X’s Latest Viral Sensation Is a Venice Biennale Artwork About a Nonbinary God

There have been many talked-about works at the current Venice Biennale, from a Golden Lion–winning Mataaho Collective installation formed from tie-downs to an assortment of abstractions by under-recognized artists. But just one piece in the show has gone viral on X, becoming the subject of a number of memes, ranging from the hilarious (about RuPaul) and to the lewd (about Venom).

That work is Joshua Serafin‘s VOID (2022– ), a video in the Arsenale portion of the main exhibition that features a person writhing before vibrant blue lights and slicking their body in a black, oily substance. The piece, which was performed live during the 2023 edition of the Art Basel Hong Kong fair, has now made its way across social media, where it has become an unexpected joke.

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Sarafin, who hails from the Philippines and is now based in Brussels, has described VOID as depicting a nonbinary deity coming into being. In the piece, Serafin themselves can be seen wearing little other than a thong. They dip themselves into a pool filled with dark liquid and smack their hair around a space filled with sand. Guitar music by Calvin Carrier plays all the while.

At the Venice Biennale, footage of that performance, which has been done in venues ranging from Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt to the TONO Festival in Mexico City, is being presented in an installation that also featured a mirrored element on the floor. The work is but one example of how many artists in the show have recycle horror and sci-fi tropes to rethink gender binaries.

In an interview with Pin-Up, Serafin said the work is “premised on my belief that queers are today’s shamans, or the ‘other’ that goes against binary structures, refuse to be put into this or that box, question systems, and have the capacity to heal society. To me, queerness is not just about representation — it’s about a state of being undefinable.”

Serafin continued, “Consequently, Void is everything and nothing at the same time; it’s about wanting to be de-represented (post-race, post-body, post-gender) but at the same time to be seen as something bigger that’s beyond all those labels — the body as an energetic power source.”

Most did not seem aware of this context, however, when footage of Serafin’s performance started getting memed this week on X. The work appears to have first started gaining attention when a user named Mr. Gingles posted the video, joking that it represented “The Shit Sorcerer of Poop world.” That tweet has since gained 24,000 likes.

As is typically the case for X, it did not take long for things to get out of hand. Another tweet with roughly the same amount of likes compared the video to what goes on at RuPaul’s rumored “fracking rig.” Other NSFW posts claimed the video represented what happens to the Marvel superhero Venom during sexual activities.

A select few users have noted that the video does, in fact, portray Serafin and have explained that the work contains a more incisive point that many acknowledged. (“Its soo cuntyyyyo,” a user responded to one such tweet.)

For those who can’t make it to Venice, Serafin has posted raw footage of the performance to their Instagram, where the video currently has more than 1.4 million likes.

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