriti's "Encyclopedic Palace" at New York's Folk Art Museum?

Gioni: I liked him right away. It's a bit reminiscent of the Tower of Babel, but also that Theater of memory of the supposedly omniscient Renaissance scholar Giulio Camillo: France's King Francis I brought him to the court to build a building of remembrance. It was never finished, Camillo died in shame. He had claimed to know everything. By the way, Camillo came from Venice. That's a nice symmetry about the Biennale. When I started planning, I thought a lot about knowledge: What do you expect from me, what I should know?

DEFAULT: Regardless of the motto, the biennial is always "The director's choice", a very subjective selection. It is not always clear what the work has to do with the respective thesis.

Gioni: I think a good director has to have a vision, but he also has to let the artwork change his vision.

DEFAULT: How stressful is the knowledge that the entire art world is looking at the Biennale?

Gioni: And hate everyone! Maybe I feel the burden more because I was brought up Catholic.

DEFAULT: You were also in discussion as head of Documenta. There, too, the interface between science, art and esotericism was negotiated.

Gioni: Sometimes I joke and say that instead of one documenta job, I got two biennale jobs: in Venice and in Guangzhou. The difference between the Venice Biennale and Documenta is: You have significantly less preparation time and money for Venice.

DEFAULT: What is the budget?

Gioni: The initial budget is 1.8 million euros plus 200,000 for extras. The curator is increasingly becoming a fundraising job. The donors make things possible that would otherwise be unthinkable.

DEFAULT: The Biennale was a sales exhibition until the end of the 1960s. But it only became really commercial afterwards. What role does money play?

Gioni: Artists give a lot to be here. They pay for their own trips. As a curator, that is very much appreciated. The fact of being here is unique for the curator as well as for the artist. Therefore, everyone is ready to do even more than usual, to be generous.

DEFAULT: Which artist image, which access to art do you have?

Gioni: There is no fixed access, it always depends on the location. As cheesy as it sounds, Bob Dylan once said, "You have to think of yourself as in a constant state of becoming." You have to keep expanding your vocabulary. I like that. It's not so much about expanding the concept of art itself. A certain definition of art is always limiting.

DEFAULT: Not only are you a curator, you were also a critic ...

Gioni: In my opinion, doing exhibitions is also a form of criticism, but one that suits me better. It's a constructive criticism, you don't judge. Or: you judge by making things possible or not.

DEFAULT: How do you feel now, shortly before the opening?

Gioni: Dreadful! I'm afraid it might feel like a thrift store because there is a lot of unusual material out there. And some will surely say there are too many compromises.

DEFAULT: What are your plans for the future?

Gioni: I hope I have a future - after Venice. (Andrea Schurian, DER STANDARD, May 28, 2013)

Massimiliano Gioni (40), Italian art historian, exhibition organizer and journalist, was editor-in-chief of "Flash Art" in New York from 2000 to 2002 and wrote for various art magazines. Since 2003 he has been artistic director of the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi in Milan, and since 2006 he has been a member of the curatorial team of the New Museum of Contemporary Art New York. In 2010 he curated the 8th Biennale in South Korea.

June 1 to November 24, 2013