It is quite obvious that one cannot manage to see even most of the Venice Biennale in two days. What’s even more impossible, is to visit an exhibition whose essence is not visual but textual – none other than the live reading of Marx’s „Das Kapital“ – informative, academic, loaded with historical references and bluntly political in agenda. Without prior preparations such as intensive reading of every national history or alternatively, a desire and time for (once again) a prolonged reading of curatorial texts on site, one is left to wander in confusion while drowsily watching the not-so-aesthetically pleasing and yet sometimes enjoyable show created by the Nigerian curator Okwui Enwezor. Here are my few pearls:
Arriving at Marco Polo airport, while waiting in line for passport control, I noticed something underneath my feet; It’s always uplifting to be at the arrivals hall that represents foreignness alongside belonging – into this sentimental baggage and for the New Zealand Pavilion, artist Simon Denny cut-pasted life-sized fragment reproductions of the Marciana Library (in which the second part of the exhibition is taking place) covering parts of the floor; The library’s decorations serve as a Renaissance symbol of a city inhabiting the old-fashioned model of national representation at the Biennale of Art, a clear antithesis to the European open borders system (Schengen Convention). In this context, by displaying these fragments at what seems to be one of the most secure, restricted location, the artist addresses issues of migration, terrorism and freedom.
Simon Denny [New Zealand pavilion], Secret Power, Marco Polo airport
The exhibition „I will be your mirror / Poems and Problems“ by Portuguese artist João Louro opens and closes in neon signs with words from a Velvet Underground song. The small intimate and beautiful Palazzo Loredan serves as a home to modest biographical works dealing with sentimental representations of music and film as well as transience and reflection.
João Louro [Portuguese pavilion], I will be your mirror / Poems and Problems, Palazzo Loredan
Mika Rottenberg, as always, manages to keep me seated in front of the screen forever, this time with NoNoseKnows, a bizarre, neurotic and macabre-comic story of toil and luxury in pearls industry.
At the Pavilion of India and Pakistan, we got into an intense conversation with random (to their claim) Pakistanis about art, politics and everyday affairs through a large-scale screen that enabled a relatively authentic encounter in a Skype version. This is a touching attempt by Pakistani artist Rashid Rana to connect between East and West in quite a banal, but charming-in-its-simplicity way. Through aspects of location, orientation and boundaries, the work allows an intimate but at the same time collective discourse between individuals and communities.
The collaboration with Indian artist Shilpa Gupta represents the delicate relationship between the two countries that once were not separated. The exhibition is held at the Palazzo Benzon and allows a sensitive dialogue between two artists whose countries do not have a permanent pavilion at the Biennale.
The Austrian Pavilion is a quiet Zen tribute to architecture in general, and in particular to the work of Josef Hoffmann and Robert Kramreiter who designed the pavilion in 1934. The space was left completely naked of art, but some of its architectural elements were covered with plates of black Monolith as space indicators. The visual and conceptual minimalism allows a purified observation at the beautiful garden peeking through the building’s open passages and creates a dialogue between interior and exterior, architecture and nature.
The 56th Biennale of Venice deals with the tomorrow and it does not seem to be very optimistic. This brief is too short to contain an intensive thesis on the complexity of the show and its contents, but I can only say that even in the light of the cruel capitalism and the irony hinted in discussing it on such a commercial event, it was still as thought-provoking and fun as ever:
Vincent Meessen and friends [Belgian pavilion]
Sarah Lucas [British pavilion], I Scream Daddio
Photos and text: Maya Kashevitz