The 57th international art exhibition, titled Viva Arte Viva, curated by Christine Macel and organised by Paolo Baratta, took place from May 13 to November 26 2017. The Biennale present itself as a place dedicated to an open dialogue between artists, and between artists and the public. This year ‘s theme dedicated to celebrating, and almost giving thanks for, the very existence of art and artists, whose worlds expand our perspective and the space of our existence.
The exhibition staged in the historic Pavilions at the Giardini, at the Arsenale and in the city centre of Venice, including the participations of 86 countries and regions. 23 Collateral Events, promoted by non-profit national and international institutions, present their exhibitions and initiatives in Venice during the 57th Exhibition.
The Exhibition Viva Arte Viva offers a route that unfolds over the course of nine chapters or families of artists, beginning with two introductory realms in the Central Pavilion in the Giardini, followed by seven more realms to be found in the Arsenale and the Giardino delle Vergini. There are 120 invited artists from 51 countries; 103 of these are participating for the first time.
In a world full of conflicts and shocks, art bears witness to the most precious part of what makes us human. Art is the ultimate ground for reflection, individual expression, freedom, and for fundamental questions. Art is the last bastion, a garden to cultivate above and beyond trends and personal interests. It stands as an unequivocal alternative to individualism and indifference.
Viva Arte Viva
Viva Arte Viva is an Exhibition inspired by humanism. This type of humanism is neither focused on an artistic ideal to follow nor is it characterised by the celebration of mankind as beings who can dominate their surroundings. If anything, this humanism, through art, celebrates mankind’s ability to avoid being dominated by the powers governing world affairs. In this type of humanism, the artistic act is contemporaneously an act of resistance, of liberation and of generosity.
Viva Arte Viva is an exclamation, a passionate outcry for art and the state of the artist. The role, the voice and the responsibility of the artist are more crucial than ever before within the framework of contemporary debates. It is in and through these individual initiatives that the world of tomorrow takes shape, which though surely uncertain, is often best intuited by artists than others.
Each of the nine chapters or families of artists of the Exhibition represents a Pavilion in itself, or rather a Trans-Pavilion as it is trans-national by nature but echoesthe Biennale’s historical organisation into pavilions, the number of which has never ceased to grow since the end of the 1990s.
Viva Arte Viva also seeks to convey a positive and prospective energy, which whilst focusing on young artists, rediscovers those passed away too soon or those who are still largely unknown despite the importance of their work.
From the “Pavilion of Artists and Books” to the “Pavilion of Time and Infinity”, these nine episodes tell a story that is often discursive and at times paradoxical, with detours that mirror the world’s complexities, a multiplicity of approaches and a wide variety of practices. The Exhibition is intended as an experience, an extrovert movement from the self to the other, towards a common space beyond the defined dimensions, and onwards to the idea of a potential neo-humanism.
Starting with the Pavilion of Artists and Books, the Exhibition reveals its premise, a dialectic that involves the whole of contemporary society, beyond the artist himself, and addresses the organisation of society and its values. Art and artists are at the heart of the Exhibition, which begins by examining their practices, the way they create art, halfway between idleness and action, otium and negotium.
The Exhibition in Venues Around the Town
The Exhibition develops from the Central Pavilion (Giardini) to the Arsenale and includes 86 participants from all over the world. With the gradual expansion of the scale, the scope of the Venice Biennale has expanded to cover the entire city. In addition to the main exhibition venues, it also includes many pavilions scattered on the streets of towns and even outlying islands.
Ca’ Giustinian is an historical palace among the most representative of the Venetian late Gothic style. The palace, originally called “dei Giustinian”, was built around 1471 and is the result of the union of two different buildings: Giustinian and Badoer-Tiepolo. It has been the subject of important renovations between 2008 and 2009. The interiors of the palace are accessible on request and are characterized by essential lines and neutral colors combined with decorative shapes and colors typical of contemporary design. The rooms have been completed with selected artistic works of Art, placed in order to enhance the relationship between Art and space. Light is the other characterizing element of the location.
Pavilions at the Arsenale
The Arsenale was the largest production center in Venice during the pre-industrial era, a symbol of the economic, political and military power of the city. Since 1980 the Arsenale has become an exhibition site of La Biennale on the occasion of the 1st International Architecture Exhibition. Later on, the same spaces were used during the Art Exhibitions for the Open section.
United Arab Emirates Pavilion
2017 is the fifth participation of the United Arab Emirates at the International Art Exhibition. Entitled after a traditional game played across cultures around the world, “Rock, Paper, Scissors: Positions in Play” explores artistic practices in the UAE through the analogy of play, and features five UAE-based contemporary artists, including Nujoom Alghanem, Sara Al Haddad, Vikram Divecha, Lantian Xie and Dr Mohamed Yousif. Curated by curator, writer and former Head of Research and Programmes (2012-2016) at Asia Art Archive in Hong Kong, Hammad Nasar, the exhibition features existing works by the artists, as well as re-fabrication of “lost” works and new commissions.
The exhibition function as a stage for a set of nested questions: where does “playfulness” in artistic practice come from? How and where is “play” nurtured? What does “play” do? Dubai based artist Hind Mezaina was commissioned to develop a program for the National Pavilion UAE exploring the curatorial concepts of the exhibition. The program, titled ‘Home: Food | Music | Sports’, explored how food, music and sports contribute to building a sense of home and community. The events took place across Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.
Life in the folds, one of the principal statements of art is the expression of reality in every single period of our history; focusing in this perspective, the artist Carlos Amorales (Mexico City, 1970) introduced his job titled “Life in the folds” during the 57th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. With the curatorship of Pablo León de la Barra (Mexico City, 1972), the exhibition of Amorales was assembled in the historic building known as the Arsenale, the official venue of the Mexican Pavilion in this edition.
The Mexican Pavilion got high relevance to be the suitable reflect of the main events of 2017, like the renegotiation of North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the massive migratory movements presented in several regions of the world. For this installation, many ocarinas were made to create an encrypted alphabet which can be interpreted both textually and phonetically because each ocarina emits a different sound according to the letter or sign that represents. Also, Amorales designed diverse music sheets whose notes are presented in an abstract way with the objective to create a new and innovative method of perception and interpretation in every visitor.
The Horse Problem by Claudia Fonteswas an installation of sculptures representing Argentina at the 57a Venice Biennial in 2017. The installation shows a bullet-time frozen scene in which a horse, a woman and a young man are trapped in an infinite causality loop for which fear is the cause and the symptom at once. The horse’s fear of being trapped in the building creates an avalanche of rocks travelling into his direction, the shadows of which form a mirrored image of himself, albeit exploding. The whiteness and smoothness of the material give the scene the quality of an apparition as if the characters and their circumstances existed in a parallel temporality. The audience, as onlookers, complete the narrative.
The horse as a sort of unofficial national symbol of Argentina, the prancing horse is used in the work as a symbol of many different things and concepts. On one side, it recalls the equestrian monuments which populate many Argentine and Latin American cities. On another, it represents the clash between nature and industrialization, and the exploitation of natural resources – including the use of animals as a workforce. Finally, it symbolizes the very concept of nation, as a subtle critic to the format of the Biennale itself which, established in the 19th century, is still today based on the idea of national participation to a “universal” art exhibition, something which Fontes considers obsolete and plainly disapproves.
South Africa Pavilion
The South African Pavilion’s exhibition invite viewers to explore the artist’s role in visualising and articulating the notion of selfhood within a context of global marginalisation. What is it to be visible in everyday life, yet invisible and disregarded at the level of cultural, political or economic representation? Placing new works by Breitz and Modisakeng in dialogue, the exhibition reflect on experiences of exclusion, displacement, transience, imigration and xenophobia, exploring the complex sociopolitical forces that shape the performance of selfhood under such conditions.
Mohau Modisakeng presents critical responses to ideas of nationhood, leadership, inequality and migrant labour that manifest visually as poignant moments of grieving and catharsis central to the current lived experience of contemporary South Africans. Breitz’s work has focused on the conditions under which empathy is produced, reflecting on a media-saturated global culture in which strong identification with fictional characters and celebrity figures runs parallel to widespread indifference to the plight of those facing real world adversities.
Rodrigo Quijano present to the world the work of the early-disappeared plastic artist, Juan Javier Salazar (1955-2016), who through humor and irony offers reflections in his work They embody their own vision of the art and history of Peru. The exhibition does not intend to be retrospective or anthological, but rather seeks to give it the value and international exposure that a figure deserves who has greatly influenced the generations of artists who have followed him, and who is, in fact, an axis and character key to understanding contemporary Peruvian art.
Cevdet Erek present a site-specific work for the pavilion entitled “ÇIN”. Instead of trying to describe a project that is meant to be experienced on-site. Born in Istanbul, Erek created his first installation in 2012 for Documenta 13. His work is characterised by a marked use of rhythm and site specificity, often combining video, sound and images in an attempt to alter the viewer’s perception and experience of a given space. Interestingly, Erek manages to combine rational components such as references to architecture and linear time with instinctive impulses, thereby levelling the gap between two supposedly opposing spheres.
The Spectre of Comparison, works by Filipino artists Lani Maestro and Manuel Ocampo. The Spectre of Comparison is drawn from the novel Noli Me Tángere written by the Filipino patriot and novelist Jose Rizal when living in Berlin in 1887. The phrase suggests the experience of the loss of political innocence: the double-vision of experiencing events up close and from afar no longer being able to see the Philippines without seeing Europe nor gaze at Europe without seeing the Philippines.
Despite having aesthetically different practices influenced by distinct historical moments, Lani Maestro, whose installations incorporate sound, film, text and photographs, and Manuel Ocampo – whose figurative paintings critique systems, are both products of the “collective” experience of the émigré’s spectre. The exhibition accords this gaze to Ocampo and Maestro, not only as artists having knowledge of and lived in two, several, or many worlds, but as artists whose art-making produces a fragmented global –a discursive and complex imagining constructed through a consciousness of worlds built across temporal and geographical zones.
Bernardo Oyarzún often examines Chilean culture through an anthropological, social, historical, and ethnical lens. Titled “Werken,” Oyarzún’s exhibition feature an installation of more than fifteen hundred ceremonial masks made by the indigenous Mapuche peoples and red LED lights displaying 6,907 Mapuche surnames. Oyarzún explores the relationship between contemporary art and indigenous peoples.
Tintin Wulia conceptualised three interconnected works under the umbrella title ‘1001 Martian Homes’. The idea was to show the future in the present, letting exiles of atrocities on earth tell their stories on Mars, 200 years later, suggesting a borderless world through digital technology and cameras.
1001 Martian Homes takes place simultaneously, across continents, in two separate exhibition sites. Connecting the pavilion to a twin version in the Jakarta Senayan City Shopping Mall did not particularly enhance it either.. These two sites—each almost identical in design and layout—are interconnected, as are the project’s three pairs of twin works: Not Alone, Under the Sun, and the eponymous A Thousand and One Martian Homes.
Homo Melitensis: An Incomplete Inventory in 19 Chapters, featuring works by contemporary artists as well as historic artefacts, delivers an associative investigation of Maltese identity in a complex installation that brings artworks, objects, and documents together in a non-hierarchical, a-chronological setup. The 19 chapters take audiences into an elaborate journey that travels simultaneously in different directions, taking in specimens of natural history, a national genome, an ancient shipwreck, migration, cartography, ritualistic objects, transgender characters, and other artifacts that playfully combine fact and fiction, identity construction and deconstruction, with subversive objects meeting obedient objects.
Situated inside the Arsenale, the Georgian Pavilion consist of a small, abandoned, wooden house, found in the Georgian countryside. Reassembled in Venice, the hut contains all of the typical contents to be found in such a dwelling, including furniture, pictures and other everyday objects. Inside, the artist installed a self-contained irrigation system simulating permanent rain, reversing the inside-outside relation. Yellow sodium lighting illuminates the interior and permits visitors to witness the slow entropic process of destruction as moss cultures engulf floors, walls, furniture and other objects over the duration of the six-month long exhibition. The installation create its own narrative following a natural dramaturgy that allows for subtle change. In contrast to the interior, the exterior of the house remain the same.
The works of Vajiko Chachkhiani are shaped by a poetic humanism that exists between personal experience and political reality as well as between psychological explorations and material immediacy. Directly or indirectly the point of departure for many of his works is an exchange of objects or actions between people, sometimes appearing as a performance. The artist condenses his subjects by using reduced forms in a subtle interplay between revealing and concealing. The ordinary materials and the traditional craftsmanship of his works come out of a basic, everyday reality. Parallel to his sculptures and installations Chachkhiani has developed a cinematic oeuvre ranging from the documentation of single occurrences to more narrative films that hover between dreams and reality.
Jesse Jones considers the national pavilion as the site of an alternative Law. With a practice that is grounded in film and performance, Jones has created an artwork she describes as a ‘bewitching’ of the judicial system. Jones’ practice crosses the media of film, performance and installation and, for her exhibition at the Biennale, she proposes the return of the witch as a feminist archetype, who has the ability to alter reality. Often working in collaborative structures, she explores how historical culture may hold resonance in our current social and political experiences.
Imagination is a tool to see beyond visible phenomena and experience the world “in all its richness and multiplicity”. The Italian Pavilion composed of three spaces which accommodate a sequence of three installations created by Roberto Cuoghi, Adelita Husni-Bey, and Giorgio Andreotta Calò. The title of the exhibition, Il Mondo Magico, is borrowed from that of the best-known book by anthropologist Ernesto de Martino, published in 1948, which described magic rituals as the tools through which individuals tried to find their own identity in uncertain historical and social contexts.
The entrance space of the Italian pavilion has been transformed into a sort of workshop, a factory which produced devotional statues inspired by the De Imitatione Christi, a medieval text describing the path to achieve a state of ascetic perfection. Imitazione di Cristo (The Imitation of Christ) by Roberto Cuoghi, the first of the three installation presented in the pavilion, investigates the transformation of matter and the fluid concept of identity through a research on the historical depiction of Christ in Italian art. The statues of Christ manufactured in the workshop are then moved to an array of tables positioned inside a long tunnel made in transparent plastic, thus creating a sequence of “bodies” in progressing conditions of deterioration and crumbling of the matter. The statues, almost decomposed, are subsequently “dried” in an oven to stop their decay. Finally, the remains of the figures, distorted and broken to pieces, are re-composed and arranged on a long, dark wall at end of the gallery.
“Continuum – Generation by Generation,” was inspired by the Chinese concept of buxi, an unrelenting energy or life force, and featured individual and collaborative works by four artists: Tang Nannan, Wu Jian’an, Wang Tianwen and Yao Huifen. The Pavilion is not about the work of a single Chinese artist but a collective creative process that has lasted over 5000 years. A comprehensive cross-cooperation among the four artists for the Chinese Pavilion. Each of the four participating artists cooperate with the other three artists. Chinese art is a communal act across five thousand years of our collective history, in which each artist both participates and responds: a kind of cross-generational yaji gathering.
Tang showed videos inspired by Chinese myths dealing with waterways and landscapes. Yao Huifen is an expert in Suzhou embroidery and creates contemporary versions of the revered craft. Wang Tianwen is a Shaanxi shadow-play master, and Wu Jian’an’s laser-cut copper-sheet sculptures rose like totems throughout the space. Many works referenced ancient and celestial themes, and they came together in the collaborative, multimedia shadow-play performance created by the four artists and the curator himself, Continuum – Removing the Mountains and Filling the Sea, with musicians and performers combining traditional methods and digital projections. The exhibition very consciously follows in the footsteps of Chinese intellectuals through history interested in folk art and practices. The cacophonous atmosphere of the China Pavilion this time around had real intention and engaging effects.
Pavilions in the Giardini
Giardini is the traditional site of La Biennale Art Exhibitions since the first edition in 1895. The Giardini now host 29 pavilions of foreign countries, some of them designed by famous architects such as Josef Hoffmann’s Austria Pavilion, Gerrit Thomas Rietveld’s Dutch pavilion or the Finnish pavilion, a pre-fabricated with a trapezoidal plan designed by Alvar Aalto.
The Spanish artist Jordi Colomer presents in the pavilion his exhibition project “Ciudad de bolsillo”, curated by Manuel Segade. It is a “installation of installations” composed of a series of videos, sculptures and the space itself understood as a total but provisional architecture. The installation is organized from the central space with natural light, with the presence of models, prototypes, scale reproductions of these movements, which also incorporate objects used in actions recorded in video and that rhythm the ensemble of the pavilion. In their totality they form a vision at different scales of a fragment of city susceptible of displacement and in precarious balance. The models was made with painted tin modules and was permanently shaken by high-powered fans, as in the continuous vibration of an excited city.
In the perimeter rooms a tour is organized that the viewer was free to move in one direction or another. These spaces are articulated as a progression of sequences from two elements: projection screens with videos and a set of stands for viewing. Both the screens and the stands are structured in serial combinations that configure changing environments, from almost individual viewing to the large room with multiple screens of different sizes and steps to modular heights that allow to offer diverse points of view.
The United States pavilion presents Tomorrow is Another Day, a site-specific installation by Mark Bradford. Mark Bradford is one of the most interesting figures of contemporary Abstract Expressionism; an artist whose works combine a masterful approach to color and matter with a profound attention to social issues and vulnerability and resiliency of marginalized people and communities. The entrance room houses the installation Spoiled Foot, which fills the space with a large, obstructing black and red mass hanging from the ceiling and which forces the public to walk in a narrow passage and brush against the side walls as a metaphor of the contrast between those who live at the margins and a centralized social power.
The second room presents four mostly-black works, three large collage-paintings and a sculpture. In the canvases, each named after a mythological siren, Bradford used a technique he already adopted in the pioneering works he made in the 2000s and which involves the use of endpapers “incorporated” in shimmering black-purple paintings in order to obtain an effect of deep, iridescend matter which “evokes the sea and its passages”, The works’ titles refer to the abuse of women, both in private life and in popular culture. The three paintings “encircle” a central sculpture, entitled Medusa, made of a tangle of bleached black paper locks, to form a sort of contemporary-classic triptych focused of the theme of the depiction of women.
Sagradini cultivating a unique way of understanding and exercising art in a drift through the world of words and things, rescuing experiences, objects and stories culled from everyday life. By working often with the ethnographic finding, he also does so, with interest, with fragments of Uruguayan history, so that through the practices of art he makes the artist historian and the artist anthropologist resurface alternately (or simultaneously). In fact, it is very common for Sagradini to resort to objects used in daily tasks to nurture his symbolic devices,
The piece consists of the shape of a corral for cattle called “Embudo” used in Uruguay since the 19th century, which the artist has reconstructed from an old, barely legible photograph. It is shaped like a place for certain bodies, but is exhibited without them. Extracted from all contexts, it is offered as an empty cell, as a phantasmatic setting whose lost memory now hopes to be replaced by the presence of other bodies capable of occupying it. It has portals, entrances, openings, walls and other devices that give the complex a configuration appropriate to the human scale and close to the language of architecture. The second is a tribute to the mounting conditions, to its scenographic conception, which invites the visitor to have a bodily dialogue with the artifact in order to cross the virtual barrier imposed by the show. Such characteristics give the work a historical reason and a current function ready for the play of meanings, which separates it from the classical minimalist drift.
Mirrored is a group exhibition featuring works by six artists from different generations: Siri Aurdal, Nina Canell, Charlotte Johannesson, Jumana Manna, Pasi “Sleeping” Myllymäki, and Mika Taanila. The exhibition Mirrored attempts to avoid a topical approach, to focus on challenging a self-image reflected in, or stereotypes projected on, the Nordic countries. A mapping of connections that override the national and regional boundaries, and instead track a more multi-faceted view of how artistic practice may connect”, says curator Mats Stjernstedt. Mirrored thus suggest a “placeless place”, to borrow Guiliana Bruno’s allegory on mirrors.
Works of Siri Aurdal, Charlotte Johannesson, and Pasi “Sleeping” Myllymäki are examples of urban art and urbanity that was ahead of its time in exploring industrial material, digital space, or design experiments with moving images. Aurdal’s module-based sculptures challenge the sculpture medium and establish new premises for it. Johannesson took her cue from traditional textile crafts and translated the logical setup of tapestries into computer-based pixels. Before giving up his film practice, Myllymäki produced forty-four super-8 films from 1976 to 1985; these films explore a wide range of elements from graphic design to performative actions.
A similar interest in urban subject matter, expressed, for instance, through material transformation or political content, intersects the works of the following artists; Mika Taanila (b. 1965) is primarily recognised for producing temporal artworks in film, video and sound. For the present exhibition, Taanila uses montage technique to create a cut-out project in cinematic literature. Nina Canell’s (b. 1979) experimental mode of relating to sculpture and installation, considers the place and displacement of energy. However, like Taanila’s film and sound work, they have a temporal quality, as Canell converts sculpture’s often fixed form into open-ended processes. The works of Jumana Manna (b. 1987) explore how power is articulated through relationships, often focusing on the body and materiality in relation to narratives of nationalism and histories of place. In her sculptural work, Manna indirectly unfolds representation, creating a visual language of absence and substitutes.
Great Britain Pavilion
The British Pavilion presents Folly, a site-specific sculptural installation by Phyllida Barlow. Phyllida Barlow is world-renowned for her impressive abstract sculptural works in which cheap materials – such as concrete, timber, fabric – and reused elements are transformed into sumptuously mysterious and disquieting sculptures. Phyllida Barlow has created a multiform installation she entitled Folly as a reference to both a type of flamboyant architectural decorative element and a foolhardy state of mind. The work constantly plays and interacts with the architecture of the pavilion itself, beginning from the exterior, where Barlow places a group of bright colored, almost comical bubbles (or, more precisely, giant baubles, as the artist defines them) which somehow “demystify” the bold, neoclassical forms of the building.
The sculptures inhabit the entire Pavilion, reaching up to the roof and even spilling outside. In the central gallery, she encourages us to take on the role of explorer, picking our way around a sculptural labyrinth of densely-packed towering columns. Brightly coloured baubles jostle joyfully, yet these bulging forms also have a sinister quality as they press towards visitors and dominate the space. Sculptures resembling chairs on a fairground ride allude to festivity yet their folded forms imply decay and desolation.
In A way out of the mirror, Geoffrey Farmer imagined belonging to the nation-state, in terms at once celebratory and mournful; not as a well-bounded or monolithic identity but as fluidity and loss. Transforming the pavilion into an open-air stage for his fountains, he also opened a space for renewal and reflection that literally exploded the intersections of personal and national histories.
With his sensitive, intelligent approach to issues of art, history and material, and his strong international exhibition history, Geoffrey Farmer turn the Canada Pavilion, often considered a difficult space, into an immersive, sculptural experience. Advance information has revealed that personal history and intergenerational trauma was aspects of Farmer’s installation, as well as poetry, old magazines and a family mystery.
“Faust” by anne imhof and curated by susanne pfeffer, the pavilion has been awarded the 2017 golden lion prize for best national participation. Povocative and powerful exhibition, anne imhof has designed the german pavilion at the venice art biennale 2017. it integrates the mediums of painting, sculpture and installation with live performances that explore the composition and comprehension of human figures. Anne Imhof stages into the pavilion space is the depiction of a tough and alienating reality in which individuals are constrained by physical, political, economical, and technological limitations. The hardness of the elements used, such as glass and steel, evokes that of the places in which power and money are managed these days; in glass, in particular, is made the most important alteration of the pavilion’s architecture, namely the addition of a transparent raised platform, one meter over the pavement, which modifies the relationship between space and human presence.
The work strongly interacts with the architecture of the German Pavilion starting from the outside; guard dogs secluded into a large cage, thick shatterproof glass panes which close the entrance portico of the pavilion’s neoclassic building, leaving only the possibility for the visitor to view into the main hall, the shifting of the main entrance on the pavilion’s side, anticipate a total artwork in which different formal and expressive layers and means, from visual installation to music, from painting to live performance, overlap.Beneath the glass slabs, there are persons and a paraphernalia of restraint devices, makeshift beds, flasks, and prescription bottles. Above the transparent platform, the public move watching a group of performers, who exhibit themselves without establishing a real communication with the visitors, yet that are absolutely aware of the power of their visual appearance.
These disciplined and fragile bodies appear as a material pervaded by invisible power structures. They are subjects that constantly seem to defy their own objectification. Media representation is innate to these biotechno bodies. The performers know full well that their gestures are not ends in and of themselves, but only exist as pure mediality. They seem forever on the verge of transforming themselves into pictures ready for consumption; they aspire to become images, digital commodities. In an era characterized by an extreme degree of mediality, images, far from merely depicting reality, create it.
The joint exhibition entitled ‘counterbalance: the stone and the mountain’, focuses on the conflicts and dislocation that the two artists cody choi and lee wan perceive in modern korean identity. Cody choi’s work looks at korea’s modernisation by exploring the tension between its changing identity and the increasing influence of the west. ‘venetian rhapsody’ installed on the roof of the pavilion, is a glowing forest of neon signage that borrows freely from the visual ambiance of casinos in las vegas and macao and reflects on the spectacle of global capitalism. choi’s work also includes the parodic sculpture known as ‘the thinker’, a reinvention of rodin’s sculpture constructed from toilet paper and the pink american stomach medicine pepto-bismol.
Lee wan belongs to a younger generation of korean artists. through his work, lee wan investigates the hidden lives of individuals exploited by global power structures in countries all over asia and beyond. among his works at this year’s biennale arte is ‘proper time’, which consists of 668 clocks, each inscribed with the name, date of birth, nationality and occupation of individuals the artist met and interviewed around the world, researching the widely differing economic circumstances of working people. according to lee daehyung, ‘each clock moves at a different rate that is determined by the amount of time the individual in question must work in order to afford a meal.’ the result is an absurdist aggregation of abstract portraits that doubles as a loud, dizzying multi-sensorial and immersive representation of global inequality.
“Turned Upside Down, It’s a Forest” is the solo exhibition of artist Takahiro Iwasaki, who renowned for its works, though which he transforms apparently banal materials and residual object into surprising sculptures, meticulously conceived and built. The work of the Japanese artist is characterized by the inclusion of elements which are not physically present within the artwork, yet that are an essential part of its identity, such as water in his reflection model series, by a constant contrast between order and disorder, and by a profound interest in environmental and social issues. The Reflection Model series comprises architectural models of really existing Japanese temples, mirrored upside down to re-create the presence of the body of water which the original buildings stand upon as a reasoning about the concepts of reality and ambiguity. To further emphasize such idea, the models are made in the same wood (Japanese cypress) of the real buildings.
The exhibition curator Meruro Washida, the history of Hiroshima appears to deeply permeate within his works. The city of Hiroshima was instantly annihilated as a consequence of the atomic bomb, and although it had previously served as a military city, its image had changed 180-degrees after the war to be widely recognized as a city of peace. Iwasaki’s use of figurative representation in his works, in other words, the way something comes to present itself in an entirely different manner when happening upon a certain detail, is indeed connected to Hiroshima’s experience. The use of everyday objects in Iwasaki’s case draws influence from the numerous artifacts housed in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which convey daily necessities that have instantaneously been distorted and made devoid of their function. The fine delicacy of his handiwork that could even be described as craft-like, seemingly traverses the worlds of the micro and macro.
On Marcelle’s installation “Chão de caça”, an inclining floor made of welded grating occupies the interior of the two connected galleries of the Brazilian Pavilion. Ordinary pebbles, like those found in the surrounding Giardini, are squeezed into the grid, normally used in an industrial context or within public space, for example between railroad tracks or for coverage of subway venting shafts or sewerage systems. Interlaced with the grating and the pebbles, there are additional sculptural elements, a series of paintings and a video. A number of wooden sticks are fixed into the floor structure, each balancing a painting on cloth draped over the upper tip, like a group of ghosts or a small forest of signs, torches or totems. The support of the paintings is a black-and- white striped cotton fabric, ordinary bed sheets, but each of the black stripes has been carefully erased with white paint. Stones in various sizes are wrapped with the lace and therewith become part of the larger overall structure, giving it a sculptural volume and weight.
There is also a video: a one angle shot onto a tiled roof, which is gradually being dismantled from the inside by men, creating an opening big enough for them to climb onto the roof. Marcelle plays on ambiguity, she creates an enigmatic environment, directed by suspension, obsession and rebellion. The installation as a whole provokes a sensation of instability. As much as we might be seduced to hold onto the image of the prison and the getaway, indicated by the video projection and resonating with the roughness of the steel grating, one could also imagine to be in a peculiar laboratory or an unhinged artist studio, in a techno forest or a big wild city.
For the show “Krungthep BANGKOK”, artist Somboon Hormtiemtong selected objects including wooden trunks, Buddha statues, elephants and plastic containers in order to create a feel for the Thai capital in all its diverse aspects. In addition to that, Hormtiemtong also realized realistic charcoal drawings of hidden corners of the city. The artist used the linguistic code of the readymade which we are well-accustomed to, to create an atmosphere, the complex times Thailand is facing.
Exhibition venues around Castello and Cannaregio
The Pavilion of Lebanon present the work of Zad Moultaka. The title SamaS is a palindrome, a word that reads the same backwards and forwards. It means “Sun Dark Sun”. The far interior wall, which is studded with shiny coins reminiscent of the surface of a mosaic. This is deliberate, as it was inspired by the gold mosaics of the Basilica of San Marco. The thousands of coins include some with holes in them, which suggesting bullet holes. This is a gold mosaic but with real coins, it is money that makes war possible.” This is a wall of lamentation, 32 voices, each coming from a separate speaker, creates a chorus of mourning and a whirr of energy. Each voice is delicately differentiated, as if pieces in a mosaic. The music was written for the Chorus of the Antonine University in Beirut. At times it sounds like the hum of an aircraft engine, and at others like what Daydé describes as “the song of angels”.
In the centre of the space is an improbable object, an upright Rolls-Royce Avon MK 209 airplane engine from the 1950s, standing like a column and positioned to resemble a statue from the era of Hammurabi, who ruled Mesopotamia in 18BC. His reign is known for some of the world’s most ancient inscriptions, including the world’s earliest descriptions of laws. Displaying the aircraft engine, an instrument of war, in place of a basalt column from Hammurabi’s time suggests conflict has been present in the region at least as long as the precepts encoded by Hammurabi. The code of laws and the airplane engine are exactly the same form. It’s incredible that, in the human mind, these forms can look so much alike, even if they’re being used for opposing purposes”.
Žilvinas Landzbergas’s new installation titled “R”, revealing mesmeric realities that blend Nordic sceneries and imagery with the white cube space of the distinctive Venetian building of Scuola San Pasquale. R is for recall, record, relate, refer, resemble, respect, ray, radium, rhenium, romantic, real and rhyme. RA, as in astronomy, mythology, medicine, chemistry, music, seafaring and more. R is the most complex letter of the alphabet, which integrates the entire spectrum of geometric shapes and meanings spanning the boundaries of the rational and imaginary. R is an endemic element in Žilvinas Landzbergas’ artistic practice where R appears as a space, an object, a character, a sign, and a portal.
Žilvinas Landzbergas’ installations operate on physical and subconscious registers by assuming the structure of a fairytale in which archetypal elements, social reflections and personal insights combine into fantastic spatial narratives. Fully immerse in the illusionary landscapes of Žilvinas Landzbergas, where you face devoured suns and fake moons, Nordic orders, sprouted furniture and giant heads, follow material shadows and light drawings, succumb to acupunctural healing courtesy of Styrmir Örn Guðmundsson with the assistance of Jokūbas Čižikas and Indriði Arnar Ingólfsson, tune in to underwater beats by DJ Exotip.
Represent by Polys Peslikas and curate by Jan Verwoert, The exhibition titled “Coming to Life Through the Medium of Painting,” also include the participation of the artist collective Neoterismoi Toumazou, the writer Mirene Arsanios, and the ceramist Valentinos Charalambous. Peslikas display paintings at the pavilion, setting the stage for the guest artists, the peculiar appearance of painting in the envisioned exhibition space may be akin to the ghost of a theater curtain, which remains present before your eyes, even when the play is already in progress.
Peslikas, born in 1973 in Limassol, on the southern coast of Cyprus, is currently based in Berlin. The artist sees painting as means to explore the concept of time and create new relationships with existing narratives. His practice is highly collaborative, and he often invites other artists working in other mediums, including dance, to contribute in his work. On the basis of his practice, Peslikas made a strong case for the power of painting to convey the intensity of elementary experiences,” Verwoert said of Peslikas’ work and his upcoming exhibition in a statement. “He emphasized that [the] experiential potential [of painting] may most strongly be felt when painting veils itself; chiaroscuro lets the eyes wander; colors become atmospherical, spectral even.
Themed “A Bonsai of My Dreams”, feature new works by local artist Wong Cheng Pou. The exhibits consist mainly of three-dimensional works, paintings and photographs. The exhibition title “A Bonsai of My Dreams” indicates the intention of the author to cultivate his personal dreams in bonsai, just as ancient Chinese literati placed planting miniatures in small pots, thus reflecting a desire for a spiritual life full of simplicity and elegance.
The exhibits mainly include figures inspired by the deities described in the ancient Chinese classic Shan Hai Jing (The Classic of Mountains and Seas), which is a rich source of information about the religion, history, geography andspecies of Ancient China, reflecting the world view that prevailed in China two millennia ago. “A Bonsai of My Dreams” presents the author’s observations, feelings, and the imagination of the city where he currently lives.
The Absence of Paths is a human performance staged across Venice which, for the duration of the Biennial, represents an idyllic microcosm of the world: a place where human beings may still flow freely from one nation to the next. This is represented in a physical travel document called a Freesa, produced with the help of Veridos, a leader in producing secure identification papers for countries and companies around the world.
The project do not include artists but individuals with firsthand experience on migration, issuing travel documents for visitors at different locations around town. This installation empower each and every visitor towards shedding the divisive baggage and classifications imposed upon people. The carefully developed collateral event, at the heart of the pavilion, form the basis of a silent, individual protest. In addition to visitors from across the world, The Absence of Paths leverage the active contributions of young aspirational migrants. Their passage to the Biennale by virtue of being part of an artistic practice at an internationally recognized contemporary art event highlight contemporary art’s status as a global phenomenon, one which maintains the ability to inspire debate and inquiry.
Under the theme “Exploring Ideas of Belonging”, four artists, Admire Kamudzengere, Charles Bhebhe, Dana Whabira and Sylvester Mbayi, conceive new works, incorporating sculpture, prints, drawings, objects, paintings and sound for the six galleries of the Zimbabwe Pavilion. The artists and their experiences in the ever changing world are the source of inspiration. The Zimbabwe Pavilion Exhibition seeks to provide another perspective on the themes of identity, migration, patriotism and belonging. The ideas of here and there, seeing and being seen, legal and illegal have remained subjects for debate and this exhibition seeks to provide some answers to these issues. Borders are an unavoidable part of life but people still continue to cross them legally and illegally.
This issue of Deconstructing Boundaries tackles a vast topic which has become a central issue and the exhibition illuminate some of its diverse perspectives through the artists, Admire Kamudzengerere, Charles Bhebe, and Dana Whabira. Their work inspire the Zimbabwe Pavilion audience to reflect and discuss issues that shape power relations. The exhibition seeks to put forth some questions relating to the matter of belonging through the voices of four artists. In the face of relentless globalisation, physical boundaries are being blurred and challenged. The voices and perspectives of artists in this regard are thus important, for they are the mirror of society. Deconstructing Boundaries seeks inspiration from the participating artists as they reflect on their own experiences and question the boundaries that currently exist in one form or the other. As artists cross different borders and boundaries, they carry with them their own unique experiences about the different spaces they visit.
Lost in Tngri (Lost in Heaven) and brings together 5 artists who explore the urgencies of Mongolian contemporary society. The country is at a crossroads between its identity as a nomadic nation, with an important history of Shamanism and Buddhism, and a new economic reality of globalization where the use of natural resources threatens its very existence. Traditions of herding across vast and beautiful terrains with a life connected to nature, ancestry and the spiritual world is seen as heaven by many. Economic opportunity, created following the collapse of the socialist system in 1990, has opened the door to another type of heaven. Mining, construction, cashmere and other businesses have boomed creating wealth through the exploitation of the lands of their ancestors. But is the country disappearing between these two biospheres? Through film, installation, sculpture and sound, the artists from across generations, question Mongolia’s future.
Exhibition venues around San Marco and Dorsoduro
Chinese Taiwan Pavilion
Tehching Hsieh develop a new iteration of his One Year Performances, a body of extremely physical and psychological challenges which investigate the nature of time and the existential dilemmas of the modern human condition. For his 1978 Cage Piece, the artist spent 12 months in near-solitary confinement in a cage he built in his studio with the bare necessities, and the interdiction to talk, read, write or watch TV.
The historic halls of the Palazzo delle Prigioni Venice, the former prison of the Palazzo Ducale, are an ideal setting for the work of an artist who understands more than most, the meaning and cost of ‘doing time’, and the nature of lives lived at the edges of what we call society. From an estranged position, Hsieh not only embodies a life force and resilience emerging from his early days in Chinese Taiwan. A persistence in adversity common to many, conveyed through frugal yet extreme artistic practices. His actions evoke collective cultural anxieties and explore the many existential dilemmas found within the modern human condition.
Under the theme “Under One Sun”, the art of living together, has symbolic significance. Ensuring peace and stability in a modern era with complex geopolitical processes is one of humanity’s most important issues. Today we witness negative trends taking place around the world. Azerbaijan is a perfect sample of a complex society, which promotes acceptance of different languages and cultural backgrounds, the culture of living together mostly in harmony and equality in a multicultural and multi-religious society, supporting each other in a sometimes rough natural environment. Unfortunately, dangerous factors such as xenophobia, extremism, religious discrimination, and terrorism violate peaceful norms of co-existence and lead to calamity within civilizations and nations.
In this context, every nation should contribute to the strengthening of positive trends, the propagation and promotion of public relations based on multicultural traditions, and dialogue between cultures and civilizations. This geographical location has played a vital role in cultural diversity. By representing the existing situation, showcase that people can unite around ideas of multiculturalism. The art of living together, which provides the opportunity engage with the Azerbaijani model of multiculturalism, promote tolerance, mutual trust, solidarity, and friendship among different nations.
The exhibition titled ‘Time of Intuition’, composed largely of young artists, who already enjoy a considerable recognition worldwide. The exbihition the need to recover the role of art and of the artist within society, about the urgency to rescue humanism, which has been lost throughout all these decades. Contextualizing the project on Cuban reality and keeping in mind Macel’s curatorial ideas, Noceda found inspiration in the concept of time as expressed by the Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier (1904-1980), initiator of the Latin American concept of magical realism. Carpentier said that in the Caribbean and in Cuba three time realities coexist simultaneously: the past, or time of memory, the present, time of intuition or vision, and the future, or time of waiting. Present is the chosen one, the Time of Intuition.
The Cuban pavilion is set in the ancient and prestigious Loredan Palace, the 14 interpreters of the Caribbean island daily life, through intimate or satirical routes, with performances, photos or installations, deal with topics ranging from the de-construction of the past and history, to chronicle today; ranging from social, racial and gender issues, to themes of faith and spirituality. They are peculiar and independent authors, who propose diffrent visions of the issues of their world in which the context, and the commitment to it, are the keys to reconsider reality.
‘Archaic’, shows the work of eight Modern and contemporary Iraqi artists in dialogue with 40 ancient Iraqi artefacts drawn from the Iraq Museum and spanning six millennia, from the Neolithic Age to the Parthian Period. Most of these objects have never previously left Iraq, excluding a few that were recently recovered after the 2003 lootings of the Museum. The tension in the term ‘Archaic’ is drawn from its multivalent references to the ancient and primordial, as well as what is currently out of use. The exhibition draws out this tension to emphasise its particular relevance to Iraq, a country whose existing political, administrative, social and economic reality is arguably as ‘archaic’ as its ancient heritage.
The first vitrine is a selection of anything but contemporary works. In fact, these objects date back thousands of years. There are tiny statues of female figures and animals, and a row of cylinder seals. Some of the smaller statues are so worn down over the centuries that their stone features are no more than shadows. The rest of the pavilion’s art in the Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti on the Grand Canal is new – either from the second half of the 20th century, or commissioned for the 2017 Biennale. Those works are displayed as examples of modern art rooted in the cultures of an ancient land.
Montenegro is represented by the project of “Čovjek-Uomo-Human” by the artists Ivana Radovanović and Adin Rastoder. The works of Ivana Radovanović and Adin Rastoder represent two independent artistic concepts with a shared theme, the theme of anthropology, and man. This concept is an invitation, an appeal to change the world in which we live. Art is a symbol, a medium that connects peoples and cultures. In their visual characteristics and artistic messages, the artistic projects of Ivana Radovanović and Adin Rastoder represent separate pieces, but at the same time they constitute an aesthetically choreographed and powerful whole. The two artistic concepts make for a union insofar as they express two different aspects of the human being. Their mutual contrasts in reality create a unique message that invites us to contemplate deeply on the meaning of human existence. Their project is, therefore, an appeal to change the world in which we live, and to return to all its essential values.
Rastoder’s sculpture is an imaginary figure that emerges from vital anthropological principles. Through his creative process, he arrives to unusual, abstract, novel solutions and responses. His figures all have the same shape, but what makes them different is their colors, which point to what is individual and what is collective in them. The optimistic worldview of the author is expressed through their vividly painted costumes. The work of Ivana Radovanović highlights absurdity and impermanence as the key dimensions of human life. Accordingly, she demonstrates a strongly modern sensibility marked by a destruction of personality and individuality. This spirit is, in fact, a collection and accumulation of feelings, images, fragments, which may be combined to form some new compound. The artist deals with the human being seen essentially as a creator and a destroyer. Her figures represent defaced people or people without faces, without qualities, devoid of any meaning, indifferent and degraded in terms of their human dignity.
Exhibition venues around Cannaregio and Santa Croce
The inventiveness and humor of Egill Sæbjörnsson’s project, as well as his ability to bring together divergent worlds through the use of different media and platforms to create an immersive environment where the real and concrete intersects with the imagined and the fantastic, engage the audience with its layered sensorial universe and relevant reflections on our contemporary world.
Egill Sæbjörnsson lives and works in Berlin and Reykjavik. At the forefront of experimentation, he combines music, sculpture, video projection and animations, as well as his own performance – whether as a mime artist, speaker, actor, musician, or singer – to create fictional spatial narratives. Theatrical, poetic and playful, ordinary dormant objects come alive in Sæbjörnsson’s works – be they plastic buckets, a wall, rough stones or handbags – drawing the viewer into a wondrous world where the real and the imagined collide. His work blurs the boundaries between the real and the illusory through exploring the “magic” of technology, playing with projected video and sound in surprising combinations that demand complex considerations from the audience. But while his work is experiential and prompts dense ontological questions, it frames them in a ways that render such themes accessible.
Entitled Apparitions, the first solo dedicated to a female artist of Romania, in a long journey that has been mostly male-dominated. Apparitions, a series of works realized by the artist with her eyes partially closed. But “apparitions” is a word that possibly summarizes an artistic practice. For Bratescu, the artistic object is the result of a “mind dance”: the technique counts for less, what is important—the artist often says—is the “spirit” of the artwork, what the “mind and vision” claim. Apparitions also means absolute freedom, beyond any social and political constraint. But apparitions are also epiphanies—the artwork comes out through the transfiguration of simple plastic elements via expressions.
The complex artist Geta Brătescu creates drawings, collages, engravings, tapestries, objects, photographs, experimental films, videos, performances; expressing herself in so many mediums, that can all be converted, she suggests, to drawing. In Geta Brătescu’s eyes, the social and political condition don’t reflect themselves in art: art has to manage to keep its autonomy, not interfering with politics. No matter the location, the artist has to have the ability to create a mental studio. The physical space of the studio, present almost obsessively in certain artworks, is in fusion with an interior space, which produces worlds in itself, mythologies. The same thing occurs with Bra˘tescu’s own physical presence in her art, which, when absent, creates alter-egos and complex feminine mythologies, maps and mental trips.
With the theme “How about now?”, the exhibition takes the form of a multilayered timeline. It arrives from the past and, then, takes off to the future. The statement behind it is quite simply that the time for Nigeria is now. How About Now? seems to be an inquisitive and challenging question which evokes a range of ideological possibilities. It forcefully implies the contemporary, and/or postcolonial. This pavilion is a framework for given potentialities—making a connection between the featured works of art and the milieu in which Nigerian artists work, and linking artistic imagination to the continuum of experience and complexity of national identity.
The Nigeria Pavilion presents an opportunity for the nation to reflect on its history and heritage and how it champion current fragmented but interconnected narratives. The selected visual artists are Victor Ehikhamenor, and Peju Alatise, and Dance / Performance Artist, Qudus Onikeku. Their works give insights from various perspectives to contemporary Nigerian life through installations, paintings, and performance. The mediation of contemporary, historically grown issues through different forms of expression promises an invigorating experience.
Memory and Contemporaneity. China Art Today
Arsenale Nord, Promoter: The Palace Museum, Beijing
What exactly is the significance of a reflection on contemporary Chinese art in the memory? Obviously, it is an important path leading us to realize the value of Chinese civilization. City of Beijing is the symbol to represent the diversity and richness of the Chinese Culture. And it is precisely in the capital city that the exhibition project Memory and Contemporaneity was born. In the context of the Forbidden City, one of greatest legacies of China’s history, it is currently opening a space of investigation where, starting from the Palace Museum’s collections and archives, a group of Chinese contemporary artists have been asked to reflect on contemporary art in relation to the cult of memory.
Samson Young: Songs for Disaster Relief
Arsenale, Campo della Tana, Promoter: M+, West Kowloon Cultural District; Hong Kong Arts Development Council
Artist and composer Samson Young creates a new body of work that attempts to frame the popularisation of “charity singles” as a historic “event” and a culturally transformative moment in time. Charity singles were most widespread in the 1980s, and coincided with the rise of neo-liberalist aspirations and the globalisation of the popular music industry.
Through a deliberate repurposing and creative misreading of such iconic titles as We Are the World and Do They Know It’s Christmas, the artist generates a series of objects, performance, and spatial sound installations that together constitute an audio-visual tableau. The exhibition is conceived as an album unfolding in space: a single-copy mechanical reproduction that must be heard and seen in person; an urgent and perpetual plea-for-action.
A Bonsai of My Dream – Works by Wong Cheng Pou
Arsenale, Castello, Promoter: The Cultural Affairs Bureau of the Macao S.A.R. Government; The Macao Museum of Art
The world is getting more and more complicated. Living in an over-crowded city, people may find it confusing to squeeze themselves among the gaps. I am so lucky to have been living by the sea, and whenever I am free I would like to go somewhere high, sitting there doing nothing, just gazing at the enchanting mountains from an elevated position, especially when there is a clear moon in the sky, the silvery shadows reflected by the calmness of the water are totally different from what they used to be in the day time – a frigid concrete jungle. Then I couldn’t help myself being infatuated with this unfathomable scenery, recalling my memories of the creatures in the Shan Hai Jing, who take care of the seas and mountains in an eccentric way.
Palazzo delle Prigioni, Promoter: Taipei Fine Arts Museum of Chinese Taiwan
In Manhattan’s downtown art scene of the late 1970s and early 80s a young Taiwanese artist Tehching Hsieh made an exceptional series of artworks. He embarked on five separate yearlong performances. In each, he made a strict rule that governed his behaviour for the entire year.
The performances were unprecedented in terms of their use of physical difficulty over extreme durations and in their absolute conception of life and art as simultaneous processes. Assembling many documents and artefacts into detailed installations, Doing Time counterpoints two of Hsieh’s most moving One Year Performances: the Time Clock Piece (1980-1981) and the Outdoor Piece (1981-1982). Together these two monumental performances of subjection mount an intense and affective discourse on human existence, its relation to systems of power, to time and to nature.
Alberto Biasi, Sara Campesan, Bruno Munari e altri amici di Verifica 8+1
Istituzione Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa, Promoter: Associazione Culturale Ars Now Seragiotto
The Verifica 8 + 1 association was set up in April 1978 on the Venetian mainland as a meeting place for artists involved in a search for new languages. The exhibition project is focused on three significant members of the association: Sara Campesan, a founding member with a dynamic personality and a strong creative bent; Bruno Munari, the association’s putative father-figure; and Alberto Biasi, the founder of Programmed Art in Veneto.
The exhibition includes works by the other founding members, and the selection of seven more artists who have held solo shows at the Centre, and who have been particularly active in the group. Thus the project includes a symmetrical balanced group of seven artists, founders of the Centre, in addition to the three personalities mentioned in the title, and seven masters who have held shows at Verifica 8 + 1.
Body and Soul. Performance Art – Past and Present
Conservatorio di Musica “Benedetto Marcello”, Palazzo Pisani, Promoter: Rush Philantropic Arts Foundation
In Body and Soul. Performance Art – Past and Present, eight performance artists—some historically renowned, others emerging—appear in live performances and in video or photographic documentation of their earlier actions. The pioneering figures VALIE EXPORT, ORLAN, Nicola L, and Carolee Schneemann have long used their bodies to express concerns related to gender, femininity, personal relationships, and politics. Their innovations were both formal and thematic, directly confronting mid-twentieth-century gender inequality and social repression.
The exhibition’s younger participants, building on that heritage, address the performance art canon itself (Derrick Adams), cultural fragmentation and multiple identities (Aisha Tandiwe Bell), paternity and the cycle of life (John Bonafede), and the contestation of social roles and dynamics of bodily expression (Katarzyna Kozyra).
Catalonia in Venice_La Venezia che non si vede
Cantieri Navali, Castello, Promoter: Institut Ramon Llull
Antoni Abad proposes a sensory interpretation of the urban space that is Venice, created in collaboration with a group of blind and visually impaired people. This collective of people uses the senses in a different way compared to the majority of the population and is able to reveal hidden aspects of the city.
The catalyst for this socially engaged art project is a mobile application, BlindWiki, created especially for blind people, which allows to record and publish impressions of any location in the city, as well as listen to these recordings in situ. Thus, the Catalan project is an eminently sensorial experience, where the collective intelligence reclaims universal accessibility and suggest alternative ways to occupy public space, both physical and digital.
Fernando Zóbel. Contrapuntos
Fondaco Marcello, Promoter: Ayala Foundation/Ayala Museum
The exhibition provides an introduction and perspective on the work of Fernando Zóbel (1924-1984), who was born in Manila, studied at Harvard University, and lived in Spain. The exhibited paintings are a harmonious synthesis of Asian and Western painting techniques. Described as a transnational artist, Zóbel was a key figure in the modern art movement in the Philippines. He also formed close ties with Spanish artists in the 1950s to 1960s during the ascendancy of Spanish abstract painting.
Focusing on the years 1956-1962, the show selects artist’s prime achievements, the Saeta and Serie Negra series. The exhibition also includes the sculptures of Pablo Serrano (1908-1985) who was also a proponent for abstraction in Spain. Fernando Zóbel. Contrapuntos is designed as an organic mise-en-scène, a contemplative, cerebral sphere rather than inanimate scenography. Artifacts, texts, music, and publications form part of a visual dialogue about how artistic practice could be reimagined as a lively form of contemporary expression.
Future Generation Art Prize @ Venice 2017
Palazzo Contarini Polignac, Promoter: Victor Pinchuk Foundation
The Future Generation Art Prize @ Venice 2017 presents the fourth edition of the first global art prize with 21 artists from almost all continents and 16 different countries. Through the independent artists statements this exhibition engages with the complexities of the contemporary world and investigates the possibilities of art within it. Balancing between personal and collective, imaginary and real, familiar and uncanny, the show proposes a captivating journey through parallel realities where idiosyncratic experiences and global phenomena intersect.
James Lee Byars, The Golden Tower
Dorsoduro, Promoter: Fondazione Giuliani
James Lee Byars (1932-1997) envisioned The Golden Tower as a colossal beacon and oracle that would bridge heaven and earth and unify humanity – a contemporary monument surpassing the grandeur of the Lighthouse of Alexandria. The idea first began in 1990 and was developed with numerous conceptual studies throughout the artist’s career.
Towering to a height of 20 meters, The Golden Tower is the artist’s largest and most ambitious work. Fabricated in 2017 with a team of Italian gilders, this installation of The Golden Tower is the first to fully realize the artist’s intentions of presenting the sculpture in a public space, and doubly significant given Byars’s deep connections to the city. Byars lived off and on in Venice beginning in 1982. He participated in four previous editions of Biennale Arte since 1980 and enacted numerous performances in Venice throughout his career.
Jan Fabre – Glass and Bone Sculptures 1977 – 2017
Abbazia di San Gregorio, Promoter: GAMeC – Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Bergamo
The exhibition surveys Jan Fabre’s oeuvre from its beginning, leading viewers into a philosophical, spiritual and political contemplation of life and death through the lens of metamorphosis, as embodied in his works in glass and bone created in the period 1977-2017.
The artist chooses glass for its real and metamorphical transparency, because it is a material that can be looked through. He uses it in different ways, as a transparent sheet/wall into which he can engrave or sculpt an ear in relief: the orgn of hearing thus joining that for seeing. The use of bones marks a return to one of Fabre’s fundamental reference points, the tradition of the Flemish masters, who regularly used ground bone in their paintings. Thus the glass and bone works unite the artist’s artistic childhood with the history of old and modern art, in an ongoing reinterpretation of the relationship between past, present and future.
Man as Bird. Images of Journeys
Palazzo Soranzo Van Axel, Promoter: The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts
The exhibition invites the viewer to travel across multiple dimensions, space, time and individual experience – which may alter the perception of the world and the self. The initial morphology and structure of the images transform along the journey due to different viewpoints incorporated into the project. Like Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver or Lewis Carroll’s Alice, the viewer experience unusual proportions and perspectives: the world transforms, the point of view changes, the real and the imaginary intertwine and no longer correspond to our perception.
Along the journey, the angle of vision broadens through the bird’s-eye view to expanded vision linked to all other senses. Sound, tactile sensation, and haptic vision allow experiencing one more space – the space of memory, which foregrounds the individual journey through the self. The vanishing point converging the machine and the human eye, spaces of history and individual memory, is inside each of us, and the ultimate goal of this journey is to cognize oneself.
Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore, Promoter: Associazione Arte Continua
The symbol of the Third Paradise, a reconfiguration of the mathematical symbol for infinity, is composed of three consecutive circles. The two outer circles represent all diversities and antinomies, including natural and manmade. The central circle is the joining and interpretation of the outer circles and represents the generative womb of a new humanity.
The Third Paradise is the third phase of humanity, achieved via a balanced interconnection of the articial and the natural. In this phase, art becomes a catalyst for meanings relating to religious symbolism, a multiconfessional realm capable of promoting equilibrium in the political and religious conflicts that tragically grip the entire world. In the exhibition Michelangelo Pistoletto, the artist explores contemporary issues relating to today’s globalized society, presenting works inspired by the acceptance of differences and by political, religious and racial tolerance, promoted through creativity aiming to improve society.
Ca’ Faccanon, Promoter: WAVE’s (women arts Venice)
Modus tells the story of an aspect in the practice of art that progressively eroded starting in the second half of the nineteenth century and was reformulated in a theoretical key by the historical avant-garde movements: the intimate connection between technique and poetics, the relation between science and the material of the work of art.
With an animated video on the history of art, the exhibition reveals, in multiple sections, the linguistic and interdisciplinary interrelations that characterize the contemporary quest in art. The scientific basis has been developed in collaboration with the Fine Arts Academy of Bologna and the Visual Communication Design Method program of the Fine Arts Academy of Venice.
Philip Guston and The Poets
Gallerie dell’Accademia di Venezia, Promoter: Museo Nazionale Gallerie dell’Accademia di Venezia
The Gallerie dell’Accademia di Venezia present the work of the pre-eminent Canadian-American painter Philip Guston (1913-1980) in a major exhibition exploring the artist’s oeuvre in relation to key literary figures.
The exhibition considers the ideas and writings of major 20th century poets as catalysts for his enigmatic pictures, featuring works that span a fifty-year period in Guston’s artistic career, paintings and drawings dating from 1930 until his death in 1980. The exhibition draws parallels between the essential humanist themes reflected in these works, and the words of five poets: D.H. Lawrence, W.B. Yeats, Wallace Stevens, Eugenio Montale and T.S. Eliot. This museum exhibition reflects the artist’s special relationship with Italy.
Espace Louis Vuitton Venezia, Promoter: Fondation Louis Vuitton
For the Espace Louis Vuitton Venezia, Pierre Huyghe has imagined a whole new exhibition format, between narrative, fiction and fugitive memory. The film A Journey that wasn’t (2005) is at the center of the exhibition, retracing an expedition to Antarctica aboard an ancient sailboat in search of a new island where an albino penguin allegedly lives; there Huyghe translated the topography of the island into sound, creating a musical score performed on Central Park rink in New York.
Creature (2005-2011), small penguin made of fiberglass, emitting sounds, is “a unique, distant intuition where it disappears almost in the context”. Silence Score (1997), is the transcription of the imperceptible sounds of John Cage’s 4’33” (Silence) recorded in1952, where a musician would play a few minutes of silence from a score without notes.
Ryszard Winiarski. Event-Information-Image
Palazzo Bollani, Promoter: Starak Family Foundation
The exhibition of Ryszard Winiarski’s works presents the oeuvre of one of the most interesting personalities of the Polish art of the second half of the 20th century: An artist, engineer, painter, stage designer, teacher, precursor of conceptual art, and the leading representative of indeterminism. In his diploma thesis of 1966, titled Event-Information-Image, he defined a mature and innovative concept of a piece of art based on an attempt at transferring the issues of mathematics, statistics, information technology, and game theory to canvas.
His bold vision of incorporating the real information in the painting, binary aesthetics, and use of participation perfectly fit Ryszard Winiarski’s oeuvre into such widespread contemporary phenomena as development of visual communication, dominance of digital narrations, universality of participation, popularity of QR codes.
Salon Suisse: Ataraxia
Palazzo Trevisan degli Ulivi, Promoter: Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia
The well-trodden narrative ‘Switzerland is a country without problems’ establishes an image of economic security, but for all its cultural capital the country has for the most part managed to side-step confrontation on the subject of its modernist and colonial histories. Switzerland’s so-called ‘neutrality’ within the current economic, political and cultural landscape of Europe and further afield – as well as its post/colonial narratives – is central to this year’s Salon Suisse. A series of tools including Roland Barthes’s term ‘mythologisation’ (Mythologies, 1957) was used to unpack the political narratives of Switzerland – tropes carrying near mythological status. Ataraxia aims to galvanise us into action through spirited forms of collective reflection, experience and response.
Scotland + Venice presents Rachel Maclean’s Spite Your Face
Former Church Santa Caterina, Promoter: Scotland + Venice
The Scotland + Venice partnership is delighted to introduce a major new film commission by Rachel Maclean, Spite Your Face. Referencing the Italian folk-tale Pinocchio, Spite Your Face offers a powerful critique of contemporary ‘post truth’ political rhetoric, in which the dubious language of truth is used and abused to enhance personal, corporate and political power. Possessing a unique and often disturbing vision, Maclean’s fantasy narratives combine traditional modes of theatre with technology and popular culture, raising critical questions about identity, economy, society and morality in a media saturated world.
Shirin Neshat The Home of My Eyes
Museo Correr, Promoter: Written Art Foundation
The Home of My Eyes is the visual portrait of a culture. Conceived and produced by Shirin Neshat from 2014 to 2015, her photographs include calligraphy in ink. Besides this most recent work, Neshat presents Roja, a video from 2016 based on her personal dreams. Roja shows the feelings of ‘displacement’ and the ‘strange land,’ as well as the desire for a reunion with ‘home,’ and with ‘motherland.’ What seems at first sympathetic yet proves to be, throughout the course of the video, terrifying and demonic. For The Home of My Eyes, Neshat chose different individuals across Azerbaijan, a country of diverse ethnicities, religions, and languages. The personalities of the portrayed appear frontal in three sizes, from 152 to 205 cm. We look at people’s faces and meet several cultures and generations.
Stephen Chambers: The Court of Redonda
Ca’ Dandolo, Promoter: The Heong Gallery at Downing College, University of Cambridge
The British artist Stephen Chambers presents an installation of paintings conceived for the historic setting of Ca’ Dandolo, Venice. The Court of Redonda explores the creation of myths, articulating the role played by artists in envisaging a world not how it is, one that is not necessarily wholly tethered in reality. Redonda is a tiny, uninhabited island in the Eastern West Indies, with an honorary kingship that is passed through literary lineage.
Chambers was introduced to the legend of Redonda by the writings of the Spanish novelist Javier Marías, and has found in the story a labyrinthine weave of visual possibilities. Over 100 portraits of an imaginary court hang in the ancient palazzo. The Court of Redonda offers a compelling insight into Chambers’ work and follows major exhibitions at the Royal Academy, London (2012), and the Pera Museum, Istanbul (2014). The exhibition is curated by Emma Hill.
Wales in Venice: James Richards
Santa Maria Ausiliatrice, Promoter: Cymru yn Fenis Wales in Venice
James Richards’ interest lies in the possibility of the personal amidst the chaos of mass media. He combines video, sound and still images to create installations and live events. His work makes use of an ever-growing bank of material that includes fragments of cinema, works by other artists, stray camcorder footage, murky late night TV and archive research.
Carefully constructed installations involve sculptural, cinematic, acoustic, musical and curatorial considerations to create works of extraordinary intensity. Richards’ presentation for Wales in Venice consists of a site responsive sound installation that moves across a wide range of genres and musical languages and the resultant work is a cinematic and multi-sensory experience.
Yesterday/Today/Tomorrow: Traceability is Credibility by Bryan Mc Cormack
Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore, Promoter: Fondazione Giorgio Cini
This work visualizes the refugee crisis and gives voice to hundreds of thousands of people from over 30 nationalities (speaking as many languages), in majority children, often illiterate. Each refugee creates 3 drawings, one of their life before (Yesterday), one of their current life (Today) and one of their future (Tomorrow).
It is both an installation/performance and a social media voice that maps-out a visual memory of this exodus, from refugee boats/camps on Greek islands to shelters in the UK. A multiplicity of refugees participated in these drawings, creating their contemporary culture whilst simultaneously losing traceability of their inherited culture. Without traceability, the existence of a people disappears. Each refugee drawing counts. Each drawing is a voice. Every voice counts.
Venice Biennale 2017
The 57th Venice Biennale was an international contemporary art exhibition held between May and November 2017. The Venice Biennale takes place biennially in Venice, Italy. Artistic director Christine Macel, the chief curator at the Centre Pompidou, curated its central exhibition, “Viva Arte Viva”, as a series of interconnected pavilions designed to reflect art’s capacity for expanding humanism.
The curator also organized a project, “Unpacking My Library”, based on a Walter Benjamin essay, to list artists’ favorite books. Macel was the first French director since 1995 and the fourth woman to direct the Biennale. A trend of presenting overlooked, rediscovered, or “emerging dead artists” was a theme of the 57th Biennale.
The Venice Biennale is an international art biennial exhibition held in Venice, Italy. Often described as “the Olympics of the art world”, participation in the Biennale is a prestigious event for contemporary artists. The festival has become a constellation of shows: a central exhibition curated by that year’s artistic director, national pavilions hosted by individual nations, and independent exhibitions throughout Venice. The Biennale parent organization also hosts regular festivals in other arts: architecture, dance, film, music, and theater.
Outside of the central, international exhibition, individual nations produce their own shows, known as pavilions, as their national representation. Nations that own their pavilion buildings, such as the 30 housed on the Giardini, are responsible for their own upkeep and construction costs as well. Nations without dedicated buildings create pavilions in the Venice Arsenale and palazzos throughout the city.
La Biennale di Venezia was founded in 1895. Paolo Baratta has been its President since 2008, and before that from 1998 to 2001. La Biennale, who stands at the forefront of research and promotion of new contemporary art trends, organizes exhibitions, festivals and researches in all its specific sectors: Arts (1895), Architecture (1980), Cinema (1932), Dance (1999), Music (1930), and Theatre (1934). Its activities are documented at the Historical Archives of Contemporary Arts (ASAC) that recently has been completely renovated.
In all sectors there have been more research and production opportunities addressed to the younger generation of artists, directly in contact with renowned teachers; this has become more systematic and continuous through the international project Biennale College, now running in the Dance, Theatre, Music, and Cinema sections.