170613: The Venice Biennale The 55th Venice Biennale – Giardini

The Venice Biennale The 55th Venice Biennale – Giardini 01.06.2013 – 24.11.2013 Slack season in the Lagoon By Roland Schöny That many of the really exciting presentations in Venice are preferably staged in the outer stations of the Biennale and not in Giardini quickly becomes evident. Whilst the spirit of the contest and jostling for the right positions can be felt everywhere, several of the inspectors of the classical pavilions – in the gardens anachronistically sorted by nations - have to come to terms with the fact that art in this Biennale has to be seen as in the competitive field of an All-Over-Venice-Show. The example of the US pavilion under the aegis of the Bronx Museum – which in New York, for the most part, exhibits black and Latin American artists and stresses its socio-political aspirations – is a signal to change the view away from the traditional institutions, but this option was well and truly forfeited in the choice of the artist, Sarah Sze, and her ultimate art-enhancing concept. In her installation "Triple Point", Sze works inside and outside, sculpturally and extensively, with every possible material such as wires, pieces of metal, plastic refuse or paper waste. That the architecture of the neoclassical building from the 1930's by Delano and Holmes is questioned goes without saying. But – with all respect to the artist herself – she could have been more courageous. Germany and France react to the anachronistic division with a pavilion exchange. This does not come across as especially original, but the transnational approach of the German curator, Susanne Gaensheimer, goes one step further when she presents the Indian Dayanita Singh from New Dehli or the South African photographer, Santu Mofokeng, whereby she follows the world of ideas of Christoph Schlingensief and his globally oriented projects. Simply splendid here is Dayanita Singh's portrait of a transgender person, respectively the eunuch Mona photographed in black-and-white and completed by a black-and-white film. Mona lives in a cemetery in Old Dehli between several worlds and secluded from every social affiliation. Santu Mofukeng, on the other hand, documents how the spiritually-charged landscape in the Mpumalanga province in South Africa's North-East falls prey to the country's economic appropriations. Before, and after the end of Apartheid. In contrast, the documentary by Romuald Karmakar "8 May from 2005/2013" about the large NPD demonstrations commemorating 60 years of the end of the war in Berlin's Alexanderplatz. Even the unsettling, rhizomorph room architecture of traditional three-legged stools fitted into each other by the sometimes nerving, over-presented Al-Weiwei, appears plausible. Certainly: by some, this is disdainfully dismissed as an "art hall exhibition". However, this would be arrogant but it concerns a serious attempt with strong works to depict the world today and to thematize regionally-characterized idioms while that which is national is critically scrutinized. Meanwhile, in the French pavilion, the multi-part film homage to Maurice Ravel by Anri Sala is too impassioned. And right at the entrance to the Giardini the Swiss pavilion shows how not to do it. The concept was backed by pro Helvetia and a large jury. This committee of seven nominated the Valais artist, Valentin Carron, and is responsible for one of the most boring presentations. Yes, naturally a tourist region is thematized. Oh dear, but musical instruments cast in bronze and then pressed flat together? This might be alright in a gallery, but who cares here? Impressive, but ultimately much too overstated: the performative installation "Danaë" by Vadim Zakharov in the Russian pavilion, which refers to the same-named Greek myth (see title). In five acts, it deals with money, economy, power, fetish adoration and naturally the connotation with sex. Interesting: a performer sitting in a wooden truss like a rider or the ban on men to enter one of the rooms "blessed" with a shower of money, whilst women apparently enjoy putting a few coins into their own purses. An allegorical composition involving the public with a conveyor belt that guarantees the flow of material. Finally the whole thing goes more in the direction of a public event, and current issues don't even arise. Behind all this stands the art collector, Stella Kesaeva, and her Stella Art Foundation as well as curator Uwe Kittelmann, whom the noble collectors' magazine, "Weltkunst" immediately dubs "Our man in Venice". So much for "money and glitter". The right ones are there side by side. Odd how little is spoken about Stevanos Tsivopoulos' three-part film installation, ''History Zero'' in the Greek pavilion. In his partly humorous, ironic trilogy, he concentrates on the existential dimension of money, money, chrímata, chrímata in which he presents three very different individuals – an elderly, already somewhat dement, art collector, a free-roaming immigrant collecting scrap metal and an artist who takes snapshots. Thus, "collect" among other things and capturing the truth and "somehow to find one's bearings" in a world that has become a corrupted plaything for bankers and speculators is the topic. That much here remains idiosyncratic, and perhaps is valid just for the moment, is thematised by Alexandra Pirici and Manuel Pelmu? in their "Immaterial Retrospective of the Venice Biennale" in the Romanian pavilion. The two young and already very renowned choreographers for dance and performance recall numerous works and catalogue passages from all previous Biennales through spoken text quotations connected with performative body reinterpretations, whereby “Eurocentrism” and the increasingly conservative tendency of the Biennale is scrutinized. Remarkable is also the presentation of the young Gilad Ratman in the Israeli pavilion, which represents "The Workshop" (2013), the filming of a journey to Venice in the pavilion as a utopian settlement. The pavilion was actually appropriated by digging through earth and mud in a subterranean tunnel, which ends directly in the building. At first not easily understood, the associative but fascinating group going along with the artist, singing into the obviously self-made doll microphones, which, in turn, is acoustical source material for ambient and techno-samples for the artist as musician. "For the artist". This, too, should be visualized! The disproportionally high percentage of men at this Biennale. Doesn't the utopian picture of equal consideration of sex and gender flame up much more visually! Not in the sense of an abstruse quote but in view of the high proportion of women in contemporary art. Anyways, the awarding of the Golden Lion to Maria Lassnig was a late sign; but: the Gorilla Girls could almost put on their evaluation masks again! Therefore the British pavilion also gets less points. Certainly, one is glad when one at least meets the great Jeremy Deller who designed an amusing, critical synopsis of British myths of daily culture and pop culture narratives of the last decade since the early David Bowie as "English Magic". Yes there is something subversive about it when Roman Abramovitsh’s yacht – as a drawing - is thrown into the sea by the Victorian artist and dedicated socialist, William Morris, because it docked arrogantly in front of the Biennale grounds, or when Prince William is mocked because he apparently shot at an eagle that was under environmental protection. But: the Royal household again? America: the flag. Russia: the showcased wealth. England: the Royal household. Jeremy Deller had analysed cultural situations more precisely before. And one used to be more courageous at Biennials than here in the Giardini. Finland with Terike Haapoja or Australia with Simryn Gill, each with ecological themes in different adaptations at first interesting but then sentimentally drowsy. It makes sense that the principle of national presentations will be maintained to some degree, because by this means, financing systems, cultural politics and the state of critical discourse in regional contexts can manifest. But in spite of this, one could have been more courageous in kick starting the engine of this first of all Biennales - which was originally founded to give new input to the then culturally underdeveloped Italy. That would have been the challenge, here in the Giardini, to deal with the cliché motto of the encyclopaedic that the artistic head of the Beinnale, Massimiliano Gioni proclaimed and to discerningly establish, what contemporary views and concepts could be today. Only rarely does one instead encounter the enlightening idea, but rather a synopsis that is somehow interesting but precisely only: somehow. The Venice Biennale 30122 Venice, Biennale Giardini http://www.labiennale.org/ Opening hours: Daily 10 - 18 hours, Closed Mondays

Österreichischer Pavillon - La Biennale di Venezia
30122 Venezia, Giardini della Biennale
Öffnungszeiten: täglich 11 - 19 h, Fr, Sa bis 20 h,
Montag geschlossen außer 25/07, 15/08, 5/09, 19/09, 31/10, 21/11

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