I’M at a parking space for ships or submarines in what looks like the lair of a Bond villain, albeit one from the 16th century. This is the Gaggiandre section of the Arsenale in Venice, a real-life Ken Adam set where neon signs in several different languages dangle from overhead rafters.

One of them reads “Foreigners Everywhere,” the overarching title of this year’s Biennale. There’s a sense of deja vu looking at this work by Claire Fontaine, a Palermo-based collective.

Isn’t there something similar currently on display at Tottenham Court Underground Station in London by the Glaswegian artist Douglas Gordon? Is this a hint that Scotland has a significant presence at the international event, long labelled as a kind of Olympics of the art world?

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Eh, haud yer wheesht. Scotland does not have a pavilion in the 2024 extravaganza. Like the cancelled/now re-instated Aye Right literary festival in Glasgow there are funding issues.

The British pavilion – by the estimable video artist John Akomfrah – is impressive, but majors in implicating all Brits in various colonial crimes and misdemeanours.

Not only is the arts body Scotland+Venice absent, we are also tagged as the bad guys, even if there are some nice shots of the Highlands as part of Akomfrah’s imagery.

As if to rub in Scotland’s truancy there’s an ambitious project called ROMANTIC IRELAND by Eimear Walshe at the Irish pavilion.

The work is supported by a gang of art folks from Eire enjoying the confidence of its production and presence, even if it does feature a video of performers in latex gimp masks who could be terrorists or sexual weirdos.

The work apparently refers to the contrasts between old conservative family structures on the island versus the current new era of permissiveness.

And all this mirroring their recent (albeit belated) success as an independent nation. You’re left asking: Why can’t we be as forward thinking?

I’m not the only unhappy chappy on site. At a glass door in front of an empty space there’s a sign saying: “The artist and curators of the Israeli pavilion will open the exhibition when a ceasefire and hostage release agreement is reached.”

I’m guessing Netanyahu doesn’t give a flying one – it’s doubtful this message will trouble his conscience. Outside, a large group of demonstrators chant Palestinian slogans demanding an end to the violence.

The British-Indian artist Anish Kapoor expressed anger about the Foreigners Everywhere title of the Biennale, arguing it might encourage the far-right, particularly in a country currently ruled by Giorgia Meloni.

But Kapoor is surely too pessimistic about the general intelligence of the public. Most will be fully aware that it refers to the fact that genetically we are all the product of our ancestors being foreigners everywhere.

I liked the Maltese and Lebanese entries but admit to bias because I’ve been a foreigner in both countries and was treated very well. Matthew Attard uses cutting-edge digital technology with eye-tracking equipment to examine Malta’s relationship to boats and the sea, highly appropriate in this setting.

Some entries conform to cliched notions about their culture, thus Iceland’s Hildigunnur Birgisdóttir is playfully childish with her enlarged plastic toys made for dolls houses.

Albania's Iva Lulashi shows obscurely eroticised paintings based on video stills. Gülsün Karamustafa has an installation in the Turkish pavilion which references the complicated relationship between her country and Venice by wrapping barbed wire around some exquisite Murano glass chandeliers.

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Another section – Nucleo Storico – gathers works by Italian artists who have travelled and been influenced by the cultures they have moved to. But it’s an installation by Bouchra Khalili that rams home the point of this Biennale.

Born in Morocco but now living in Vienna, Khalili’s contribution – The Mapping Journey Project – shows eight videos where she draws the sometimes years-long journey of eight immigrants.

In a related work silkscreen prints called The Constellation Series translate said journeys into the form of star constellations – thus we see what we might imagine as a variant of The Plough, a journey that begins in Mogadishu to end in Bari.

When studying these schematic depictions, it quickly dawns on you that we are all diasporist peoples. Generations of Scots have similar maps in their history. Many Scots have been economic migrants, exiles, as with Khalili’s stories.

Despite the profusion of works interrogating the legacies of colonialism there’s still room for immediate beauty. Brazilian painter Beatriz Milhazes, for example, transports you to a dream Rio with her vibrant colours.

If you plan a visit to Venice don’t miss other delights, in particular the collection of works by Pierre Huyghe at the Punta della Dogana. There’s a rare chance to catch his Human Mask (2014), one of the most impressive works of this century. In his video, a small monkey wearing a mask of a young girl wanders around the deserted ruins of Fukushima after the nuclear accident.

The eerie loneliness of the creature is deeply moving with its human-like gesturings, its wee walks and bored leg-swinging. The scene begs us to consider the welfare of our fellow species; a work concerned with teaching not preaching.

Just as I’m fretting again about the lack of Scottish input at the Biennale, I take another look at those neons by Claire Fontaine and find there is a connection to the Glasgow School of Art.

Maybe they could run up another sign, one that quotes the great Edwyn Collins, saying Sorry To Moan But It’s What I Do Best.