Sunday, August 21, 2005

La Biennale

I guess Venice never fails to impress me. No matter how many times I've visited this small city, there's always something there that turns the trip into an enjoyable experience. And this time around it was no different. When we (my mom accompanied me on this trip) arrived at around 9am we headed straight for the Giardini where the national pavilions are located and afterwards we went to Arsenale - a venue that was added to the biennial not too long ago - where individual artists display their works. There's also a whole bunch of locations spread throughout Venice that either host performances or exhibitions that are directly tied to the biennial, but we've managed to visit only a few of those.

At this year's biennial there were quite a few interesting and creative works on display that I really enjoyed. And I was taken by surprise to see so many video works. Now, I am not gung ho on painting, but I really enjoyed Ed Ruscha's project Course of Empire (read an interview with Ruscha here). It consists of a series of black-and-white paintings entitled Blue Collar that he did in the 1990s which epitomize the American industrial culture and paintings that he did for this Biennale which respond or reflect on those earlier paintings. The black-and-white paintings speak about times long gone, while his new color series speaks in Ruscha's words about his "doubts about progress in the world, and hopes for the world." It is striking to see those images juxtaposed.

I'd also like to point out aero and sound installation Idiot Wind by the ProvMyza duet (Galina Myznikova and Sergey Provorov). It's a series of dimly lit halls with varying degrees of wind force which escalates to strong wind at the end of the last hall where a small room is positioned. Ultimately this tactilely-aural experience (the halls are lined with hidden speakers emitting various ambient sounds) is the interplay between reflection on our immediate personal space and playfulness of audience that actively participates and cocreates this work. Idiot Wind is both contemplative and amusing at the same time.

Then there was also a piece (if it can even be called "a piece" since it is immaterial) by Tino Sehgal who has developed a specific form of art which takes shape only at the moment one’s encounter with it. At first, I was taken by surprise when I was approached by one of the pavilion attendants who offered to refund half of the entrance fee if I speak about market economy for several minutes. After she made that offer I peeked into a huge empty space behind the passage where she was standing and I immediately realized that it us at this very moment that are Tino's work of art. His work thus presents the climax of Groupe de Recherche d'Art Visuel's raison d'etre which they expressed in their manifesto published in 1963: "We wish to put the spectator in a situation which he initiates and transforms. We wish to develop in him an increased capacity for perception and action."

Here's a list of links to a few other artists whose works I particularly recommend at La Biennale 2005:
- Guerrilla Girls
- Eija-Liisa Ahtila
- Regina Jose Galindo
- Antoni Muntadas
- Robin Rhode

I mean I could go on at length about these and other works I liked, but I really think that these works speak best for themselves. So if you've got a chance to visit La Biennale, you should (it is open till November 6th 2005).



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