(Part 1/3) The 55th Venice Biennale: "The Encyclopedic Palace" in pictures and as seen by the critics, 1 June–24 November 2013
Following previous years reports (2009, 2011 biennale posts and 2007 photo album 1 and 2) we'd like to share our photo-documentation alongside some articles and interviews related to this year's biennale that we have been reading before, during and after our Venice trip.
Bit first a bit of recent history. Massimiliano Gioni (Busto Arsizio, 1973), currently Associate Director and Director of Exhibitions at the New Museum as well as Artistic Director of the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi in Milan, was appointed Director of the 55th International Exhibition of the Venice Biennale at the end of January 2012. In October 2012 he announced the title and overall concept of "The Encyclopedic Palace" (Il Palazzo Enciclopedico) and in March 2013, he announced his artist list (over 150 artists from 38 countries, map of the venues here). A real tour de force.
Cotter continues "with a blend of insider-outsider and art-nonart components, it could have been stimulating. But the objects had little to say to one another. I feel a lack of surprise in Mr. Gioni’s show for the opposite reason: Its pairings — spiritualists paintings by af Klint and Emma Kunz, digital-printer abstractions by Alice Channer and Wade Guyton — are too neat and museumy. Yet at the same time, the show’s curatorial line is so firm, its choice of artists so strong and its pacing so expert that you are carried along, and ultimately rewarded."
In an interview with Francesco Bonami, artistic director of the 2003 biennale, wittily argues that "crossing the line between insiders and outsiders is a very dangerous one" (...) "a lot of these artist—outsiders—were presented in a standard label, describing their pathologies, but I think it would have been interesting going a little farther (...) if you want to describe art through the pathology, it should have been presented as all artists are freaks. Like, Bruce Nauman, this guy is a freak that lives in Galisteo, [New Mexico], or Walter De Maria is a freak that lives in a power station in Manhattan, in a small space with a space heater. I mean, that would be, maybe, a fair thing to do, but it would not have been allowed, probably, as an insider artist. So I think that is the only critique that I can bring, that the outsider artists at the end they are presented, but also taken advantage of."
Adrian Searle writes humourously about the exhibition's megalomaniac ambitions: "You expect Gioni to leap out of Auriti's tiered architectural cake of a building yelling: "Today we curate the biennale! Tomorrow, the world!"" He then continues, "throughout Gioni's exhibition, we are asked where meaning lies. So many artists here seem to be speaking private languages only they can understand: here is a Theosophist, there is a Shaker, and over there are some horrible occult tarot drawings by Aleister Crowley, the satanist once described as the most evil man in the world... What unites this vast rag-bag of sculptures, tantric blobs, errant modernists with esoteric beliefs, and outsiders who fill drawing after drawing with lurching interior worlds, is a sense that everyone here is trying to make sense of the incomprehensible. Much of the time, they just add to it."
Starting with the Central Pavilion (previously called the "Padiglione Italia"), Vincenzo Latronico
writes in Art Agenda that "one of the Giardini’s most delicate rooms, for instance, displayed French Surrealist Roger Caillois’s collection of over a hundred rare geodes—their flamboyantly colored geometrical patterns and crystalline structures arranged in progressions, suggesting both a museum of natural history and the visionary maps of an alien landscape."
Another absorbing piece in the Central Pavilion is Kohei Yoshiyuki series of black-and-white infrared film photographs “The Park” (1971–1979) in which the artist photographed unaware couples having sex in parks at night. An interesting piece of context is that the pictures where originally presented in a dark gallery, offering the possibility of recreating the gloom depicted and making viewers complicit in the act.
Writing about this years's Golden Lion awardees, Amy Sherlock points out that music features heavily in the encyclopedic video Grosse Fatigue (2013) by French artist Camille Henrot in which "computer windows showing photographs, video clips and morphing Wikipedia pages flicker and accumulate to a pulsing baseline whose steady tempo links a primitive, cardiac rhythm with the heady erotic charge of the dancefloor."
"Tino Seghal picked up a Golden Lion as best participant in the main pavilion for his piece in which performers sit on the floor, beatboxing, singing and humming in a shifting melody of voice and rhythm."
Also in the Central Pavilion, Italian Marisa Merz and Austrian Maria Lassnig, Golden Lions for Lifetime Achievement of the 55th International Art Exhibition, share room 24. See video of the award cerimony. [More photos of Marisa Merz via Contemporary Art Daily.]
In the above-mentioned interview with Bonami, Gioni described that "a few artists in the show will use theatrical stagings or, simply, live actors. But I think of these less as performances than as living sculptures. Tino Sehgal is making a new piece, comprising a mise-en-scène with other works in the main pavilion. It’s on a smaller scale than his most recent works, but it is going to be quite intense. (...) John Bock is creating an installation that will include actors speaking in imaginary languages and what he calls a “house of maggots."
Sam Thorne: "The Arsenale – the stronger half of the exhibition, I think – is episodic, even insistently narrativizing in its form. It tracks a kind of evolutionary process. The beginning, for example, is pointedly about beginnings of different kinds – Stefan Bertalan’s drawings of the life cycle of a sunflower or the whole of R. Crumb’s illustrated Book of Genesis. Indeed, the refrain of a great new film by Camille Henrot is ‘In the beginning…’ These early stages are also filled with animals and evocations of the natural world: Eliot Porter’s exquisite 1950s photos of birds in flight, Christopher Williams’ forensic photos of Harvard’s collection of glass flowers (1989)."
Hito Steyerl's tucked-away video in the Giardini delle Vergini, was certainly one of the best pieces in Gioni's exhibition. Michael Connor of Rhizome has written about the 14 min. video, describing it as an "instructional video informing viewers how to remain invisible in an age of image proliferation". (...) "In the context of the Venice Biennale, which explores the theme of human knowledge and its limits, this discussion brings up fundamental questions about how much of our knowledge is derived through representations of the world, through images and data, and the limits of such knowledge." [Read full text here]
Slideshow of 121 photos via Latitudes' flickr:
All photos: Latitudes (except when noted otherwise in the photo caption)
Selection of press coverage of Latitudes' weekly newspaper for 'The Last Newspaper' exhibition at the New Museum
Holland Cotter, 'Art and News, Intersecting in the Digital Age', The New York Times, 7 October 2010:
"And at the behest of the New Museum a print-savvy group called Latitudes from Barcelona is issuing another tabloid, this one weekly and edited from the third-floor gallery, that will double as an exhibition catalog. That publication would, of course, be the ideal place for the curators and participating artists to go on the record, at un-Twitterish length and polemical breadth, about the viability of analog journalism — and analog art — in the digital age. (...) Meanwhile the Latitudes news team — Max Andrews and Mariana Canepa Luna are the editors — has invited everybody and anybody, meaning you and me, to submit editorial suggestions and pitch stories, either in person or by e-mail ([email protected]). In the loosey-goosey spirit of the show, their paper will change names weekly, from the “The Last Post” to “The Last Gazette” to “The Last Register,” etc. But a genuinely “last newspaper” is still nowhere in sight. And you read that here."
Danielle Aronowitz, 'New Museum exhibit is black and white and read all over', Columbia Spectator, 8 October 2010:
(...) "A second group, Latitudes—a curatorial organization based in Barcelona, Spain—will compile, edit, and publish a weekly newspaper that will catalogue information about the exhibit and the contributing artist groups over the next 10 weeks. To emphasize its importance, [exhibition curator Richard] Flood referred to this publication as “the journal of the exhibition.”
Luc Sante, 'Disappearing Ink', The New York Review of Books's blog, 1 November 2010:
(...) and a tabloid, edited by the Barcelona-based curatorial office Latitudes, that has been variously called The Last Post, The Last Gazette, and The Last Register. (...) The tabloid, which focuses on newspapers, as well as on the show itself, is rather puckish. The Last Gazette includes, for example, a record of a quixotic attempt by Ines Schaber to approach the underground facility in western Pennsylvania where the photo agency Corbis keeps its archive of some 70 million pictures. The story evokes the cold-war espionage genre—an unremarkable setting masks a culture of such militant secrecy that the best the author could manage is a murkily distant photo of the facility’s parking lot. Its meandering text and bland snapshots, on the other hand, evoke the whimsical record-keeping of 1970s conceptual art, which is rather more in keeping with the spirit of the show.
Valerie Seckler, 'Hyper-local Newspaper as Museum Piece? Not exactly', The Urban Times, November 2010:
“How is a museum, such as New Museum, no longer (just) in the artwork display business?” asks an editorial in The Last Post. “Is it a producer, a publisher or a distributor? Should a museum or a newspaper be a community, a platform or a network, for example?” The newspapers themselves are hybrids: actual publications and art object. (...) “The Last…” newspaper series comprises “final” editions with names like “The Last Observer,” “The Last Monitor,” and (the first edition) “The Last Post.” They are dedicated to illuminating “The Last Newspaper” fine art on exhibit. Some of the reportage ranges beyond it. (...) “The Last Post” itself is an arch reference to the never-ending practice of posting 21st century news online. “The Last Post’s” Oct. 6th edition’s screaming front page headline makes the humorous proposition: “Ink vs Link.” Smaller decks stacked below it read: “Lippmann vs Dewey, Fact vs Interpretation, Editor vs Curator,” and conclude with the query: “How do you get your information?”
Adam Chadwick, 'Art and journalism …sometimes a fine line…', http://fittoprintfilm.wordpress.com, 1 December 2010:
This past Saturday members of the group Latitudes – an independent Barcelona-based curatorial office – hosted an event for the “Fit to Print” production team at the New Museum in the Bowery neighborhood of lower Manhattan. (...) I was too intrigued by the wall-to-wall displays of vintage newspaper front pages in one of the rooms. It was hard not to examine the way in which newspapers implemented multiple sub-headlines back in the early part of the twentieth century. In a way, many start-up news websites are creating similar sub-heads to draw reader attention in the vast wild west of search engine optimization. This would be a topic our guest speaker, Jason Fry, would speak about during our panel discussion.
[Read an edited transcription of the event here.]
Latitudes, the Barcelona-based curatorial office, and a diverse team lead by Joseph Grima and Kazys Varnelis/Netlab, are on site producing weekly newspapers.
'THE LAST POST' / 'THE LAST GAZETTE' / 'THE LAST REGISTER'... is the evolving-titled 12-page free weekly newspaper and an incremental exhibition catalogue edited during a 10 week editorial residency by Latitudes. Produced from a micro-newsroom placed on the third floor of the museum the tabloids will be an archive in formation companioning The Last Newspaper’s exhibition, artworks and events, as well as being a platform for critical reflection on the wider agency of art and artists with respect to concerns about how information is produced, managed, recorded, re-ordered, and disseminated.
With kind permission from Latitudes we are reproducing two selected text from their catalogue/newspapers, written by The Last Newspaper London correspondent and 'this is tomorrow' features editor Lorena Muñoz-Alonso (continue reading...)
Kristin M. Jones, 'Chronicles of a Medium in Crisis', The Wall Street Journal, 16 December 2010:
(...) Via a micronewsroom, Latitudes, a Barcelona-based curatorial team, produced a tabloid whose name changed each week. The spirited articles include stories on artists, filmmakers and topics ranging from ProPublica to the history of cast-iron newsstand paperweights; its issues will be bound together after the show ends in lieu of a catalog. The editors commissioned profiles and interviews related to the show but also solicited story ideas, headlines inspired by personal events and other information from the public.Read more articles and reviews here.
Vena (por la) and Latitudes present: Talk and catalogue launch by curator Direlia Lazo, 'I'm not here. An exhibition without Francis Alÿs', Wednesday 14 July, 7pm, La Central c/ Elisabets, 6, Barcelona (talk will be in Spanish)
Participating in the exhibition 'The Last Newspaper', New Museum, New York, (3 October 2010 – 9 January 2011) and organising 'Vic Cambrils Barcelona...A Library Project' for Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis (October 2010) and joining Hangar's Programming Committee 2010-12
Latitudes on the press: 'The creative landscape of independent curators', The New York Times, 15 June and 'Palabra de comisario', El Cultural, 29 June
Check Latitudes' web www.lttds.org for further info
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