Venice and the Biennale


For those not interested in a review here is what to take from this:

Check out Venice! Beautiful scenery, cool art, great food, superb coffee and tasty wine. You have until November 26th to check out the Biennale. Warning: Save your pennies!

For those who want to read my overview of the Biennale, thank you, I am honored! Please continue.

Despite my involvement in the art world over the last years, I never attended the Venice Biennale, until this year. Overall, I was not disappointed. In the first few minutes I was enjoying myself more than I had at Documenta. However, like Documenta, I had no intention of seeing it all. Exhibition fatigue is a real deal.

Most of my time was spent in Giardini. The best pavilions are Russia, South Korea and Japan. Why? Because they are unexpected and accessible. They breech expectations both in terms of the type of art exhibited and, at certain points, alter the traditional role of the viewer.

The US Pavilion also impresses with artist Mark Bradford’s mix of social cultural references that transform the entire pavilion. Great Britain draws attention with the well-exhibited and aesthetically uniform works created by Phyllida Barlow. Barlow offers an interesting element of special awareness, but her work is, I would say, more specifically geared towards the modern art lovers, such as myself. Although award winning, I did not see the seemingly very conceptual performance by Anne Imhof in the German pavilion and so, therefore, walked quickly through the exhibition space unimpressed.

German Pavilion

Then there are the many forgotten pavilions, the ones that I glanced at but barley entered and the ones that I could not necessarily appreciate, specifically the Czech and Slovak pavilion envisioned by artist Jana Želibská. Aesthetically it was far from my favorite exhibition and when attempting to read the information panel I was put off by the pretentious tone in its attempts to explain the world through the theme of this already less then appealing installation.

Spoiler alert for those who have not yet gone and still hope to! If you don’t want to read specifics then this is where we stop and I thank you for reading. Otherwise, the next paragraphs quickly breakdown my three favorite pavilions and touches a bit on Arsenale.

Russia’s display was thematic and visually chic. The exhibition focused on the Internet and how we use it- using people as examples. It isn’t clear whether these people actually exist or not, but that’s not the point. In some shape or form these people could be you or me, and just as similar, when we actually surf through the vastness of the World Wide Web you can never be quite sure who the stranger on the other end might be. First names, age and a brief explanation of how the person uses the Internet are listed (i.e. if they are a hacker, coder, provide sexual content etc. and frequency). The visual is clean, white and 3 dimensional. Outlined body parts of men and women protrude from the otherwise geometrical white support that rests on the floor like pillars or lines the walls. However, tapping into our access and use of technology, the viewer can download an apt, aim their smart phone towards the otherwise unidentifiable shape of a person and the app shows further visual insight into who these people are, or could be.

Russian Pavilion

The Japanese pavilion shows impressive technique, mostly architectural in small scale. However, the highlight is the point when the attendees temporarily become a part of the exhibition. Through a small hole in the ground the head of the participant emerges into the display. The interaction between the people standing over the display taking photos and the person who is suddenly and surprisingly the focal point of the exhibition creates such a unique and visible opportunity to see various human reactions and interactions.

Japan’s Pavilion

South Korea’s exhibition is almost gaudy and crowded. It represents three generations of art and outlines life in South Korea. There are beautiful well-presented images, family photos and artifacts, fine art and modern, more conceptual, art. Also present is a room full of clocks. Each clock is a representation of the passing seconds of individual lives… tick, tick, tick … The name of each of those lives is listed on the clocks. Last, but definitely not least, there is a room that provides an excellent space for a boogie. Or at least that’s what it became to my friends and I. It is a small space separated from the rest of the exhibition by a thick cloth. Behind that cloth are flashing, colorful lights and music. An installation of glasses reflects the light in a sort of still life disco ball display. However, for me it was about letting lose and having a little dance, and again, in our own way, we found ourselves contributing to the exhibition.

South Korean Pavilion

Not to leave Arsenale out, I love that a large portion of Arsenale focuses on textiles. It stands a part from Giardini and gives space for other visually appealing and, at times, practical art forms. As someone who is now trying my hand in sewing some of my own cloths, I was exceptionally excited. My favorite part of the pavilion is right at the entrance. People are encouraged to bring in old clothing to be “repaired.” The volunteer presents their article of clothing and sits in front of the person repairing the pair of pants, shirt, hat etc. and converses with the sewer. In actuality, the person sewing often just sews a design into the cloth instead of  making repairs. When finished, the cloth is folded and added to the pile of cloths at the end of the table to become a part of the exhibition. It is again about human connection and patience. Another interactive project that is in short a communal art project connecting people through a common necessity– clothing. (You can see a reoccurring theme here).

So that’s my overview. I would recommend checking out the Biennale if you haven’t already-if not for the art, then for the romantic sensory the delicious food, coffee and wine. But, as previously warned, bring some extra pocket change!

Patrick Feldmann, Feline Sextroh, Duncan Patman


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