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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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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