57. La Biennale di Venezia (Giardini)

Finally managed to visit Venice Biennale this year. I am pretty sure it is my 5th time and I can tell you I am not disappointed. I decided to stay in Venice for two days, to really grasp what is going on in this important art world exhibition.

My first mistake was getting a hostel on a completely different side of the city. You would think Venice is a small island and it doesn’t take you long to go from one side to the other. Mhm, tell that to someone, who didn’t get completely lost and walked through every single street there is, making 8000 steps even before one came to Giardini…. Also, be prepared to be eaten by mosquitoes.

So, for the first day I decided to discover what Giardini have in store. At the same time, it is best to start your visit there, as the main pavilion takes you through what you are about to experience.

And yes, there is no central theme, however, the curator plays around 9 chapters that give artists the voice in today’s art world, where humanism is quickly losing its role. Their point was to produce ‘a book’ that discusses the world complexities through its chapters.

Which brings me to the question of this obsession of not proposing a real theme. It is quite common today (remember Documenta?). Did everyone lose their imagination or is it easier to work around nothing and at the same time everything?

CENTRAL PAVILION VIVA ARTE VIVA

There are 2 chapters here: Pavilion of Artists and Books & Pavilion of Joys and Fears.

Pavilion of Artists and Books addresses organisation and values of society through artistic practice. When you enter through the front door, you literally bump into Mladen Stilinović’s artworks that (we could say) show the actual premise of what it is all about.

In general, I really enjoyed that the context is written for every work, which is amazing (again, remember Documenta?). As everything is so homely, it gives even a better feeling and energy to the exhibition, while playing with zeitgeist.

One of the most praised upon ‘artworks’ is Olafur Eliasson’s workshop. However, the invited refugees must be a bit over it already, as all they did was sit in the corner and play with their phones. Or maybe they were just having a break..

I must say that even though all the presented works in the main pavilion are completely different, they work very cohesively together. And considering books are a part of life and knowledge/intelligence, artists playing with them shows connections to life in general, which art is a huge part of. And don’t forget, both art and books, always spark conversations. You really can’t be surprised when one artist decides to exhibit his own reading glasses…

Pavilion of Joys and Fears introduces the exploration of self; searching for identity and questioning the individual’s existence. It mainly explores today’s uncertainty in the world.

There are no real borders between those two chapters and you don’t really know where one ends and the next begins. But this was the curator’s point, wasn’t it? To blend all the chapters together in one cohesive research. And as curious as I am, of course I was searching for borders. However, both of these themes are so worldly, that you really don’t notice the border.

And despite complex and delicate themes of the artworks, I didn’t feel like constantly lying in wait or negatively. Everything is done so poetically and minimalism of the rooms makes you feel good. Not like the last two times, when you were bombarded with innumerable artworks from all the sides, hardly taking in any information presented to you.

I have to expose one artwork. Sebastian Diaz Morales’ ‘Suspension’ made me feel amazing. When you walk into the big black room, closed by curtains, you are confronted with a big projection. Because of the ‘hidden’ light and soft music it actually feels like you are underwater or flying through space. The artist is exploring the boundaries between reality and fiction and that is exactly how you feel when you stand in the room. It really felt like I entered another dimension.

All in all, the whole pavilion was mainly dedicated to artists themselves, as one can definitely see with Parallel Projects. They are a part of exhibition and give artists even more voice.

NATIONAL PAVILIONS

I can say that national pavilions are following the theme of life; some touch upon it through researching the life of their own country, some in general, which is actually quite recurring through all the Biennials.

AUSTRIA

Of course, I couldn’t resist climbing on the top of the truck (Erwin Wurm). Is it worth it? Well, try it, if there is no queue. The view is not what you would expect. However, maybe try it just for the experience of walking inside the ‘out of joint’ truck.

A lot of exhibits this year are very participatory, inviting the audience to engage with the works. The most prominent example is of course Austria, where people have a lot of fun.

The other cases are also Japan and Russia.

VENEZIA

Venetian pavilion is very strange. Also, has this always been here, or did I literally miss it every time?? In the huge interior, there are real diamonds and other indulgent treats, clothes, shoes, wine and food on display. I felt it is a huge hymn, however it kind of works. With all its prestige it is definitely not as minimal as other representations.

GREECE

I am pleasantly surprised Greek pavilion was one of my favourites. Strange, because I am usually not a scientific person. I guess the labyrinth made it more interesting, even for me. However, despite it’s interesting thematic, it is really hard to focus on the videos, as there are too many people walking through. You need a lot of time to actually understand the experiment, which could open a new perspective on human life. The videos and the voice clips are made so good that I am still not sure if they are real or fake (made in the studio).

AUSTRALIA

Tracey Moffatt’s photographs are definitely worth seeing. And I was really perplexed when I saw the video ‘The White Ghosts Sailed In’, as I distinctly remember talking to someone about it recently, but not in the context of Biennale. Like, how could I know I will actually see it in person??

FRANCE

This pavilion is really something special. The interior is transformed into a real life recording studio with amazing acoustics. Various musicians get a great opportunity to record their music; but how hard it must be to actually record with all the audience? At the same time, the visitors get as many free concerts as they want. And that shows that music is a real part of art.

GREAT BRITAIN

I didn’t expect anything less from Phyllida Barlow than these huge ass sculptures. However, am I allowed to say that I wasn’t as impressed as I should be? Apart from the startling size, the artworks didn’t really speak to me.

GERMANY

Of course, of course, it was the one day that they didn’t do the performance. I am sad I missed the opportunity to see this supposedly amazing work.

CANADA

I bet Canada’s pavilion must have been the most visited one during the hot summer days….

KOREA

Asia’s pavilions never disappoint and they have always been one of my favourites. And this year, Korea has an Asian ‘David’ and a disco room with a fog machine, followed by a strip pole. Come on!

RUSSIA

Russia is brilliant and intriguing as always.

VENEZUELA

When I approached Venezuela’s pavilion, I saw something familiar. Did the copy our Petra Varl, or did she copy them? (just a joke..or is it)

 

I got the feeling that this year there is a lot of glorifying of individual artists and not that many group shows, which was an interesting choice of the countries. Also, some pavilions are more contemporary (in feeling) than others. And all are curated amazingly (not that I expected anything else). There is also a lot of moving image and photographs on display, which I enjoyed. However, does that mean that contemporary artists adopted these practices and are moving away from traditional ones?

I am very pleased with this year’s Biennale at Giardini. I thought it is going to be ‘all over the place’, but it is connected and a joy to walk through. Even if you don’t spend much time in a specific pavilion, you get the idea of what they represent, as the majority of accompanying texts and individual brochures present the concepts really well. But then, some might argue that they reveal too much and don’t leave much space for personal interpretation..

To conclude, I have no idea, how we usually managed to see the whole Biennale (Giardini and Arsenale) in one day. I can’t even imagine how we succeeded, as I have already been just running through the artworks at the end, not really paying attention (I admit), let alone also go to Arsenale. I feel I’ve made the right choice to stay for two days.

 

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