All art is fake news: imaginative, subjective, and constructed. If artists use the real world as raw material, their creations are only inventive interpretations of experience. That’s a good thing, particularly if we’re looking for new perspectives or novel ways to consider the increasingly confusing information surrounding us. As curator Ralph Rugoff noted at Wednesday’s press preview for the 58th edition of the International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, we’re living in a world of polarized discourse and opposing parties that refer to different facts.
Rugoff titled his show (which extends across two venues: the Arsenale and the Giardini) “May You Live in Interesting Times” after a proverb of apocryphal origins. Warning against the rise of fascism in the late 1930s, British politician Sir Austen Chamberlain invoked the phrase, calling it a Chinese curse. Turns out, the Chinese never used it. In Rugoff’s show, the most exciting works revel in their own fictions—and ultimately expose contemporary truths.