the most amazing thing about the biennale is that, like avignon or edinburgh during a theater festival, the city itself becomes host to the event, producing unexpected delights outside of the official areas.
wandering into random old buildings overlooking the canals, i encountered surreal South Pacific costumed and masked actors in alluring twisted videos and photos (Never Say Goodbye by Wu Tien-Chang), beautifully mysterious plasticine and wood sculptures in a park (Ursula von Rydingsvard), an exhibit by 20 artists from Los Angeles, mythological nature photographs by Helen Sear (...the Rest is Smoke), and, my favorite, Inverso Mundus, by AES+F- a video projection in a long long tunnel-type building on 3 huge screens depicting a world turned topsy turvy. set to dramatic classical music, police and street kids caressed each other, children boxed with the elderly, women in high heels and couture erotically imprisoned sexualized men... bizarre and fascinating and determined to present itself as it was, with no apologies.
There were so many events (hundreds) hidden like so many treasure map gems throughout the floating city among its tantalizing misty canals, enticing in the heat- it would have taken years to find them all. I'm glad I had two days.
*None of the Biennale photos are mine*
Ursual von Rydingsvard summed up best what I felt from All the World's Futures:
"Walking through the Arsenale, there’s a wanting and a pain about the state of the world. We’re all at a loss about what to do with the world."
"The problem is not to free ourselves from illusions. The problem is to free ourselves from situations which demand illusions." -Karl Marx
two very full days wandering venice's ghostly canals, among beautiful buildings past vendors hawking masks and hats and other tourist wares brought me to The World Of Art, enshrined in the pavilions of the Venice Biennale. Overly political, All the World's Futures (this year's theme) aims to be "a Parliament of Forms", exposing the "contemporary global reality"- "a stage where historical and counter-historical projects will be explored".
I think Okwui Enwezor, curator, succeeded. The compilation showcased in All the World's Futures (the international pavilions were a separate affair) had me mulling over the following:
-What does it mean to insert the Real in a public space?
-Is the function of art to puncture the bubble of consumerist gluttony/ heteronormative society? To inform? To shock? To uplift? or to inflict wounds, express anger, perhaps even heal?
-What are the functions of international expositions, and what does it mean to view art about torture and oppression among Venice's sunny canals, most of us tourist- spectators?
-How about the art railing against capitalism/consumerism while being housed in a corporate/capitalist endeavor- the official setting of biennale? Does hypocrisy make it wrong? Negate the meaning?
Marx was highly present; there were video pieces presenting lectures and analyses of his works and throughout the event Das Kapital was enacted in live readings. Contemporary global issues were revealed and hit home; human suffering, poverty, oppression, disease, injustice, corruption were prevalent themes. The exhibits at the Giardini and Arsenale forums were certainly intellectually provocative, but I couldn't help wondering where the feeling was? The whole effect was of a college periodical, in fact, a radical newspaper with each individual having his or her say, but generally agreeing upon the basic principles. It felt a little dated.
pieces featuring video/ sound/ physical immersion in a space/ color/ humor/ irony/ poetry/ excess appealed most to me.
Standouts from All the World's Futures included:
Walead Beshty's wonderfully messy sculptures
Mika Rottenberg's bizarre video installation taking on factory workers, bodies, pearls...and sneezing spaghetti...
Lavar Munroe's paint/ collages
Lili Reynaud Dewar's take on the AIDS epidemic has stuck in my head until now, the repetitive mantra-like opera haunting my mind....
Natalia Pershina Yakimanskaya Gluklya's pretest clothings ('Clothes for the demonstration against false election of Vladimir Putin') I have always liked costumes and theatrics...
Sonia Gomes's hanging fabric sculptures (inspiring use of materials)
and, perhaps most influential- life changing even- the film shot by Im Heung-soon depicting the plights of factory workers in Cambodia.
I don't know if it counts as art technically (the excerpt i saw was straight documentary) but being exposed to that much REALITY definitely made me grateful for the privileged life I lead.
While gathering research for my Kristeva Circle conference presentation on Flamenco, the Duende, and Kristeva's semiotic chora I had time to visit the Alcazar of Sevilla, where I collected patterns of infinity. (and a double tree, curated to be a reflection of itself)
Research took me from El Centro Andaluz de Flamenco in Jerez de la Frontera to el Centro Flamenco Fosforito en Cordoba to a flamenco hall in Sevilla, where locals laughed and drank and sang and strummed guitars. An old woman encouraged a younger woman, whose voice cracked on the high notes. A man with a big round belly got up to dance, joined by a bartendress there with a flower in her hair.
And then Granada, where I encountered gypsies wailing in the caves of the Sacromonte, the sacred mountain. They sang to me and beat the guitar and clapped, eyes full of sun and dry grasses, mouths stained tobacco....
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