Friday, October 14, 2011

Impressions from the Venice Biennial

 Arriving in Venice is an emotional experience. I was wheeling my trolly behind a group of  college-age French girls and one, seeing the Piazza for the first time kept repeating, "Oh my god!" None of her friends paid any attention to her, but I appreciated her sensitivity.

The Biennial is enormous, with lots of splinter exhibitions throughout Venice, but the two main spaces are the Giardini and the Arsenale. Once you make it to the Giardini (I walked about an hour from my hotel) you buy a ticket and begin visiting the Padglioni. The first one on the right was the Swiss, with Crystal of Resistance, an installation by none other than superstar Thomas Hirschhorn. It was an incredible experience, and I told the guard that I'd seen enough and could leave now. He said that in the summer with the heat it was even more dramatic and people would lose their sense of space and have to be carried out on stretchers  (not really, but almost). Hirshorn is so messy, it is hard to believe he's Swiss! I spoke with a Swiss artist/art therapist and she agreed. Her non-artist travelling companion didn't get him, but we heart you, Thomas H!!!!

A partial view of Hirschhorn's work

Next was the Nordic Pavillion, no less spectacular! Andreas Eriksson and Fia Backstrom represent Sweeden. This is decidedly the most beautiful space, with trees growing in the middle, a requisite of what I consider a dream house. I got the listening device for Fia's piece and used it throughout the entire Biennale, since her installation is dispersed throughout.  Borderless Bastards is thought provoking and hits a nerve with anyone who has ever lived and worked outside of their native country. One woman artist's comments about how she felt  more aware of her emmigrant status in the UK after she became a mother and had to consciously make decisions about how she wanted to raise her child rang true.

Eriksson's work was not only visually pleasing, but thought provoking. The artist depicted nature as seen through his studio window with distortions of reflected light. The works refer to the place where they were created and the space where they are exhibited. This Pavillion was the least pompous of all. I felt throughout the Biennial it was a battle between the artists of being bigger and better. Typical Swedish understatement prevailed. These artists' works are refreshing, as well as  intellectually challenging.

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