Mongolia Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia 2022
By: Claus Mueller, Senior Editor
Mongolia was represented at Venice Biennale 2022 for the fourth time, with a pavilion featuring its most prominent artist Munkhtsetseg Jalkhaajav, also known as Mugi. Mugi has gained an international reputation for her exposure of essential contributions to the growth of Mongolian contemporary art. Mugi graduated from the Fine Arts College of Mongolia in 1987 and studied at the Minsk Academy of Fine Arts but dropped out in 1993 because she felt the academy lacked a creative perspective. Mugi has received awards for her imaginative work, shown in solo, group, and more than 37 international exhibitions. The 2021 Venice Biennale was cancelled due to the pandemic but ran from April 23rd to November 27th in 2022.
The Biennale is considered the most important global contemporary art exhibition and has two sections. Compensating for male domination of the art world over the last 100 years, the central show invited 213 female artists and 25 male artists. The other half of the Biennale consists of 80 national pavilions. Called “The Milk of Dreams”, a designation inspired by the British surrealist Leonora Carrington, the biennale was curated by the New York based Italian Cecilia Alemania, though national pavilions are operated independently. Biennale’s curator drew on the archives and emphasized feminism, representations of bodies and their changes, and the relationship between individuals and technology and nature.
In that thematic context, Mugi’s work meshes perfectly with the 2022 Biennale. Entitled “A Journey Through Vulnerability” Mugi uses different media ranging from sculptures, graphic presentations, video pieces and performances to investigate “pain, fear, healing and rebirth, the complexities of female bodies, mind, and souls, and the connection with one-self and nature”. Her artwork reflects creations from the last 15 years and is presented in installations narrating stories of women and animals in three rooms. They include soft sculptures of a half-bodied gazelle, a ‘pulse of life’ section of part-human and part-hybrid sculptures with some having human limbs. In a small room called ‘miscarriage’ Mugi shows her Keeper of Protector Bird installation “referencing traditional protective spells and rituals performed to safeguard women from miscarriage”. Occasional sounds of a jaw harp in the exhibition evoke interactions with souls and increase spiritual awareness. What impresses in her spiritual but grounded artwork is the transformational depiction of invisible forces, myths, meanings, healing, and the importance of animals, to name but a few themes, which transcend the perceptions of many contemporary artists and viewers.
The Mongolia Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia 2022 is curated by Gantuya Badamgarav with support from the Ministries of Culture and Foreign Affairs of Mongolia and the Mongolian Contemporary Art Association and sponsorship by the Swiss Agency For Development, and Cooperation and Turkish Airlines.