Harry Bellet and Philippe Dagen called this biennale “bien-pensant”….in their Biennale article in Le Monde.
In English this can be translated as “well meaning”, however for me this is not a strong enough word. I call it non-combative and complacent…. And far from serene like our wonderful Serenissima: Venezia. This fantastic città who so thoroughly and lovingly welcomes us barbarians of contemporary art every two years. Like a bad flu we descend on the city and infect it, overloading the vaporettos and hotels and running hither and thither with our cocktail parties and dinners and our complaints and our social game playing: who has been invited to what seems to be more of a concern than the art itself… a rather sad observation.
The art in the national pavilions for the most part was uninspiring…excepting the oozing political correctness, it totally lacked personality. Something ominous and anonymous came forth. Listening to the speeches (sanctimonious and self-gratifying) of the various ministers of culture and exhibitors The Belgians the Germans, the Dutch all made glorious statements about universality and how absolutely wonderfully relevant and politically and socially in tune they were .
Their rhetoric was a strange form of chauvinism and it was alarming. I thought perhaps art which has already been perverted into a global commercial conspiracy was becoming also a political donkey to promote the “whatever” in somebody’s empty political platform.
It struck a strange note and resonance in me and like a flash flood of emotion …. I thought, horrified “Is this “Really” the end of the art world as we once knew it?”
I cannot comment on every pavilion and on every nook and cranny expo but will concentrate on a few remarkable bits and pieces… and I unfortunately I missed some of the 400 venues of this mega Biennale.
“Beaming “ in like some weirdo in Star trek to the new even « higher » tech Korean pavilion was an experience: pristine and invitingly pure; stark and totally spaced out… one finds a fascinating seven-channel video installation “The Ways of Folding Space & Flying” by Moon Kyung-won and Jeon Joon-ho. It did not pretend to be anything else than what it is… …it was successfully technological and very aesthetically minimal and incredibly soothing in the strange biennale atmosphere!!!!
The awe inspiring work of Chiaru Shiota in the Japanese Pavilion was the most lyrical musical and sumptuous invitation into a fairy world of fables and dreams…. Keys hanging by bright red threads virtually hiding old fishing vessels far from hermetic it has to do with cultural memory and its vital importance to humanity and personal identity.
Great Britain’s Sarah Lucas…. Well ah hum… I thought it quite absurd and frisky …I just relaxed and had a good laugh… at least laughed off the empty provocation… I have chosen to present the least offensive of the various sculptures.
Other orifices (let you imagine which) are methodically presented with the cigarettes strategically inserted (Yuk) and I giggled like a school kid at the playful vulgarity;
The Belgian Pavilions… trying so hard to be Avant Garde simulated being cosmopolitan and universal and pounded us sanctimoniously with the obsolescence of the notion of the “National Pavilion “. Vincent Meesen invited various artists to work with him on the pavilion. They explored artistic and intellectual cross pollination between Europe and Africa and yet again expressed the permanent mea culpa references to the Belgian Congo without the essential ingredient : an African artist.
Tamar Guimaeraes and Kasper Akhoj “The Parrots Tail.“2015
In the Central Pavilion
Tetsuya Ishida, super touching and sensitive paintings are a sad commentary on the extraordinary boom and the subsequent unhappy and abrupt crash of the Japanese economy in the 80’s and 90’s … he sadly died prematurely, hit by a train. His work feels lonely and immovable … frozen in time and lifeless. It is intensely surreal and hyperreal … one is touched by its simple and direct didactics.
Tetsuya Ishida, “TOYOTA IPSUM” 1996 acrylic on canvas.
Andreas Gursky, true to his art has produced yet another utterly beautiful and poetic photo this time related to the global micro economy. His sensitivity and experience has given him the ability to capture the very essence of his subject in the photo. The pattern at a glance is of a beautiful design and a with more astute observation we see the industriousness and get a sense of the diligence and the life of those individuals in the photos. As with the piece he is exhibiting at the Biennale… he demonstrates yet again as with Isa Genzken and Georg Baselitz that “chef d’oeuvre” is still a valid appellation.
Andreas Gursky : Workers- micro economy 2014
Isa Genzken and Walker Evans
I was blown away by the incredible and compelling coupling of photographs from Walker Evans’s images of Great Depression rural Americans (‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men’, first published in 1941) with Isa Genzken’s architectural models for ‘Realized and Unrealized Outdoor Projects’. Plaster white and phantom like they converse with Evans’s photographs, they speak of defeat and fatigue, fragility and anguish. (on the other side of the Giardini Genzkens pair of huge white orchids stand silently Two Orchids (2015) reminding us of Genzkens contradictory and distorted size concepts.
The Swiss artist Christoph Büchel has been invited by the Islandic curator Nína Magnúsdóttir to represent the national pavilion of Iceland. His idea far from complacent and well-meaning was to temporarily dedicate to the Prophet Mohamed a small Catholic edifice: an ancient deconsecrated church – Santa Maria della Misericordia dell’Abbazia built in the tenth century.
Inside, several imams in turn organize the reception and prayers until the end of the exhibition of contemporary art on 22 November. The Swiss artist wants to show that despite the lack of mosque, Islam has exercised a profound influence on Venetian history and culture.
This is not the first time that Christoph Büchel’s work relates to this theme. In 2007, during an exhibition at the London branch of his Zurich Gallery, he exhibited hand woven prayer rug with patterns related to the September 11 attacks. This rapidly created controversy. The Italian authorities fear that the “Mosque della Misericordia” will intensify extremist threats. They warned the Icelandic Art Centre that this artistic intervention exposes the city to potential danger from extremists.
In light of the extreme situation in the Middle East and the relentless destruction of world heritage by the ISIS this pavilion is perhaps the most challenging and interesting concept and work at the Biennale. It deservedly celebrates and pays homage to the contribution of Islam and its enlightened Caliphates of the 10th and 11th centuries.
More on the Biennale … tune in May 16: Abu Bakarr Mansaray, Georg Baselitz, Qiu Zhijie, Hiwa K, Lorna Simpson, Bedri Baykam, Latif al Ani. Sadegh Tirafkan, Shamsia Hassani, Furat al Jamil, Farideh Lashai.