VENICE BIENNALE 2015

 UNOFFICIAL REPORT, AS CLOSE TO LIFE AS IT CAN BE

By Rosanna Albertini

Shaken by wind and rain, Venice, the lady who never undressed after the party, is splashed by the waves. And it’s only September. New monsters navigate between Giudecca and San Marco, before they turn right leaving through the lagoon. Each of them is a five, even eight deck high cruise ship, taller than any building in the city. They came into my dreams at the end of the night, bringing shivers in my spine. Years ago the wooden dock on which one waits for the boat in San Marco was cut into two parts like a piece of butter by the 2 deck boat that goes to Lido. The boat was ridiculously small compared with these ships. No one was angry, white wine is a local gold, a drunk captain can be forgiven; we jumped onto the shore without missing a second of the funny, unbelievable performance.

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As for now, I wouldn’t like to watch a cruise ship cutting the city in slices. The population is angry. And the Biennale brought art from all over the word into a theatrical scene more and more used and abused by foreign intruders (Costa, the shipowner who built the port in Venice is from Genoa, already an insult to the Venetian dignity). Working in a cafe near the Arsenale is an ordeal that transforms a pretty waitress, at the end of the day, into an almost unrecognizable wreck of a woman. The Biennale has temples at the Arsenale and Giardini, but the fusion with the city did not happen. Many national pavilions scattered in the meandered body of Venice had already disappeared in September. Some exhibitions seemed made to fill pages in the press, or to adorn empty palaces.

Not the Iranians though. They were given the most ruined, modest and spooky space in Cannareggio. There, the exhibition was shining, thoughtful about the present as much as rooted in an ancient civilization.

The press office of the Biennale let us writers know that information about the entire Biennale will be available online. Confident in the future, I feel allowed to skip details. I only hope this project won’t have the same destiny as the Monument to the Partigiana, a bronze by Augusto Murer, installed by Carlo Scarpa in front of the Giardini entrance of the Biennale in 1964. Soon damaged by the waves, the site restoration was completed in 2009. Time, in Venice, is a flexible entity that Albert Einstein couldn’t theorize.

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Once more, no verdict about the art. I loved and learned. I will go back. But this Biennale left a melancholy taste in my mouth. I’m not able to separate the Biennale from Venice. The world is changing, Venice is sinking.

HERE IS A VISUAL STORY OF PERSONAL, HEARTFELT WAYS TO PRESENT THE SPIRIT OF OUR TIME

Artists: Joan Jonas, Katharina Grosse, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, Melvin Edwards, Huma Mulsi, Babak Kazemi, Farideh Lashai, Georg Baselitz, Irina Nakhova

nature and art have no borders

revolutions

they come to us without a word

what road do I take?

the way it is

the camel is embalmed

trees move on their own

humans

still walking on their heads

don’t fall from the wall

while a man

flew into space from his apartment

KATHARINA GROSSE, Installation at Venice Biennale 20115, "All the World's Futures."

KATHARINA GROSSE, Installation at Venice Biennale 2015, “All the World’s Futures.”Photo: Peter Kirby

 

CELESTE BOURSIER-MOUGENOT, rêvolutions, a project for the French Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale. Courtesy of the artist and of Xippas, Paris; Paula Cooper Gallery, New York; Galerie Mario Mazzoli, Berlin. © Laurent Lecat.

CELESTE BOURSIER-MOUGENOT, rêvolutions, a project for the French Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale.  Photo: R.A

 

joan jonas, "they come to us without a word," 2015 production still, Courtesy of the artist

joan jonas, “they come to us without a word,” 2015, American Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2015
production still, Courtesy of the artist

 

MELVIN EDWARDS, The Way It Is, 1992 Welded steel, 18.25 h x 21 w x 16.5 d inches

MELVIN EDWARDS, The Way It Is, 1992 
Welded steel, 18.25 h x 21 w x 16.5 d inches Venice Biennale 2015, “All the World’s Futures”

 

BABAK KAZEMI, Iranian Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2015

BABAK KAZEMI, Iranian Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2015 Photo: R.A.

 

HUMA MULSI, Iranian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2015

HUMA MULSI, Iranian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2015 Photo: R.A.

 

FARIDEH LASHAI, Iranian Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2015

FARIDEH LASHAI, Iranian Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2015 Photo: R.A.

 

GEORG BASELITZ, Doesn't Fall from the Wall, 2015 Venice Biennale 2015, "All the World's Futures"

GEORG BASELITZ, Doesn’t Fall from the Wall, 2015
Venice Biennale 2015, “All the World’s Futures” Photo: R.A.

 

IRINA NAKHOVA, Russian Pavilion, (The Green Pavilion) at Venice Biennale 2015 Photo: Rosanna Albertini

IRINA NAKHOVA, Russian Pavilion, (The Green Pavilion) at Venice Biennale 2015   Photo: R.A.

 

THE LAST VENICE BIENNALE I VISITED, IN 2009

There will be no verdict in this report from the Venice Biennale 2009. A “quiet” venue? It’s the general verdict. Yet, what’s the difference between a lagoon and swamp? They are both quiet. If nonsense weren’t good for the brain I would throw the word “quiet” into a canal, but so many told it, or felt that way, a common sentiment must be treated with consideration. Quietly, seventy seven countries from all over the world sent their artists to Venice, to refill the historical pavilions as well as empty basements on the Canal Grande, empty churches, dismissed convents, the abandoned ship factory of the Arsenale, other modest or rich spaces, private foundations. And many artists, instead of magnifying the aura around their ego or their objects, brought to Venice scenes of human experience of the kind shared wherever humans live.

Venice is an expensive shell waiting for artists every two years to bring back international gossip, art comedies, and provocative gestures, as if the ballrooms were still open, and bridges and narrow streets could still embrace and hide love games and illicit exchanges, monkeys, bears, prostitutes, commerce of exotic goods, knives and fists in return for someone’s insult. “Quiet,” sounds like “nianca na strasa de comedia sto ano,” venician language for “not even a rag of a comedy this year,” in a play by Carlo Goldoni, the local glory in the Eighteen century, a sort of Venetian Woody Allen.

Not my impression this year, frankly, maybe because in a previous life I have been a Venetian, and I love the city insanely. Today Venice has the charm of a lady who for centuries never undressed after the party; even threatened by financial straits, she is a majestic old lady. And this Biennale turns out to be an interesting, silent merging of international art into the normal flow of the city life, so that the art spaces are next to the pharmacy, the bakery, clothes and fruit vendors; at times signs for national pavilions or side events (forty four) compete with street markets, flocks of tourists, and spots of chairs for tired legs in front of small cafes. Some exhibits are so hidden in meanders that to find them is an adventure. No complaints: when the art is good, visitors are even more rewarded.

Death of a School

NICOLE MILLER from Los Angeles: “Death of a School (Requiem)” 2014

Single Channel video 8’ 7”

“The last day in the school my mother thought in for 20 years before the building was shut down forever.” N.M.

 

 

 © Nicole Miller

 

LETTER TO NICOLE

As far as I know, images don’t commit videocide, they aren’t leaves. Not seasonal. Especially video images of these days that are anchored in numbers, highly defined, forced to compete for the best reproduction of real life. I’m trying to cool down the surge of emotions your art brought up in my senses and I’m not succeeding. Why should I? I’m not an image. Someone wrote that Romanticism represents the interior truth of human nature. I stay with him.

Robert Schumann’s music tricks me. Piano, forte, chiaro, scuro, adagio, fortissimo. Musical language is almost naturally Italian. You made it Nicole, I don’t want to know how technically you made it, the visual poem is so well modulated that it sounds soft, pervaded by untold questions, sensual pleasure along with an undefined sense of loss of reality, so that feet can fly and bodies appear weightless. The opposite of Bill Viola’s slow motion, asking for attention and resolution. It’s driven by hidden motions of your soul, it’s your own take of that day.

Among ups and downs of light and sounds, in focus, blurred, all the people of that memorable day burn their videotime in mid-air, they dance their goodbye. People and places look real and they are not. Fleeting and ungraspable like the mood, hands with nothing to hold on to.

I’m extremely grateful and happy that you made this artwork for The Kite. Up to you to compare your video art to the early times of this young tree. I went back to clarify my impressions, this is what I found:

 

 Nam June Paik, 1976

ONCE ON VIDEOTAPE, YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO DIE … IN A SENSE

Much confusion about today’s video art comes from the lack of categories to distinguish “good and boring art” from “bad and boring art.” Boredom itself is far from being a negative quality. It is rather a sign of aristocracy in Asia. And again this confusion stems from the confusion about input-time and out-put time.

Willoughby Sharp 1976

I use video as a knife to cut to the heart of the matter and the matter is me.

Joan Jonas 1972-76

I think of the work in term of imagist poetry; disparate elements juxtaposed … alchemy.

Shigeko Kubota 1976

Video is Vengeance of Vagina / Video is Victory of Vagina /  Video is Venereal Disease of Intellectuals / Video is Vacant Apartment / Video is Vacation of Art / Viva Video …

Ed Emshwiller 1975

For me video is like painting, immediate.

For me video is like film, a collaborative art.

For me video is like dance, a sensual pleasure.

For me video is a series of questions.

For me video is a process of discovery.

For me video is the most exciting medium I know.

Tom Dewitt 1976

Can light be codified in some equivalent to musical theory? … As I navigate this flood I realize that dada has given way to data, that video art is the other side of the keyhole cut in the wall of art history by the black canvas and the exploding sculpture.

Juan Dawney 1976

Video, more clearly than any other art material or procedure brought my aesthetic endeavors closer to political and social issues.

The unconscious of a person contains the memories of many.