Longitudes

(Part 3/3) The 55th Biennale di Venezia: National Pavilions and Collateral Events in pictures and as seen by the critics, 1 June–24 November 2013

Browsing 'The Ideological Guide' on iPad.

If you haven't been to this year's Venice Biennale and plan to go soon, download 'The Ideological Guide', a free app developed by the Dutch artist Jonas Staal. As reported in artinfo.com "the smartphone app offers information about each participating country’s 2013 pavilion, from its commissioner and curator to the sources of its funding, while also providing historical information about past pavilions, and charting that nation’s economic and political alliances with other participating countries. The app, according to its creators, shows that the Venice Biennale’s distribution of national pavilions around the city is in many ways a more accurate reflection of nations’ geopolitical position than any geographical map.

Allora. So. Let's begin with the Spanish Pavilion, not only as it's the country where Latitudes is based, but also as it's the first pavilion one encounters when entering the Biennale area, walking towards the Padiglione Centrale. Quinn Latimer
 in Art Agenda wrote: "In her discreetly powerful Spanish Pavilion, meanwhile, Lara Almarcegui also tread some familiar contemporary-art modes and ideas, though they were insistently material. And the pavilion was a natural: streaked with sunrays from the skylights above, the piles of stone, wood, glass, and dirt—the exact same amounts that were used in the building of the pavilion itself—were immediately comprehensible, inevitable, lucidly effective." [Press Release and more photos here, video interview here]

  
'Raw' mountains of the various materials that compose the very building where they were presented: the 1922 Spanish Pavilion.

Continuing with Latimer
: 

"Surrounded by Massimiliano Gioni’s larger show, the somewhat airless “Encyclopedic Palace,” with its Documenta hangover of late, and serious crush on cleanly framed taxonomies, the national pavilions’ representatives of culture and country felt antique and obvious and a mess—but also a relief. Gioni’s turning of private cosmos and personal struggle into a stylized interior design aesthetic was definitively lacking in the disordered, disparate pavilions, where taste was usually the least concern. Yet lack of taste does not always equal distastefulness, which often arises instead from an excess of the stuff. If sometimes bad taste materializes as poeticized and/or politicized kitsch (see the pavilions of Canada, the US, Israel, and, at moments, the Netherlands), other pavilions broke through the visual chatter."

On the Netherlands' presentation, Adrian Searle of UK's The Guardian commented that Mark Manders' "Room with Broken Sentence" (...) "is a sensitively conceived and quietly dramatic tableau, like the interior of a mind as much as an actual space. The human presence emerges and disappears, conjoins with furniture or is sandwiched between stacks of timbers." 

Following on from our previous post on biennale tote bags, we'd like to add that the Dutch press package gets our bravo for the most beautiful, comprehensive and effectively-designed communication materials (and what a great pavilion catalogue too, with contributions by 37 international writers invited to reflect on individual works by Manders, published by Roma Publications). The press folder includes a full-coloured booklet with beautiful installation views of the pavilion; an 8-page booklet with an interview between the pavilion curator, Lorenzo Benedetti, and the artist alongside black and white photos of the works on show and a floorplan of the exhibition; two double-sided thick card A4 postcards of the artist's work; and a copy of Manders' "fake newspapers" which also covers the entrance to the pavilion. You can see images of the materials on the website of Amsterdam-based designer Roger Willems, or read more in the website of the pavilion. Gefeliciteerd!

  
 (Three above) Installation views of Mark Manders's "Room with a Broken Sentence" (2013) at the Dutch pavilion. More photos via Contemporary Art Daily.

Latimer laments the somehow shy presentation of Valentin Carron at the Swiss Pavilion which according to her "provoked nostalgia. Bruno Giacometti’s austere, 1952 modernist idyll is one of the finest pavilions in the Giardini. If two years ago Thomas Hirschhorn [see a few photos here onwards] obliterated Giacometti’s clean lines with his overwrought, über-hoarding installation, this year Valentin Carron erred on the side of caution, hewing too close and careful to those very same lines."

 View of Valentin Carron's presentation at the Swiss Pavilion.

Despite Latimer's comments on the "disordered, disparate pavilions", Jörg Heiser was amazed to find a common thread: "Even in the national pavilions of the Giardini – which are not under any over-arching curatorial supervision, but in each case are commissioned according to very different agendas – there are numerous signs that artists are groping in the dark of the unconscious and the (supposedly) ‘primordial’: grottoes and caves all over the place, clay sculptures, enigmatic allegories, prehistoric flintstones, (pseudo-)fossil findings. Is this parallel between the curated show and the national pavilions merely coincidental or does it tell us – as it steers art away from sober abstraction, calculated boutique chic, and more straightforward forms of realist social comment – something about the current state of things, the position of art in society (and economy) at large?"

And speaking of clay figures and rocks, according to Carol Vogel Sarah Sze's 'Triple Point' spread beyond the US Pavilion, with a few merchants in Castello displaying simulations of her pieces adorning rooftops, balcones and shop windows. "Ms. Sze is asking questions of her audience: “What objects in your life have value, and how is value created?” she explained. “I wanted to show objects that we know and have seen in our bag or on the shelf of a store which have the residue of emotion... Ms. Sze, who is known for creating site-specific environments from everyday objects like toothpicks, sponges, light bulbs and plastic bottles, arrived here in a snow storm on March 28 and has been hoarding, foraging and installing ever since." [Full article here, you can also read another review here, watch a video interview with the artist or have a 360 degree virtual tour of the Pavilion].

(Above) Sarah Sze's 'Triple Point', United States of America Pavilion.


The mentioned 'spiritual turn' is also shared by Corinna Kirsch in her review in Art F City, which reads: "It seems there’s something in the air about The Encyclopedic Palace’s “dream of a universal, all-embracing knowledge” (...) Science fiction and spirituality, in particular, are present in the pavilions as well as Gioni’s exhibition, though the way these themes play out are to entirely different stylistic ends... Overall, these works are less emotional than Gioni’s; even when they’re grounded in science fiction and spirituality, they’re grounded in the concerns of the here-and-now. Simply put, Gioni’s artists tend to live in their head, and the pavilions’ artists, in the world." 

According to Kirsch, examples of this are the British pavilion with Jeremy Deller's "English Magic" [see a video of Adrian Searle visiting the pavilion], where the artist has "the grandest presentation on view of epic creation and destruction myths, and on a national scale." [Watch the full-length of the video 'English Magic' here]. Paul Teasdale went on to say that Deller delves in the "antiquated, faintly ridiculous notion of the ‘national pavilion’ and the antiquated, faintly ridiculous notion of Englishness itself that Deller is exploring. And the almost magical way in which we so quickly forget the past."

(Above) Visitors queue to have their own prints of "William Morris returns from the dead to hurl Roman Abramovich's vast yacht Luna, which blighted the waterfront beside the Giardini at the 2011 Venice Biennale, into the waves." (Adrian Searle) and of a Hen Harrier grabbing a Range Rover.

 Above: A steel-drum orchestra played A Guy Called Gerald and Bowie's The Man Who Sold the World during the afternoon of the opening day.

Moving on. The almost bare Romanian Pavilion presented a "retrospective history of Venice, with actors as breathing archives of the Biennale itself" as Kaelen Wilson-Goldie has described in her Artforum diary review. Adrian Searle went on to recommend everyone to visit "the Pavilion, where Alexandra Pirici, Manuel Pelmuş and a small group of performers restage dozens of works from the previous 54 Biennales: using nothing more than their own bodies, they act out and mime Picasso's Guernica, Hans Haacke's famous destruction of the German pavilion's floor in 1993, paintings by Modigliani, sculptures by Rodin, performances by Marina Abramović and photographs by Nan Goldin. Both homage and parody, these quick-change charades in the otherwise empty pavilion take place all day, every day. Marvellous, funny and affecting, An Immaterial Retrospective of the Venice Biennale is much more than a parlour game. It is about history and memory – and it shows that the real encyclopedic palace is not to be found in a collection of objects, but in people themselves." [see a video of Searle visiting the Romanian Pavilion, starting at min. 2.30 while the 'living sculptures' are performing a reenactment of Allora and Calzadilla's 2011 piece presented in the US Pavilion].


(Above) An Immaterial Retrospective of the Venice Biennale, Romanian Pavilion.


Above: 'Bang', a so-so installation assembled by 886 three-legged wooden stols by Ai Weiwei, at the entrance of the German Pavilion (this year housed in the French Pavilion).

More Giardini. For the Austrian Pavilion, Mathias Poledna takes us to the movies. "... to a very short movie, that is. At just over three minutes long, “Imitation of Life” should feel like a slap in the face to the hulking structure in which it sits (both literally and figuratively). But the single animated scene, which reproduces to exacting detail the process used by film studios in the late 1930s and early 1940s, is a joy. It’s simple, light (at least on the surface), heartwarming even, and then it ends leaving one wishing for more." Jörg Heiser of frieze adds: "Poledna shows a four-minute musical animation in the style of Disney’s Bambi or Snow White – realized, in Los Angeles, with specialists able to do it the classical way. It’s not an original found object, but a kind of new reconstruction. Poledna does not rely on readymade or parody, thus generating a kind of double perception: I see the film projection and am inevitably reminded of childhood experiences – don’t I know this cute donkey with drooping ears in sailor outfit? – that I never could have had. He taps into our real-existing, pop-cultural affect reservoir, while diverting it into perfect fiction."


Still from Poledna's “Imitation of Life”.

Adrian Searle also mentioned Anri Sala's "Ravel Raval Unravel": "... Albanian artist Anri Sala, representing France, is in the German Pavilion. He drew big queues last week for his three-part film installation, based on performances of Maurice Ravel's 1930 composition Concerto in D for the Left Hand. Impeccably staged though it is, Sala's is a minor work on a major scale." [Watch video here]

 A (poor) photo of Anri Sala's video installation.


Midwaythrough a 2-hour queue under the rain to enter Anri Sala's exhibition on Friday 31 May.
  
Other National Pavilions in the Giardini not very much mentioned by the press, but worth visiting: Czech Republic & Slovak Republic, exhibiting work by Petra Feriancová (first room) and Zbyněk Baladrán (with the film "Liberation or Alternatively", at the back). Feriancová's project takes "Venice as a starting point and theme disappears in a return to intimate history: although pigeons, shells, masks and cityscapes are universal figures with a specific information value right here in Venice, their photographs or their collections were taken for purely personal reasons (the artist and her family) and have in fact nothing in common with Venice." [More images and text via Mousse].
the exhibition project Still the Same Place by Petra Feriancová and Zbyněk Baladrán curated by Marek Pokorný. - See more at: http://moussemagazine.it/55vb-czechoslovak-pavilion/#sthash.hhxgS6c4.dpuf


Also, Lebanon was represented by a wonderful new film, "Letter To A Refusing Pilot", by Akram Zaatari. The story is centered on a powerful real-life account of an Israeli Air Force fighter who was sent to destroy a school outside of Saida, the artist hometown, in the early 1980s but refused to do so, and instead dropped the bombs in the sea. As a kid, Zaatari would hear the story from his father, director of the very same school. Years later Zaatari discovered the story wasn't a rumor and that the pilot was real. 

Nina Siegal includes a quote by the artist on her New York Times article: “The importance of the story is that it gives the pilot a human face,” Mr. Zaatari said. “It gives what he is about to bomb, which is considered terrorist ground; it also gives that a human face. I think it’s important to remember in times of war that everyone is a human being. Taking it to this level humanizes it completely, and we’re not used to this at all.” 

"The film was shot in the neighborhood around the school, which has been rebuilt and incorporates aerial photographs, drawings, computer imaging and some personal documents from Mr. Zaatari’s own life to tell the story from the perspective of a teenage boy. In the Lebanese Pavilion at the Biennale, it is part of an installation that includes a reel film projector, a single movie theater chair and a number of cylindrical stools."

Zaatari's film in the Lebanese Pavilion in the Corderie.

Holland Cotter of the New York Times wrote on Alfredo Jaar’s show at the Chilean pavilion [two photos below], which is "centered around a sculpture that moves, an exact model of the Giardini campus that emerges from and sinks back into a vat of fetid-looking water. Mr. Jaar is telling a story about the alignment of art and power: Many of the older, pre-World War II pavilions are relics of a murderous nationalism were built as cultural trophies by economically competitive nations that created colonial empires and eventually led Europe into war."
 

Elsewhere in Venice, a number of Pavilions bid for our attention. Not least Angola, which won the Golden Lion for the Best National Participation. The question here was, as rightly stated by Filipa Ramos in her Art Agenda review, "How much of the Golden Lion for the best National Participation was due to Edson Chagas's "Luanda, Encyclopedic City" and how much of it was due to the gallery of Palazzo Cini, which hosts the Angolan Pavilion?" The impressive Cini collection of Renaissance works (Piero della Francesca, Filippo Lippi, Fra Angelico, Botticelli, Pontormo...see photos below) is rarely open to the public. Chagas's low pillars of twenty-three off-set takeaway posters à la Felix González-Torres (though displayed on pallets), marked a contrast between classical products of Western culture and the photographed images of the streets of Luanda.

"The images consisted mostly of depictions of large pieces of junk (the seat of a broken office chair, a tattered soccer ball) that were displaced and then photographed by the artist in Luanda. Visitors were invited to collect the different images, thus producing a supersized album of all the gathered prints. Despite the naïve dualism generated by the blatant contrast between the two worlds (the location of production and location of display), the project presented an almost magical and secretive discovery to its visitors that was much in harmony with Massimiliano Gioni's exhibition's focus on parallel and lesser-known art histories."




Do check out – and leave plenty of time for – the Cyprus-Lithuania in Palasport "Giobatta Gianquinto" nearby the Arsenale entrance. The sports centre building alone is worth a visit. You'll be surprised to see such a large venue in what is seemingly such a small island. As Dan Fox of frieze writes "The Pavilion of Lithuania and Cyprus, held in a building one would never expect to find in Venice. An almost Brutalist-looking edifice, tucked next to the Arsenale, housed a huge, modern school gymnasium, where curator Raimundas Malasauskas had organized a show of performances, sculpture, painting, and dance in an environment that was about as un-Venetian as one could get ... What on earth was going on? What was the work and what wasn’t? For once it was nice to simply enjoy the mystery." 

Back to Quinn Latimer: "Maria Hassabi performed her intricate movement-based work on the steep, cinematic steps of the gymnasium, while far below, an installation of temporary walls made up of recycled walls from previous pavilions (by Gabriel Lester) and works by various artists—Jason Dodge, Elena Narbutaitė, and Dexter Sinister, among twelve others—looked, from above, as small and distant as a diorama." [Watch a video with interviews and images of the exhibition]


(Above) New York-based performance artist Maria Hassabi during Intermission (2013), surrounded with works by Phanos Kyriacou.


Another one to not miss is Richard Mosse's 'The Enclave' in the Irish Pavilion. The photo below doesn't do justice if you want a better idea to watch this wonderful 7min. video 'The Impossible Image' produced by frieze (and Vimeo staff pick!) in which you can hear the artist talking about the process of making the works. 

(Above) Multi-screen installation of Richard Moss' The Enclave in the Irish Pavilion in the Fondaco Marcello. 

Not to forget the Scottish Pavilion in the Palazzo Pisani which has one of the most solid shows in town, composed of three artists – Hayley Tompkins, Duncan Campbell and Corin Sworn. Filipa Ramos noted that "Hayley Tompkins’s floor installation of photographs and paintings puts together different scales of familiar, commonplace scenes and objects (from the depiction of a traffic jam to an electric plug or to the proliferation of plastic bottles) in such a way that they all become part of a set of recognizable, familiar presences."


Detail of  Hayley Tompkins's "Digital Light Pool (Orange)" (2013), composed of Acrylic on plastic trays, stock photographs, wooden boxes, glass, plastic bottles, watercolour.

Elsewhere in the city, dozens of Eventi Collaterali and other exhibitions piled up. Christy Lange wrote about one of the most talked-about events (particularly as queues became a real 'trending topic' in any conversation). Lange writes: "organized by the Fondazione Prada, the exhibition ‘When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969 / Venice 2013’ at Ca’ Corner della Regina ambitiously sets out to reconstruct Harald Szeemann’s seminal exhibition ‘Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form. Works – Concepts – Processes – Situations – Information’, originally staged at the Kunsthalle Bern in Switzerland in 1969." (...) "The show also recreates the tile and wooden floors of Bern, and even imported and installed authentic radiators. The effect is not seamless; nor is meant to be. Instead, there are visible gaps where the white walls had to be cut to fit around the classical Venetian moldings, and the intricately painted wooden beams of the palazzo remain exposed overhead." (...) "Along with Szeemann’s preliminary sketches for the show’s poster, we also get to see evidence of the harsh reception the show received in the Swiss press: illustrated by several ridiculing cartoons in national newspapers, like one in which a cleaning woman forgets her mop bucket in the gallery, only to have it interpreted as a work of art by a museum guide."

Carol Vogel of the New York Times puts the exhibition into historical perspective: "Originally organized by Harald Szeemann, the Kunsthalle’s director at the time, the show is considered the first major exhibition of what was then regarded as radical art. It included little from outside the  Western Hemisphere and little by women, but it was the first big show to acknowledge a broad range of mixed-media work that fell under freshly coined terms like Arte Povera, Process Art, Anti-Form, Conceptual art and performance art. Its nearly 70 artists included Claes Oldenburg, Joseph Beuys, Eva Hesse and Bruce Nauman." (...) "Featured in the show, which ends on Nov. 3, are works from artists who were then emerging, including Carl Andre, Richard Artschwager, Alighiero Boetti, Sol LeWitt and Keith Sonnier. And when the curators were unable to locate a work of art, they just left a dotted outline of where the piece should have been placed — a ghost of what once was."

Ramos reminded readers of "Celant’s ongoing inquiry upon the possibilities of reproducibility—a line of research he has pursued since his early years as an exhibition maker—a step further, as he attempts to reproduce the unrepeatable, indeed to repeat the irreproducible."

Jannis Kounellis' "Untitled" (1969) was originally installed in the lower floor of the Kunsthalle Bern. Here it's on the second mezzanine floor of Ca' Corner della Regina. 

 Walter de Maria's "Art by Telephone" (1967). Reenacted.


 Richard Serra works from 1969.
 General view of the Schulwarte (third floor in the Fondazione Prada) which displayed works by Pino Pascali (floor), Marinus Boezem (left), Frank Lincoln Viner, Thomas Bang, Michael Buthe, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Paul Cotton, Ger van Elk, Rafael Ferrer, Hans Haacke, Roelof Louw, Emilio Prini, Allen Ruppersberg, Frank Lincoln Viner and William T. Wiley.

 Giovanni Anselmo's "Untitled" (floor, right); "Il cotone bagnato viene buttato sul vetro e ci resta" (left, wall) both from 1969; and the 1968 "Untitled" in the corner. (Displacement)

Szeemans' (pre-excell!) spreadsheet listing the artist's names, place of residence, title, technique, and measurements of the work to be displayed, and a projected travel and production budget.

Another interesting exhibition was the Future Generation Art Prize housed in the incredible  Palazzo Contarini Polignac nearby the Accademia. More photos here.

 Entrance to the exhibition. 

 Emily Roysdon, "Our Short Century", 2012. 

 Eva Kotátková, "Theatre of speaking objects (Becoming objects)", 2013.

Detail of Rayyane Tabet, "Architecture Lessons", 2012. From the series "Five Distant Memories: The Suitcase, The Room, The Toys, The Boat and Maradona". 

 Aurelien Froment, "Pulmo Marina", 2010.

And last but not least, the Palazzo Grassi's inauguration of Tadao Ando's Teatrino (or rather "Teatrone" as it's 1,000 square-meters and holds 225 seats), as stated by Ramos "a truly remarkable event for a country known for its epidemic of closing-down cinemas." During the opening days, the Teatrino screened Anri Sala’s "1395 Days Without Red" (2011), Philippe Parreno’s "Marilyn" (2012), and Loris Gréaud’s "The Snorks: A Concert for Creatures" (2012). This was undoubtedly the best contribution Pinault brought to this year's biennale. We agree with Christy Lange on that the exhibition "Prima Materia", curated by Caroline Bourgeois and Michael Govan at the Punta della Dogana "managed to reduce even good works of art to macho collections of ‘things’". The only room that was somehow 'saved' was the space mixing Japanese Mono-ha and Arte Povera with works by Merz, Paolini, Boetti, Penone, Sekine, Suga, Ufan, Koshimizu, Enokura (photo below). Adel Abdessemed's 2011 four life-sized sculptures of Christ modeled after the Crucifixion made of razor wire was one of the low points in Venice.
 
All photos: Latitudes | www.lttds.org (except when noted otherwise in the photo caption)
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Photo & review tour: 'ILLUMInations/ILLUMInazioni', 54th Biennale di Venezia 2011

ILLUMInations / ILLUMInazioni
54th Biennale di Venezia
4 June–27 November 2011

Much has already been written about this year's biennale which officially opened last Saturday, 4 June (professional previews 1–3 June). We have selected some excerpts of reviews that have appeared so far to accompany our photo-tours.
We'll begin with the main exhibition 'ILLUMInations / ILLUMInazioni' curated by Bice Curiger at the Padiglione Centrale in the Giardini and at the Arsenale.

On the
inclusion of three Tintoretto paintings in the Padiglione Centrale, Giardini:
Adam Kleinman, “ILLUMInazioni – ILLUMInations”, Art-Agenda, 5 June 2011: At first reading, it seems that we might be in for a show on the artistic play of light and shadow. (…) Normally the suffix –tion alerts the reader that some process has affected the host word it is tagged to, i.e., illumination is the condition of being lit. But at the Biennale, curator Bice Curiger instead turns a homophonic pun by tying –nations to nations, as in states, in the exhibition literature. (...) "Why they [three Tintoretto's paintings 'The Last Supper' (1592–1594), 'The Stealing of the Body of St. Mark' (1562–1566), and 'The Creation of the Animals', (ca. 1550)] were there, exactly, is a bit hard to ascertain, especially since all three of these paintings have been on view to the public in Venice for some time now." (…) In addition, the ahistorical juxtaposition of trusting the work in the center of a contemporary exhibition could blur some notion of antiquarian historicism."
Adrian Searle, 'The Venice Biennale's balance of power', The Guardian, 6 June 2011: (…) Shuttling the canvases across Venice from the Accademia and the church of St Giorgio Maggiore to the Giardini was the perilous bit. But they don't belong here, and add nothing but a frisson of High Art, an intimation of the certainties of the past. In the climate-controlled half-light, they just look big, excessive and out of place.
On Maurizio Cattelan's 'Others' (2011) a re-creation of his 1997 piece 'Turisti' (also presented in the Biennale) with 200 stuffed pigeons and pigeon shit on the floor – also by Adrian Searle: Excess in one way or another marks this biennale more than most. Cattelan's pigeons are everywhere in the central pavilion. He had them here before, in 1997, but they have bred. It's a running gag. [this time 2,000 stuffed pigeons are placed in every room's roof except in Gabriel Kuri's space].

On the German, the Swiss and the Polish pavilions:
Adrian Searle, 'The Venice Biennale's balance of power', The Guardian, 6 June 2011.
(…) Schlingensief was still planning his work when he died, and the final show is an over-the-top mixture of theatre sets and artistic works, film and documentation from his project to build a school and opera house in Burkina Faso. The whole thing is a mock-cathedral of disquiet and rage, loud with recorded voices, fragments of filmed performances and archival footage, copies of Joseph Beuys drawings and diagrams – as well as x-ray images of Schlingensief's own ravaged lungs. I felt hectored. An extraordinary man though Schlingensief undoubtedly was – as much a social critic as an artist – at what point does the artist's work end and curatorial surmise begin?
Germany seemed excessive, but Thomas Hirschhorn filled the Swiss pavilion with a wonderland of gaffer-tape, cardboard and Bacofoil, bevvies of Barbie dolls and other uncountable props. It's great, in a rackety Doctor-Who-set way, but one might say that Hirschhorn is doing what he always does. (This was also Mike Nelson's problem, as I wrote last week.) – Great photos of the pavilion here by Contemporary Art Daily.
(…) More pointed and focused was Israeli-Dutch artist Yael Bartana trilogy of films '... And Europe Will Be Stunned', in the Polish pavilion. This felt right. Bartana's idea is a call for over three million Jews to return to Poland, and her film follows the setting up of a Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland. The whole thing is both real and unreal, heartfelt and parodic. Perhaps such a movement may now become a reality. Bartana's final film ends with the funeral of the assassinated leader of the movement; there is an implicit critique of Israeli politics, and of xenophobia and nationalism everywhere.
Adam Kleinman, “ILLUMInazioni – ILLUMInations”, Art-Agenda, 5 June 2011: (…) Yet, these cross-pollinations become even more laughable and glib in the exhibition ephemera as the curator rambles, in one of many examples, that the Tintoretto works somehow have a relation to Urs Fischer’s 'Untitled' (2011), in which a giant modeled souvenir candle of Giambologna’s 'Rape of the Sabine Women' (1574–82), is melted away because they both share some connection to “art history”, or likewise, that James Turrell’s sci-fi light “echoes” Tintoretto’s palette.
Adam Kleinman, “ILLUMInazioni – ILLUMInations”, Art-Agenda, 5 June 2011: (…) Within the context of the show’s half-formed pairing of light, or let’s say, vision & power, Amalia Pica’s Venn Diagram (Under the spotlight) (2011), is the only work that truly brought notoriety to this coupling, while also touching on ideas of togetherness, socio-political history and the like. Here two lights, each with their own colored gels, shot two beams onto a wall in the Central Pavilion. (…) one beam produced a red circle of light on the wall, and the other a blue light completed by a slight overlap between the two. Underneath these blinkers was a handwritten wall caption on an irrational prohibition by the dictatorship of Argentina in the 1970s. This censorship banned Venn diagrams (…) due to the subversive implications of these models of heterogeneity. As such, these fundamental pedagogical devices were removed from primary school textbooks and overt public usage. (…) Blended in the center of the red and blue surveying alarms was a bright, clear spotlight, which pointed to a need to watch all political and nationalistic colorings.
On the overall focus, the four 'para-pavilions' and, again, the inclusion of Tintoretto:

Franz West's para-pavilion at the Arsenale.

Monika Sosnowska's para-pavilion at the Padiglione Centrale, Giardini.
Oscar Tuazon's para-pavilion in the Giardini, with works by Asier Mendizabal and Ida Ekblad.

Article by Georgina Adam and Jane Morris, 'First impressions of “Illuminazioni” exhibition at Venice Biennale. Elegant, intelligent and well paced, but its curator Bice Curiger takes few risks', 3 Jun 2011, The Art Newspaper (web only): (…) Curiger has organised a show that despite its conceptual underpinnings also focuses on the classic themes of form, composition and materials. (…) The critical reaction generally favoured Curiger’s other innovation: the creation of four “para-pavilions”, in which Franz West, Song Dong, Monika Sosnowska and Oscar Tuazon were invited to create individual spaces that could also house works by other artists. West is showing a “reproduction” of his kitchen in Vienna with works that usually hang there by his artist friends. The works are displayed on the outside of the structure. Inside is projected Dream Villa, a work by Dayanita Singh. (…) Ossian Ward, the art critic and art editor of London’s Time Out magazine, said: “The Arsenale is the stronger of the two venues, but overall 'Illuminazioni' fails to take any real risks. Besides, that is, the parachuting of three Tintorettos into its midst, which neither steal nor cement the show.”On the Italian Pavilion, “L'Arte non è Cosa Nostra” in the Arsenale curated by Italian polemicist, politician and art historian Vittorio Sgarbi:

Cristina Ruiz, 'Italian Pavilion: Vittorio Sgarbi’s sprawling, sexed-up show', The Art Newspaper, 3 June 2011: (…) When he announced his decision to include 200 artists selected by 200 intellectuals, the pundits said it couldn't be done. In fact, Scarbi has displayed the 200 he said he would, and then added another 60 for good measure. (…) The resulting display has the sprawling randomness of a flea market. There are works featuring sex, religion, violence, nudity, as well as a giant pomegranate and a polar bear.

Adrian Searle, 'The Venice Biennale's balance of power', The Guardian, 6 June 2011: (…) Sgarbi, a maverick critic and TV personality who hates most contemporary art, has invited leading Italian writers and intellectuals, Dario Fo and Giorgio Agamben among them, to select the works. Boorishly provocative, the resulting show is full of horrible, kitschy things, appallingly installed; with its cliched sentiments and rubbishy populism, it is like a tour of Silvio Berlusconi's brain.
Roberta Smith, 'Venice Biennale: The Enormity of the Beast', The New York Times, 2 June 2011: (…) A new and historic Biennale low is reached in the vast Italian Pavilion where Vittorio Sgarbi, an Italian art historian, television personality and former under-secretary of culture, has overseen a ludicrously dense installation of work by some 260 Italian artists, almost all of it unredeemable still-born schlock. Bristling with an unbelievably venomous hatred of art, the exhibition would be a national scandal, if Italy weren’t already plagued by so many.


Jerry Saltz, 'The Ugly American', Artnet.com: “This makes me embarrassed to be an American,” the mega-curator of an extremely well-known U.S. art museum groaned to me. (…) Artists Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla have placed a 60-ton army tank. It’s a real one, shipped from England at who knows what expense, turned upside-fucking-down, turret and gun barrel on the ground, steel treads to the sky. Atop this warlord wedding cake, they’ve installed a treadmill where a world-class runner works out for 15 minutes of every hour. It’s the health club from Hell, Afghanistan in Venice, and it makes a humongous racket that can be heard all around the Giardini. I looked back at the curator and said, “I think being embarrassed to be an American is partly what this is about.”

Adrian Searle, 'The Venice Biennale's balance of power', The Guardian, 6 June 2011: America, of course, has been flexing its muscles and telling the world to screw itself for years. I heard that Obama personally approved the US pavilion's show Gloria, by Jennifer Allora and Cuban-born Guillermo Calzadilla. Their work really depends on the Olympic athletes who run on their tank-track-powered running machine, and who perform amazing gymnastics on American Airlines first class seats. They leap, fling themselves about, defying both gravity and the imaginary confinement of air travel, slumped on the beds. Extraordinary rendition was never like this. Was this all about American power and choreographed, muscle-bound might? Allora and Calzadilla pirouette on the line between politics and entertainment. The runners go nowhere, and the upside-down tank looks impotent and vulnerable, though it makes a lot of noise – a roaring excess. (video on the US Pavilion, UK Pavilion, Swiss Pavilion, Tintoretto and Maurizio Cattelan at the Central Pavilion, Urs Fischer at the Arsenal)

Carol Vogel, 'Venice Biennale: Money Talks, Make That Sings', The New York Times, 3 June 2011: (…) There is only one A.T.M. machine in the whole of the Giardini, the gardens at the tip of the city that is home to the national pavilions. It’s in a space of its own at the back of the American pavilion. But this is no run-of-the-mill A.T.M. The brainchild of the artist duo Allora & Calzadilla, it is a pipe organ with an A.T.M. embedded in its belly that is computer-programmed to play a tune when a person puts in their pin number. (…) During the first three days of the Biennale’s V.I.P. preview earlier this week, more than 100,000 euros were withdrawn from the machine. That amount, Lisa Freiman, commissioner of the pavilion said, is three or four times the normal activity of an A.T.M. in Italy, according to BNL, the bank that operates it. When it gets low on cash, gun-toting guards can be seen coming to replenish it.

Roberta Smith, 'Venice Biennale: An Installation Art Contest', 1 June 2011: At that pavilion [Czech Republic], a little-known artist named Dominik Lang, barely 30 years old, has mounted a strangely affecting time-capsule-like installation featuring a great deal of generic postwar figurative sculpture by his father, Jiri Lang (1927-1996), who stopped making art years before his son was born. It serves as a sobering reminder of the obscurity that awaits most of the art produced at any given point in time, as well as the ability of art objects, being objects, to wait out different phases of neglect.


Rachel Withers, 'Mike Nelson at the Venice Biennale', The Guardian, 3 June 2011: Nelson's concept for Venice is to test out ideas of repetition and duplication on a giant scale. He tells me he's going to "build a biennial within another biennial" by reconstructing his 2003 Istanbul piece. But he's not stopping there. The Istanbul work was housed in a remarkable building: the Büyük Valide Han, a vast, once-palatial 17th-century travellers' inn that survived, in 2003 at least, as a crumbling warren of artisans' workshops. (…) His goal, he insists, is not to produce a replica of the Han but to realise a memory of it, in all its cobbled-together confusion and curious beauty. (…) "Making the pavilion disappear" means three months of intense work for the artist and his small team of technicians. In the present age of artistic fabrication and delegation, this hands-on approach is relatively uncommon.

On the Spanish Pavilion, 'The Inadequate / Lo inadecuado / L'Inadeguato' a project by Dora García:


Javier Hontoria, 'Dora García, inadecuadamente oportuna', 31/05/2011: Tras varias ediciones frustradas, el pabellón español de la Bienal de Venecia alberga a partir de hoy un proyecto de altura, acorde con las exigencias y expectativas de la cita que mayor visibilidad concentra en el calendario del arte contemporáneo internacional. (…) La artista vallisoletana presenta desde hoy en el pabellón español de los Giardini venecianos un proyecto titulado Lo Inadecuado. Es un concepto que implica, como le dijo a Paula Achiaga en una reciente entrevista “un sentimiento de malestar, de desajuste, de torpeza”. (…) El proyecto que ahora presenta en Venecia es también inadecuado en su forma. Esta no es una exposición al uso. Aunque tiene su emplazamiento en el interior del pabellón español de los Giardini, no está pensado para ser instalado en un lugar sino para que se extienda en el tiempo. (…) Diseminados en el interior del pabellón vemos diversos elementos que no constituyen obras de arte en sí mismas sino apoyos, atrezzo para situaciones que tienen su curso a lo largo de la Bienal. (…) Es un proyecto, digámoslo sin paliativos, de una enorme complejidad pero en el que la artista se reconoce plenamente. Toda su obra, toda su trayectoria, toda inquietud se concentran en estos meses de Bienal. La necesidad de empujar los límites de todo aquello a lo que se enfrenta es visible en cada situación. Lo inadecuado lo es a todos los niveles, formal, conceptual. (…) Durante la Bienal se sucederán las situaciones en forma de performance, charlas y encuentros en los que participan diferentes actores, fundamentalmente italianos, muchos de ellos profesionales del arte contemporáneo.

Ángela Molina, 'Dora García, entre un gato y un ratón', El País, 04 Junio 2011: "De repente entendí la no adecuación de la bienal y de su público como algo interesante. Decidí que mi intervención tendría que hacerse de espaldas al público, en un espacio de precariedad. No se tocan las paredes del pabellón, ni apareceré como autora del proyecto. Se trata de prescindir de la platea, pasar por allí sin mancharse. Tampoco es un proyecto colectivo, sino algo iniciado" (…) "El artista es algo incidental que cede su voz a los marginados. Trato de investigar la idea de exclusión, el autismo, lo que no se entiende o no tiene sentido."

Catalonia and the Balearic Islands also had a pavilion at the
Magazzini del Sale, in Dorsoduro, with new works by Mabel Palacín:
Natàlia Farré, 'Mabel Palacín revisa el papel de la imagen en la era digital', El Periódico, 2 Junio: [180º] El propio título de la obra ya remite al séptimo arte, puesto que la regla de los 180º es aquella que asegura que la relación entre imagen y espectador es la correcta, es decir, que la cámara siempre esta en el mismo lado de un eje ficticio para no desconcertar al público. Y lo que hace Palacín es evidenciar que en un mundo en el que cada día se cuelgan 100 millones de fotos en Facebook y se visiona el equivalente a 150 siglos de vídeos en Youtube, el estatus de la imagen ha cambiado y las normas se han roto. «No hay diferencia entre emisario y receptor», apunta Torres. Y añade: «La imagen ha pasado a calificar la realidad». Pero aún hay más: fotografía y vídeo confluyen y se confunden. «Todo es lo mismo» – Better images here and a video tour of the exhibition.


Klara Lidén's garbage cans collected from the streets of various cities, view in the Arsenale.

On the
54th Venice Biennale awards announced 4 June, Artforum.com: "The Golden Lion for best national participation went to Germany, represented this year by the artist Christoph Schlingensief, who died last August. The Golden Lion for best artist went to Christian Marclay for his piece The Clock, 2010, on display at the Arsenale, while the Silver Lion for a promising young artist went to Haroon Mirza. The jury—comprising Hassan Khan (Egypt), Carol Yinghua Lu (China), Letizia Ragaglia (Italy), Christine Macel (France), and John Waters—also assigned two special mentions, one to the Lithuanian pavilion, which was represented by Darius Miksys, and one to Klara Lidén’s work Untitled (Trashcan), 2011, on display in the Arsenale. Additionally, according to Curiger’s proposal, the artists Sturtevant and Franz West were awarded Golden Lions for Lifetime Achievement."In case you are thirsty for more, here other recommended sources to read/see: for the next two weeks Roberta Smith will discuss one of the 'pieces that stuck with her for good or for bad' on the The New York Time's under the title 'Everyone's a Critic' - you can contribute with your impressions writing 6 words; sweet storytelling NYTimes blog with illustrations by Christoph Niemann, or the ever useful and always growing Center for the Aesthetic Revolution blog by cultural agent, independent curator, exhibition organizer, amateur researcher, public editor, occasional writer, museum-art fairs-collections adviser, retired architect, and aesthetic dilettante Pablo León de la Barra.

And finally, before ending with full slideshows of the Biennale, an interesting article titled
'The Venice Effect' by Olav Velthuis (The Art Newspaper, 3 June 2011) to read on your way to Basel focusing on the dealers’ credo: “See it in Venice, buy it in Basel.”

Slideshow of the Giardini:



Slideshow of the Arsenale:


Slideshow of the Eventi Collaterali:




Some numbers on the 54th Venice Biennale:

  • 83 artists
  • 28 country pavilions in Giardini, used by the 30 official countries considered permanent participants.
  • 89 participating countries this year(77 in the 2009 Biennale)
  • 37 Collateral Events
Bice Curiger portrayed by Thomas Kilpper, Danish Pavilion.

2011 Venice Biennale director Bice Curiger, is an art historian, critic and curator. Her curatorial activity at Kunsthaus Zurich parallels her important work in the publishing sector. In 1984, she co-founded the prestigious art magazine “Parkett”, of which she is editor-in-chief. She has been publishing director of London Tate Gallery’s magazine “Tate etc” since 2004. She is the author of a number of publications on contemporary art, among which “The Collected Writings” (Lindinger+Schmid, Regensburg, 2002), “Looks and tenebrae” (Peter Blum Editions, New York and Zurich, 1983), and a monograph on Meret Oppenheim, “Spuren durchstandener Freiheit” (ABC Publisher, Zurich, 1982, English translation 1990, MIT Press, Boston).

All photos: Latitudes | www.lttds.org

Founded in 2005 by Max Andrews and Mariana Cánepa Luna, Latitudes is a curatorial office based in Barcelona, Spain, that works internationally across contemporary art practices.

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