Venice Biennale

I have been working near Venice, leading an animation course, so i was fortunate enough to attend the 54th Venice Bienalle. This year was entitled ‘Illuminations’ and was a mixture between national pavilions, curated shows and public exhibitions. Overall i found the quality very high, and (as a first time at any contemporary festival) interesting to understand trends in current art practise and discourse.

I began at the Giardinni pavillion, where i entered a selection of national pavillions. I have included an image and a short comment from the exhibitions that i found particularly poignent and successful, but it is not conclusive, and as i am sure anyone who has visited before knows, it is a near impossible task to experience everything at the Biennale.

Belgium – Angel Vergara ‘ The Seven Capital Sins’

An interesting technique of live painting over TV video clips, exhibited with the paintings on persplex. Innovative process and thoughtful presentation.


Netherlands – “Opera Aperta / Loose Work’

A theatrical environment that exhibited works engaging with the social production of art and performance. This theatre set was constructed for the audience to explore and participate in the notion of an ‘unfinished opera’. Many Pavillions attempted to provide collective, democratic art spaces but the dutch had considered thoughts of Umberto Eco and The politics of theatre. An automated Piano plays a solo whilst the score is left for you to finish.

Russia – “empty Zones’
A very cold installation, curated by Boris Groys. one room contained the wooden peirs of venice in a concentration camp dorm.

Japan – ‘teleco soup’
Technically stunning and immersive, In this dark environment i was surrounded by panoramic animated video with a room of mirrors.
Traditionally animations presented fantastically, with current climate and global disasters being the subject.


Germany – ‘church of Fear vs the alien within’

The one country to embrace the religious architecture in some of the pavillions, and create a fluxus church. The various video loops, images and installations all brought up death, destruction and birth. check him out : Christoph Schlingensief.


Great Britain – ‘I, Impostor’

In line with Tradition, The only pavillion with a cue to manage the numbers but not to stop visitors getting completely lost in Mike nelsons new installation. Nelson has recreated an Instanbul travellers hostel (from Istanbul Biennale in 2003) to immaculate detail, every room feeling like the resident just popped out. The identity and lives of who occupies the various rooms stimulates your curiosity, in a photographers dark room hundreds of pictures hang from the ceiling. The mundane detail and global accuracy leaves you feeling completley abstracted by this obscure familiar sense of travelling. Its a stunning work and sits well with all the european visitors.


France – ‘Chance’

Christian Boltanksi (an artist who often deals with death) has created an infrastructure from scaffolding, that continually circulates prints of newborn babies. The grand constructtion grows with fertility and is very refreshing after coming out of some very sweaty, dark installations. ‘The wheel of fortune’ is the specific main circulation of black and white prints of newborn children. Accompanied either side by ‘The Deaths’ and ‘The births’ two large scale digital counters, recording the lives created so rapidly by so many. I am affectionate towards any art that simply reminds us of the size of the planet and its population.

Individual artists in the Padigilione –


‘Others’ Maurizio Cattelan

This Subtle, humorous piece undermines the whole festival and successfully, subliminally steals the show. If any room of the Padigilone Central, weather there is ceramics of 15th Century paintings, if you look up to the ceiling you will see aligned stuffed pigeons peering down back at you. The pigeons have multiplied since their landing at the 2003 Venice Bienalle, growing like the crowds.

Other perks in the padigilone –

Luigi Ghirri‘s Pictures are fascinating, obscure kitsch 70s american realism.
Omer Fast‘s ‘five thousand feet at its best’ tells the story of air bombing and tracking with amazing cinematography and panoramics.


‘#17jan…’ etc by Norma Jeane
This was the only directly participatory peice i saw at the Bienalle. a large cube of plastacine had been installed in the room which was dismantled, molded and refigured by the vistors. The colours of egypt , and the title (relavent twitter hashtags for days of resistance during arab spring) inflicted an unease or guilt for toying with the playful putty. It made me think of the Western influence on Egypt and the state it was in now.

Haroon Mizza ‘sick’
Loud radio / telephone static noise with discreet mobile videos of London riots/ protests. I enjoyed the relation between the physical resistance and the audible mobile interference. However many people did not see the video, so thought it was a disruptive piece of sonic art.


Nicholas Paris ‘Classroom partial Exersises’
These exercises included romantic ideas like – mapping your dreams by drawing the shape left on your pillow. Other fluxus style drawing exercises covered the walls.

Other highlights

Seeing ‘the clock’ by Christian Marclay again, the artefact of the history of cinema. This art work will be still be important in 20 years.

The iraqi Pavillion
really good video portraits and moving image based work – very cool garden bar too!

The Taiwan Pavillion
A sound bar where individuals sit and view accompanying video works on ipad. at first i felt like i was waiting in an airport, but then i learnt alot about the sound revolution other there.

I think what is important to consider after visiting these global celebrations of art, are the current concerns and trends with contemporaries. Modern art is progressing everywhere, away from 2d to installation and moving image. I still felt there was room to expand the amount of live, interactive or relational art. The attempts to create ‘communual art spaces’ are flaccid and stench of beorgeouise interactions. There were pieces that had a durational, time or site specificity (‘The Others’, ‘The Clock’ and some wax figures that were slowly burning down from the inside forigve me i forgot the author) and this engagement with the time and place is well received by art viewers. The amount of art is similar to a graduate show, works need to provide exciting alternatives to become engaged with efficiently. More often then not for me, i will become excited when a work is current, live and relational, not a reprint.

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