Jun 12, 2011

Venice Biennale 2011

Start the morning with a Caffe del Doge. It *is* worth hunting for. Almost up there with Blue Bottle coffee in San Francisco!

Crowding onto the morning vaporetto.

For me the most lasting impression from the Venice Biennale 2011 is Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla's American pavilion, “Gloria”. It was a refreshing encounter. Most of the works in the pavilion resonate, and together they make a provocative exhibition. The tank piece in particular is great to talk about, look at, listen to… I want one.

Recurring themes this year: Heavy closed-loop industrial machinery (French, American, Israeli, Slovenian & Turkish pavilions); Anything plugged in; Performance everywhere but never when I was there; oh, and lots and lots of talking-head video - so much so that, at Marco Polo airport, I mistook the instructional video at the security gate for yet another artwork.

Missing this year: Any serious attempts to recuperate painting, with the exception of Seth Price’s paintings in the Central pavilion.

Allora & Calzadilla's American Pavilion. Maximal restraint. And really good legs. The tank piece is also theirs (see the video I posted)

Live performance in Allora & Calzadilla's American Pavilion


Below are the words I jotted down for each pavilion as I went around – Its fleeting, unedited and flippant.


Swiss crystal excess. Someone gave Hirschorn too much money.

Denmark. “Speech matters”. Not.

Nordic / Eriksson. Oh D&E where are you now?

Tank. Brilliant.

Venuzuela. Bassim pop tarts.

Russia. Monastryski mystery and substance, served dry.

Japan / Tabaimo. Dreamy animations with mirrors.

Korea / Yong Baek. Flower gun disaster.

Germany / Schlingensief. Egomania confronts blasphemy. I love this.

Christoph Schlingensief's German pavilion - I liked the little touches, like changing the label from Germania to Egomania, and adding a 'Kino' grafitti tag on the side.

German pavilion - Christoph Schlingensief's installation is astounding.

Another view of the Christoph Schlingensief's German pavilion

Canada / Shearer. Not for me.

Australia / Armanious. Trying too hard.

Britain / Nelson. Theme park made of dust.

France / Boltanski. Trumped by the tank.

Dutch. Opera without the melodrama.

Spain. “The inadequate”. Just so.

Israel / Landau. Didactic rises to new levels and goes underground.

Poland, Egypt, Romania. Worthy, but the Romanian’s grafitti should have been applied to all three.

Romanian Pavilion (Adrian Bojenoiu, Alexandru Niculescu). The 'why not' reasons were better than the 'why' reasons on the other wall, and better than what was inside.

Central pavilion

A slightly disheveled anti-statement that made Catelan’s stuffed pigeons the best statement of all. Oh. and Nathaniel Mellors videos.

Minimalism meets relational aethetics. Norma Jeane, #Jan25 (#Sidibouzid, #Feb12, #Feb14, #Feb17…) (2011), colored plasticine (Central pavilion).


After the Giardini, on to the Arsenale. Song Dong's mirrored chinese closet doors were very Wong Kar-Wai .

Song’s cupboards are a great start. Marclay’s Clock is a great end. Turel’s space glows in the middle, though for me it was ruined by the attendant who insisted on standing right at the front, thereby destroying the effect (apparently someone had fallen off the edge).

A picture of my iPhone with Marclay's "The Clock" in the background. This was a perfect capstone to the Arsenale. I watched for about half an hour, I could have stayed all day.

Elsewhere - Picks:

Hirst deconstructed by Wu Rigen, in the Future Pass exhibit (17 on the maps). It was a fun pavilion if you like anime.

Nicole Knauer's cloud in the Future Pass pavilion.

Irwin Wurm's house, next to the bridge at Academia. The large guy with a blue top is unfortunately not part of the exhibit.

Yes, that is a block of watermelon on the floor. (Wilfredo Prieto, Future Generation Art Prize pavilion).

Karla Black, Scottish Pavilion. It is much better than it photographs.

Melanie Smith's Mexian pavilion showed incredible scope.

Nato a Venezia is thought provoking and the setting is cool. Talk to the gallery guides upstairs to learn more about this exhibit.

Also notable: Iraq / Abidin’s light saber battle. And Haiti by the waterfront: Glad to see them here.

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