The Venice Biennale, 2011
After being knocked on my ass by the overpowering beauty of nature in the last couple of weeks I was hard to impress. Or perhaps slightly depressed. What could a person do that would even come close, at least when it comes to visual stimulation? The Biennale visit was perfectly timed. Here is my list of 10 thoughtful, fascinating, and some downright kooky pieces that restored my faith in man-made beauty and are not to be missed.
Marcus Schinweld // Untitled // Austria Pavilion - Giardini A labyrinth-like installation, which guides you to explore the space just as the artist intended, leading you to unsettling paintings, beautifully composed, thought provoking videos and placing great focus on what carried you through the pavilion in the first place—your legs. Great video interview with the artist here.
Christian Boltanski // Chance // French Pavillion - Giardini Loud and physically overwhelming, Boltanski's work is a floor-to-ceiling scaffold which functions like a printing press. Large film-strips with portraits of newborns whiz by while digital clocks count up the world population. If you can't see it in person, experience the work here.
Nathaniel Mellors // Hippy Dialectics (Ourhouse) // Central Pavilion - Giardini This bizarre animatronic sculpture is an extension of the artist's larger video work 'Ourhouse' in which he follows an eccentric family, their humorous dynamic and conversations. The two dismembered heads repeat lines from the film: "Listen mate, I'm having a few issues. Small, administrative problems really, not a big deal..." while bobbing around and rolling their glassy blue-eyes.
Norma Jeane (allonym) // #Jan25 // Central Pavilion - Giardini When you stumble upon the room filled with plasticine it's like someone called "recess!" after hours of walking and art-digesting. You are meant to touch and play while adding to the sediment of artwork other visitors have been leaving behind. But if you're looking for a deeper meaning, there sure is one. The plasticine colours are those of the Egyptian flag and the reason behind the invitation to modify is definitely political.
Song Dong // Para-pavilion - Arsenal I've been a fan of the artist's work for a while, so it was a great pleasure to see his installation in person and wander through the 'Beijing neighbourhood'constructed out of old doors, bamboo roofs and wooden wardrobes. It's beauty is quiet and nostalgic with deep roots in Dong's family history. Here is a closer look at the 4 para-pavilions.
Cyprien Gallard // Ankor Beer // Central Pavilion - Giardini It seems almost an obligation to rep some collage work, and how appropriate that it's also travel-themed. Gallard's simple juxtapositions (tourist postcards & beer bottle labels) send a complex message criticizing the cultural defilement of pleasure-focused globalism.
Nicholas Hlobo // All the Lightning Birds Are After Me // Arsenal What is this incredible creature? It's a South African vampire bird described in Xhosa folk songs. Made of tire tubes and ribbonits construction and scale are impressive, so much so that it's already been snatched up by a German collector (CEO of Puma) who will return it to Africa for display.
Maurizio Cattelan // Others // Central Pavilion - Giardini The Others is an installation that covers much of the Centrail Pavilion, but in a subtle way. Hunderds, if not thousands of stuffed pigeons are perched on the facade, ceiling beams and pipes monitoring the exhibits below them. Cattelan already exhibited a similar installation at the Biennale in 2007, entitled 'Turisti' but now the pigeons are even greater in number, perhaps a comment on the growing number of visitors, rather than the birds that also dominate the city. (I could certainly relate visiting Venice in August).
Urs Fischer // Untitled // ArsenalI came upon the work half-way in its life cycle: three huge candles burned, melting down representations of ‘The Rape of the Sabine Women’, the artist's friend and his own studio chair. Often mixing high and low influences, Fischer's time based work slowly transforms from beautiful to grotesque. Here are some images of the sculptures before they were reduced to a pile of wax.
Tabaimo // Teleco-soup // Japanese Pavilion The Japanese pavilion presents one of it's best young artists. Her surreal, hand-drawn animations are room-engulfing and mesmerizing since they are projected on large curved surfaces and reflected in a series of mirrors, often taking the space from pitch black to kaleidoscope. Here is a peek at the animation.
Did you have a chance to visit the Biennale this year? What were your favourites? What did you think of your country's pavilion? I'm disappointed to say the Canadian building was underwhelming.