Breitz is showing Love Story (2016), a film featuring the personal testimonies of six refugees. They include former Angolan child soldier, Jose Maria Joao, now a well-known personality in Cape Town, and Sarah Mardini, a Syrian who fled Damascus with her sister, Yusra, a swimmer who later participated in the 2016 Olympic Games. This is not a straightforward documentary, and actors Julianne Moore and Alec Baldwin offer additional interpretations of the refugee testimonies.
Modisakeng, whose Standard Bank Young Artist Award show is on view in Johannesburg at the moment, is premiering a new three-channel film installation. The work, titled Passage (2017), depicts isolated figures in a submerging boat; it riffs on a contemporary dilemma off Italy’s southern coastline: the difficult migrant passages that routinely occur there.
Damien Hirst — the ageing enfant terrible of the 1990s Young British Artists movement — is also interested in African oceanic passages, albeit for vastly different reasons. Hirst is showing new work at mega-collector Francois Pinault’s Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana, until December 3. The latter venue, a former customs warehouse, was given an interior makeover by Japanese architect Tadao Ando, and is worth visiting for the architecture alone. It is a short walk from the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.
Hirst’s solo exhibition, titled Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, has an unusual African connection. The show comprises sculptural pieces reputedly salvaged from a wreck of the freed slave Cif Amotan II, which Hirst discovered off the coast of East Africa. Perhaps. Antwoord chanteuse Yolandi Visser features as a sculpted Mesopotamian goddess. Am I giving the game away? As with so much of the biennale, the truth is in the encounter.