Friday, August 5, 2011

Venice Day 2: The Biennale at the Giardini

I only made two faux-pas today that I am aware of: sitting in the wrong place for breakfast (yogurt, granola and something that hardly passes for orange juice) and not entering the Arsenale correctly with my ticket. First stop: the three day Vaporetto Pass. What an easy mode of transportation! I got to the Giardini at 9:45 AM (shocking to those who know me well) and stood in line for tickets with two dozen others. The grounds where most of the pavilions are located, can only be described as incredible. It's so green and the water is quite vast near the Canale di San Marco. There were a few mosquitoes too (incidentally I had more bites in Italy than my camping trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan last summer).

I couldn't help but continue to notice how unideal some of these pavilions were for showing art. Some are so dark and others are overheated. Some of the pavilions have such awkward architecture and I'm wondering if this was one of the reasons why there were so many video installations (more so than I've ever seen in one location).

My favorite installation was Thomas Hirshhorn's Crystal of Resistance in the Swiss Pavilion. I took so many photographs, this will merit it's own blog post.

There were a few highlights from the Illuminations exhibition. Everyone was fascinated by Mauritzio Cattelan's taxidermy pigeons spread throughout the space (exterior and interior). I photographed this group in the learning resource room. Many were tied to the rafters in the ceilings and every once in awhile, I would look up to see that one was suspended only by its feet hanging upside down.

Here is Rirkrit Tirivanija's installation - a bookstore. It was deadly. I couldn't enter.

I didn't photograph the giant Cindy Sherman images. They were interesting from a technical standpoint (they looked like linen wallpaper). Pipilotti Rist's videos were amusing as they featured her typical subject matter overlapped with generic scenes of Venice. Sigmar Polke's work was slightly disappointing and somehow I missed the Fishli and Weiss room!

The national pavilions to ignore: anyone that did not use the space well. Canada and Australia were sheer disappointments. Not that everything needs to be an installation but they were infinitely more interesting when they were.

Christoph Schlingensief in the German Pavilion was clearly the winner of the Golden Lion. I sat in the pews for quite a while watching the videos on the altar in front of me. There were many dead or dying rabbits which immediately brought Joseph Beuys to mind. The Korean Pavilion was oddly fascinating given my new-found interest in artists who use camouflage in their work. Here is Lee Yongbaek's Angel Soldier.

Also in the Korean Pavilion, The Broken Mirror was an excellent display for video art. It was difficult to photograph given the speed of the cracking glass and the people in the room but here is a photograph:

I was pleased to witness a tank running performance in Allora and Calzadilla's Gloria in the American Pavilion. There were no gymnasts performing inside on the airplane seats and they did not hold up as objects of art without some form of interaction. No one was using the ATM machine and the large sign at the entryway of the building warning people that it might eat one's credit card was a deterrent.

I am sure Christian Boltanski has created more superior installations in the past than Chance in the French Pavilion but I was still very happy to see it. It was a loud production with photographs speeding by, wrapped around tracks that encompassed the entire room. Every once in awhile, the apparatus would freeze and I was able to view the endless photographs of baby's faces. From the exhibition brochure: "The Wheel of Fortune: A long strip of photographs of newborns runs through the space at high speed. Sometimes a doorbell rings and the strip, moved by the random will of a computer, stops at one of the babies. Then, the baby's face appears on a monitor. One child is chosen by chance, for better or for worse. His life is still just a blank page."

A break for lunch at the Giardini before heading onto the Arsenale (that half sandwich was $5).

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