The Official Portuguese Representation at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia presents a solo project by Pedro Neves Marques, one of the most relevant and celebrated artists of their generation.
Neves Marques’s practice, which spans visual arts, cinema, poetry and theory has established a brand of speculative fiction that deals with some of the most prescient issues of our time, from ecology to body politics. Neves Marques understands the tropes of the sci-fi genre in a manner that enables them to question the dystopian futures that loom over our heads, giving us a glimpse of parallel, critical ways of being in the world.
Titled Vampires in Space, Neves Marques’ project for the Portugal Pavilion takes the form of a narrative installation, comprising film, confessional poetry and scenography, designed by Diogo Passarinho Studio, that transforms the second floor of Palazzo Franchetti into an unexpected spaceship, within which the wistful existence, dramas and routines of its five passengers unfold during a centuries-long trip to a distant planet. The immersive scenography contrasts the Gothic Venetian style of the palace with a sci-fi and speculative sensibility, typical of the artist's ongoing practice.
The straightforwardness of the title is intentional and allows the narrative to unfold unburden by world building. In a way, the title says it all. The film offers a glimpse into the life of five vampires as they travel through space, carrying life to a faraway Earth-like planet. After all, in space it is always night and, having eternity at their disposal, vampires are the ideal candidates to roam the stars. In their solitude, away from societal constraints and expectations, this family of vampires recalls and reimagines their past lives, guiding the visitor through an open-ended narrative about the role of fiction in our lives, and in particular in lives marked by gender dysphoria or transgender experiences.
Vampires is Space presents itself as a tale with no beginning nor end, in which what matters is the journey and not the destination. Emma, the youngest vampire on board, is afflicted by amnesia, only remembering their past lovers’ scents and touch, never their names or faces, and finds solace in the comic books of her youth. Selena is a transgender person of many lives, whose only wish is for this family to simply hold on a little longer. Itá, who had once been the commander of the mission can now barely find the strength to leave her bed, while Alex is about to discover the true meaning of vampirism. Lorna, a cis woman who wished to live forever and for that reason was turned a vampire just before the mission launched, is now in charge of the mission.
Vampires in Space thus resorts to the figure and expectations of what we consider a “vampire” in order to address issues of gender identity, non-nuclear families, queer reproduction, as well as the role of intimacy and mental health today. The vampire’s imagined longevity, reinforced here by a physical distance from planet Earth and the notion of humanity, allows for a retrospective exercise in what could be called a “science autofiction” anchored in Neves Marques’ own gender experience, as well as a political critique of an extensive history of control over bodies, desire, and imagination. If vampires have always reflected epochal debates on gender, from the Victorian era to feminist emancipation and the AIDS crisis, how do they respond to contemporary biotechnology or the emancipation of queer lives and ecologies?
Vampires in Space is, as all of Neves Marques’s work, built on an equilibrium between forthright socio-political critique, uncommon storytelling speculation, and the creative and emotional place of personal exposure, invoking a space of intellectual and poetic freedom for art.
2022 Venice, IT
Artworks by Pedro Neves Marques
Curated by João Mourão and Luís Silva
Exhibition Architecture by Diogo Passarinho Studio Team: Diogo Passarinho, Gonçalo Reynolds
Graphic design & visual identity: Remco Van Bladel Studio
Organization: Ministério Da Cultura De Portugal, Graça Fonseca
Commissioner: Direção-Geral Das Artes,Américo Rodrigues
Executive Production & Communication: Catarina Correia, Joana Branco, Maria Messias, Sofia Isidoro
Public Program Curator: Filipa Ramos
Public Program Assistant Curator: Diogo Pinto
Editorial Coordination: Renata Catambas
Project Management: Nataša Venturi
Press & Communication: Aviva Obst
Technical Team: ArtAV, Spazio Luce, WeExhibit
Dates: 23 April– 27 November 2022