Hi everyone 😀
As I explained before, The Venice Biennale has several locations. There are two central locations where the international pavilions are clumped together, Giardini and Arsenale. Then there are individual exhibits sprinkled throughout the city. My family allotted me approximately two and a half hours to see only ONE of the central pavilions. (Barbaric, I know). So I utilized warp speed and maximized the time I had in Giardini. Here I am smiling/crying of happiness when I first walked in:
And here are some of my favorite works from the pavilions I encountered in Giardini!
The Israeli Pavilion
Tsibi Geva created the artwork for “Archeology of the Present.” Together with curator Hadas Maor, they present a masterful exploration of space. The definitions of inside and outside are turned inside-out.
The outside of the building is covered in black tires. From the inside, these black tires can be seen through glass walls. Tires therefore act as decoration for both inside and outside, and we start to wonder if there is really a difference between these two concepts. It feels more like we are experiencing all sides of the tires, rather than moving from one space to an opposing one.
The melding of out and in is continued with other works in this exhibit. In the top left image, window panes and shutters are stacked against a wall. They lead not to the outside as they are typically designed to, but to a blank white wall. If windows are the divider between inside and outside, then do they cease to be windows when they lead to blank space? Or does the definition of outside unravel? If the other side of a window is a wall, then outside and inside can both exist beneath a roof.
Geva and Maor’s exploration continues with the gathering of found objects. In the top left image, old washing machines, televisions, and boxes are crowded behind a glass pane. The television plays a camera feed that is focused on the land right outside the pavilion, bringing the outside, in. The bizarre mixture of items reflects the title of the exhibit: Archaeology of the Present. If contemporary society were to be archaeologically excavated in three hundred years, these are the items future humans would find. And what would they think? Would they see outdoor items- hoses and gates- and think they belonged with indoor items- televisions and washing machines? How would they make sense of the television, a machine that dissolves walls in its quest to show scenes outside of the viewer’s home, inside the viewer’s home?
The found object motif repeats through the exhibit. In the central image, my dad smiles in front of a gate that encases an odd assortment of things. In the top right image I am posing in front of a sign that reads, “Wonderland.” The reference to Alice in Wonderland highlights the mind-bending nature of “Archaeology of the Present.” In the Irsraeli pavilion, as in Wonderland, things are not always what they seem. Cats can be moons, you can have un-birthdays, and the concept of space is relative.
The Serbian Pavilion
When I walked into the Serbian Pavilion, I felt my heart freeze up in my chest. The emotional impact of Ian Grubanov’s “United Dead Nations” is immediate. The installation he created with curator Lidija Merenik is utterly chilling.
All along the walls, white letters spell out the names of now extinct nations. The letters barely stand out against the white walls, echoing the erasure of these now obsolete nations. Dirty flags litter the floor beneath each name. The floor itself is a dingy mix of colors. It seems as if the colors of the flags have bled onto the floor.
Countries include the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Tibet, The United Arab Republic, The Soviet Union, and several more. It feels right that this exhibit comes from Serbia, a country whose struggle for independence was lengthy and difficult. From the lens of such a country, this exhibit encompasses a wealth of emotions, including sadness, nostalgia, and even stubborn resilience. The almost illegible names and the dirty flags evoke anguish and nostalgia for days past, but the bright hues of the flags refuse to be subdued. They seem to be saying, you can take away our name but there will always be physical reminders of our existence.
“United Dead Nations” does not take a political stance on the now-deceased countries. Nations are not highlighted based on whether their rule was just or not (would could judge?) They are honored equally as important parts of history, who have birthed people and things that will never forget their existence.
The Nordic Pavilion
“Rapture,” by Camille Norment, is a huge installation work that takes over the entire Nordic Pavillion. In collaboration with curator Katya garcía-antón, Norment brings history, art, and emotion together through the senses.
Shattered glass panes cover two long sides of the Pavilion. Trees grow out of pale pebbles in the center of the room. Large, oval microphones distend from the ceiling. With your ears covered, it seems avante-garde for the sake of being avante-garde. With your ears open, it is a whimsical masterpiece, a candyland of sensual sounds the envelope all of your senses. The sound penetrating the room is a recording of the glass armonica, an 18th century instrument that responds to the touch of fingers on glass and water, and several ethereal female voices. Click here for a recording of the music from the exhibit. Imagine female vocalists in addition to this delicate music.
“Rapture” is about the relationship between music and the body. Music is composed of harmonies, some consonant and some dissonant, that affect the body’s comfort level and the emotion of the mind. When teased with harmonies as “Rapture” does, the body is left feeling almost paralyzed, and the mind, hypnotized. Rapture is defined as a feeling of intense pleasure or joy, and there is something sexual about this “Rapture” as well. The slow, soothing, yet at times frantic female voices are inherently erotic. When combined with the dissonant music of the glass armonica, the result is rapturous. The music builds to a point of tension that is so high, it must be released. The broken glass embodies this moment of liberation. This theme of pleasure, perhaps female but not exclusively so, is underlined by the presence of the trees. Flora represents growth, rebirth, and spirituality. Several big strong trees counteract the femininity of the voices while simultaneously linking the mind to concepts of reproduction and spiritual elevation.
The Japanese Pavilion
“The Key in the Hand,” created by Chiharu Shiota and curated by Hitoshi Nakano, is a striking visual statement with an even deeper meaning.
The entire second floor of the Japanese pavilion is dedicated to this installment. Red yarn hangs from the ceiling, connecting thousands of keys to each other and suspending them in space. Beneath these keys are two boats that seem to spring out of the ground. I found myself wandering slowly throughout the space, examining individual keys and noting their grooves, dents, and unique edges. This is the whole point of “The Key in the Hand.” Despite the installation being an impressive whole, much like life itself in its overwhelming loveliness, what really matters is the tiny moments. Keys are tokens of places and the people who went with us there. They unlock doors to beautiful spaces where memories happened, and to boxes where treasures are kept safe. The vibrant color of the string is emblematic of how vibrant life is and our bright memories are. The boats reminded me of outstretched hands, reaching out to catch the keys before they rained down. I was filled with a desire to relax in one of these boats and stare up at the red sky (but I didn’t… “don’t touch the art” of course!) “The Key in the Hand” left me thinking for a long time about treasuring moments and catching the smallest ones before I forget them.
The Venezuelan Pavilion
The last pavilion that really touched me was the Venezeuelan Pavilion, whose exhibit is entitled “Te Doy Mi Palabra (I Give You my Word).” The artists, Argelia Bravo and Félix Molina, and the curator, Oscar Sotillo Meneses, came up with an installation that I found incredibly unique. It stood out among a sea of visual art by incorporating poetry. Take a minute to read these two stanzas several times: (For reference, the Pemones are a tribe native to Venezuela.)
In this poem, the author lists several aspects of Pemone language that might seem silly to a reader, and then reproaches society for dehumanizing their entire existence. The lesson is this: we should not be ogling at a group of people who live differently, treating them like lab specimens. The poem also admonishes western superiority by temporarily adopting the verbage of a privileged westerner, in order to expose its ignorance and racism.
The colors of the lines and the blocks are all primary- red, blue and yellow. These bright, childlike hues instantly attract attention. It might be a bit of an interpretive stretch, but it also seems that the choice to use simple primary colors underlines the simple message of the poem. The message is clear as day, and the colors cannot be confused. As for the bright boxes, it is anyone’s guess what they are meant to evoke. They remind me of children’s blocks, which makes me think that the message of this poem and this pavilion ought to be instilled in the playground.
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I hope you enjoyed this selection from the Venice Biennale! It was truly spectacular, and I just wish I had enough time to see every single pavilion. If you’re hoping to see more, you’re in luck. I was also able to go to the European Culture center, where the Seychelles, Mongolia, and Philippines pavilions were on display. That’ll come in a later post.
Until then, always wash your paintbrushes and check out canvasandcrumpets for my latest post!
xoxo, Chloe <3