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November 24, 2022

Field Notes: Federico Rudari on Pedro Neves Marques, “Vampires in Space,” Portuguese Pavilion, 59th Venice Biennale

Art & Education

Pedro Neves Marques, “Vampires in Space,” Portuguese Pavilion, 59th Venice Biennale, April 23–November 27, 2022. Photo: Renato Ghiazza. Courtesy of the artist.

Pedro Neves Marques, “Vampires in Space,” Portuguese Pavilion, 59th Venice Biennale, April 23–November 27, 2022. Film still. Courtesy of the artist.

Pedro Neves Marques, “Vampires in Space,” Portuguese Pavilion, 59th Venice Biennale, April 23–November 27, 2022. Photo: Renato Ghiazza. Courtesy of the artist.

Field Notes: Pedro Neves Marques, “Vampires in Space,” Portuguese Pavilion, 59th Venice Biennale
by Federico Rudari

Distance and detachment can be both sources of suffering and opportunities to search inside oneself. To live a purposeful life on his own terms Henry David Thoreau made his home in the woods, an exploration he chronicled in 1854 in his book Walden. Today, introspection is more complicated than ever before. Capitalist expansion has touched the farthest corners of the globe and our consciousness and, thanks to our hyperconnected present, feels utterly inescapable in the experience of life. This condition unites contemporary Western societies, carrying within it forces of homogenization and normativity. How then can we escape? To live meaningfully and free from judgment, Pedro Neves Marques suggests that we take to outer space. Curated by the established duo João Mourão and Luís Silva, “Vampires in Space” is Neves Marques’s immersive multimedia narrative installation at the Portuguese Pavilion for the 59th Venice Biennale. Neves Marques’s exhibition contrasts starkly with the sumptuous Venetian Gothic style of the Palazzo Franchetti, and after climbing the multicolored marble stairs located under a gilded coffered ceiling, the “Vampires in Space” installation, designed in collaboration with Diogo Passarinho Studio, transports visitors into the futuristic yet minimal interior of a spaceship. Here, the only light source is a three-screen video featuring a fantasia of scenes of everyday life from a queer space odyssey.

On a centuries-long trip far from Earth but not yet close to an undisclosed destination, the five vampires of Neves Marques’s film share feelings of claustrophobia and freedom from judgment in the spacecraft’s interior. Destined (or cursed) to live forever after being infected by the contagion that unites them as vampires, the five travelers are perfect candidates to join the long-haul extra-terrestrial journey. Who are they? Lorna leads the mission, traveling together with Alex, in a quest to understand vampirism; Selena, a transgender person, hopes to find a new family in their companions; Itá, who was once the commander of the mission, is now confined to their bed amid struggles with their mental health; and Emma, who is dealing with amnesia, can only remember the feeling of physical intimacy with long-gone lovers. The journey seems ongoing and unending, one in which questions about the future of the human species alternate with gradual discoveries of individual identities and growth in interpersonal relationships. Space is a boundless, malleable context in which the five vampires can experiment with expressing their uninhibited and true selves, protected by the darkness that surrounds them: “after all,” as the curatorial statement quotes from a poem by Neves Marques, “in space it is always night.” The characters typify their own personal stories and peculiarities, which, despite their fluid individualities, make them distinguishable from one another. Nonetheless, they are bound to a common species. Not a genetic family but connected through contagion, they rewrite through their own experiences the rules of communal life and cohabitation. The process of identity formation remains a pivotal question throughout Vampires in Space and links Neves Marques’s trans non-binary reality to a fantastical film that the artist defines as autofiction.

Read more of Federico Rudari’s Field Notes review on Art & Education.

Field Notes is a series of reviews from the next generation of art writers. Featuring texts on the 59th Venice Biennale and Documenta 15 contributed by students and recent graduates, Field Notes makes original connections between the work and the world and takes a closer look at what other observers might have missed.

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