2017 Special Focus: Imagining Ourselves

The foundations of our species’ being, and the narratives of our history, are marked by imagery—the landscape-inscribed art and body art of first peoples, the iconography and symbology of religions, the graphic-representational roots of writing. In representing imaginaries of ourselves an image embodies several key properties of consequence:

The first is its empirical connection with the world—telling something of the world, reflecting the world. It re-presents the world. How does it do this? What are its techniques? What are its mediations? What kinds of “truth” can we have in images? A second property of consequence—the image has a normative loading. No image can ever solely be a reflection on the world. It is also a perspective on the world, an orientation to the world. This is because it is the incidental outcome of an act of design. It is the product of an act of human agency. And a third property of consequence—the image is transformational. Its potentials are utopian. There is a more-than-fortuitous etymological connection between “image” and “imagination.” Images can be willed. Images speak not just of the world, but to the world. They can speak to hopes and aspirations. The world risen is the world transformed. What’s in the imagination, for now, can become an agenda for practice and politics tomorrow. Imagination is the representation of possibility.

We see (the empirical). We visualize (the normative). We imagine (the utopian).


The 2017 special focus is in conversation with the theme of the 57th International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia - Viva Arte Viva. In the words of its curator, Christine Macel:

"In a world full of conflicts and jolts, in which humanism is being seriously jeopardized, art is the most precious part of the human being. It is the ideal place for reflection, individual expression, freedom and fundamental questions. It is a 'yes' to life, although sometimes a 'but' lies behind. More than ever, the role, the voice and the responsibility of the artist are crucial in the framework of contemporary debates. Viva Arte Viva is also an exclamation, an expression of the passion for art and for the state of the artist. Viva Arte Viva is a Biennale designed with the artists, by the artists and for the artists. It deals with the forms they propose, the questions they pose, the practices they develop and the forms of life they choose."

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