Venice is to the visual arts what Cannes is to film festivals. However I don’t believe that it should be a competition. I was not interested in who won the first prize. I found the opportunity to see what was going on in visual arts throughout the world fascinating enough without the hype of a competition.
Paint, paper, ink, dried plants, metal, wood, bamboo, bird seed, textile, beads, grass, sugar, glass, clay, plastic, wire, string, feathers, wool, hair, cotton, silk, linen, flax, fibreglass, metal and mirror. I could not find a medium unrepresented at this major exhibition of art from around the world. Its title Making Worlds is a reference to the fact that art is not about making objects, however objects will always prevail the major form of expression as it did here.
Artists from 77 countries used familiar and diverse techniques. There were the familiar favourites of collage, a plethora of memorabilia and found objects, photography, sculpture, painting, drawing, printmaking, video and computerised imagery. Some mechanical objects, both old fashioned kinetic constructions and clever computer operated contributed to the success of many exhibits.
Some artists responded to the Venice Biennale to investigate new topics that provoked or commented on the past or future, or worked on ones they have already been preoccupied with, it is for that reason they were invited. Some did not have a topic or work toward one, for them it is all about the medium – e.g. the Dale Chilhuly glass did not depend on any suggested curatorial guideline.
Fiona Tan of The Netherlands filled her Pavilion with videos that were the most engaging of all we saw in this medium, with one exception, the animation that accompanied the exhibit by Nathalie Djurberg, a Swede who lives in Berlin. Her surrealistic Garden of Eden was a counterpoint to the sometimes disturbingly erotic ‘claymation’ shown on three screens. Australia’s cartoon character Harvey Crumpet could never measure up.
Many artists are bi-cultural – living in more than one country or were born in one country and are based in another.
One surprise for me was that some countries elected to mount a retrospective of a deceased artist, e.g. Israel. Another artist who springs to mind is the Shanghai born artist who resided in Paris and passed away in 2000. His sculpture above, of the globe with chairs selected to represent various countries – mounted them facing outwards – Back to Fullness, Face to Emptiness.
It was the first artwork you meet with as you pass through the entrance.
My experience of this Venice Biennale threatened to be haunted at times by viewing a film on the first day in the British Pavilion. Filmmaker Steve McQueen returned to the Venice Biennale’s Giardini exhibition grounds in the winter to film the park when it was deserted, and then he introduced a seedy element.
Venice’s Giardini district has an entirely new complexion in spring but the sinister overtones in his film were hard to get out of your mind once you came across some of the locations. It was reminder of how temporary the utopian world of the Venice Biennale is. Once again McQueen’s mind invaded mine when I visited the Arts Council England’s group exhibition in a derelict house in the Arsenale district. Its decrepit stairs and peeling wallpaper made for an unexpected environment to show a group of works that nobly survived the surrounding grunge. It was rather like seeing an exhibition in squat house of the 70’s.
For me, the Biennale succeeded in examining the world, it provided a view to all worlds via the broadest of art practices and it seldom entered the elite world that visual art so frequently occupies.
For further info on Australia’s contribution open the link below. www.australiavenicebiennale.com.au
Or for full information and history of the Venice Biennale here is the link