Tuesday, 11 October 2011


By Jean Loup Pivin & Pascal Martin Saint Leon, juin 2011

Reflection in a mirror of Tintoretto's ceilings, Scuola Grande de San Rocco

Reflection in a mirror of Tintoretto's ceilings, Scuola Grande de San Rocco

If the Venice Biennale is always an event rich, plural, where everything is impossible to see and understand, to feel as it develops in each issue a little deeper into the city, it remains dominated by large exposures of Arsenal and the International Pavilion of the Giardini, whose curator is changing every time the master of the house. This year, Bice Curiger, art historian, founder and editor of famous Swiss American magazine Parkett . If these two exhibitions are rarely unanimous successes (this is the least we can tell), they nevertheless give the tone of a moment of creation in the world. Perhaps we expect too much? However if professionals from across the globe meet there, because it is a unique moment. And it is the immense quality of the Biennial, like Documenta, not only to do the largest exhibition in the world but especially the more open the world with the various national pavilions and various events "collateral" certainly the best and the worst above all an immense diversity of hundreds of perspectives.

Tintoretto, "The creation of the Animals" 1550-53, International Pavilion, Gardini

Bice Curiger up its manifestation titled "ILLUMInations" (enlightenment) as a classic theme in Venetian art, but also in reference to Arthur Rimbaud, Walter Benjamin for their interest in the reverie. The report to the plural identity of the multifaceted migrating artist, in an art exploring various forms of community beyond the nation, with the involvement of the spectator, benches "anti-art" and found a link with art called "classic" as says Bice Curiger. That is why she wanted to introduce his speech and exhibitions with a presentation of three works by Tintoretto Venetian (The Discovery of the Body of St. Mark 19562-66, the Last Supper 1592-94 and 1550-53 The Creation of Animals) that would be at the heart of the contemporary issue : the dark light, dramatic expression, the trace of the gesture of the artist - the strokes -, the movement given to the body, playing ... between realism and illusion, the visible and invisible, so contemporary!
Sculpture-paraffin by Urs Fischer, Arsenal

Sculpture-paraffin by Urs Fischer, Arsenal

Of two major exhibitions of the Arsenal and the International Pavilion, which spread without sparingly on almost 10,000 m2 (unlike the very confined to national pavilions on only few hundred square meters), it is difficult to talk about the works as they are not very active with the generosity of speech Bice Curiger - indisputable (!) on the knowned and promising unknowned -.

Christoph  Schlingensief, Germany Pavilion, Gardini
Christoph Schlingensief, Germany Pavilion, Gardini

But later as we see and feel only what we see, it remains an empty feeling in this overflow thousands artworks with sometimes artificial smoke machines theater happen to be masked. And this mask is often repeatedly used for this edition, the art-work becomes richer, because it is not understandable, or even becomes invisible and the object of his own imagination or her own perception.
Andréas  Erikson, Nothern Countries Pavilion, Gardini
Andréas Erikson, Nothern Countries Pavilion, Gardini

Not that everyone is immune to often knowned works, that we follow and we love like those of Peter Fischli and David Weiss (geometric concrete blocks under a moon projected), David Goldblatt's photographs, silkscreened acrylics by Sigmar Polke, eclectic candles sculptures by Urs Fischer (the "Rape of the Sabine Women" in 1583 by Giovanni Bologna in front of a friend of the artist, the two life-size wax) that consume during the time of the Biennale or the video "Boloss" on immigrant French suburbs' clans by Mohamed Bourouissa, and a few others like the unbearable, unhealthy and disturbing sadomasochistic group Gelitin with his fascinating performance, relegated to the bottom of the garden, without physical or formal link with the main exhibition. Of course the number of works plays the role of proliferation of perspectives but the myopia of the visits give a sense of all that no work comes to dominate. It is the void, the hole, nothing, just the bitter taste of cold unfinish that the words become now only purpose can not compensate.

Hans  Op de Beek (Belgique), Nouvel Arsenal
Hans Op de Beek (Belgique), Nouvel Arsenal

The awards of this 54th Venice Biennial are participating fully in this sense: what about the Grand Award to Sturtevant and his quotes - since 50 years - in the form of artwork that show how contemporary art but also modern art "may " bite the tail always to call itself and be helpless, "an anti-art. " In the same spirit the Special Mention at the very young Klara Lidén with its collection of used bins. We are really far from the initial discourse by Bice Curiger and can only say "Move along there is nothing to see."

Tabaimo, video
Tabaimo, video "Teleco-Soup", Japan Pavilion, Gardini

If words can suffice to themselves, this should be essays, literature or poetry. But definitely not these scholarly references which might indicate that the words of art forms no longer need them involved. As if the intelligence of the eye could exist only in its transcription into words. When the words preceding works, the necessity of the work is denied. For up to the caricature, the form as illustration is not even about ... except that of the Ethiopian Gedewon the only artist under the current ritual art - art of devination - amidst all the hundreds of works under "contemporary art". Confrontation absurd and marginally justified.

Diohandi, Greece Pavilion, Gardini
Diohandi, Greece Pavilion, Gardini

Absurd and marginally confrontation, unjustifiable. In the extreme limit if this juxtaposition was biased and had repeated, we would have understood. And yet it was like in the debate now closed for "Magiciens de la Terre" (Magicians of the Earth) that Jean Hubert Martin has initiated in 1989. At the end of my tired feet rubbing on the concrete of the beautiful architecture of the Arsenal, no transport, no upheaval, no trouble if severe fatigue that only some of the pavilions and collateral events made it possible to erase.

Gelitin group, happening in the Gardini
Gelitin group, happening in the Gardini

If there is one trait that is common to all our enthusiasm, it was the constancy of the "staging" as a work and / or of the work: no work without walking to lose his eyes, feet, his head and often her ears :
— As the Austrian Pavilion  with Markus Schinwald picture walls turning you into ass bowl, head in the sky of the great white geometric panels that punctuate some sculptures and a few small portraits in the manner of the Flemish School (and two videos as endpoints) ;
— The Greek Pavilion by Diohandi that covers the neo-classical building of rough boards that only one slot open to the public and the visitors walk into the void with a quiet surface of water only crossed by a geometric, again, path feeling harmony, solitude ;
— the Luxembourg Pavilion by Martine Feipel and Jean Bechameil halfway between the haunted house of Disney and symbolic and poetic Jean Cocteau stages create a magic moment of self and humor ;
— the German Pavilion by Christoph Schlingensief is indeed a tribute to the artist died in 2010: the ambiguity of the church and its altar, pews for the audience, with music of Wagner while projections on the side walls multiply the facets of the work of the deceased ;
— the Nordic countries Pavilion where the paint-paint bleak Andreas Erikson reasserts itself in the geometry - again - perfect for both volumes of soil than the most beautiful architecture Giardini ;
— out side in the city, the Singapore Pavilion with Ho Tzu Nyen and a very disturbing work, "The Cloud of Unknowing" (see on Home page), a video associated with an installation featured the many worlds of the inhabitants of a building extending them in fiction reinventing the aesthetic criteria : existing elements become fiction. Here we are at the heart of Baroque Tintoretto.
— the Mexico Pavilion disturbance by an heavy instalation by Melanie Smith around their video of the modern concrete ruin in the elementary forest ("Xilitla-Incidents of Misalignment "showing the folly garden of Edward James). We plunges into the unknown.
— Inside an exhibition of the New Arsenal, "One of a Thousand to Defeat Entropy", an installation by Hans Of de Beek (Belgium) invits you into the gray dust covering an apocalyptic world living only by the fountain seeying from an abandoned apartment (too narrative?)
— the Japan Pavilion with an installation-video designed by Tabaimo projects "teleco-soup" drowning in a mirror at the feet of visitors. He don't hesitate to draw a direct reference to the comic strip / cartoon and popular aesthetics;
— and finally at the French party in the Palace School of Music Benedetto Marcello, the little humble and charming journey of Christian Boltanski in the light, music and smoke that we prefer to his bombastic and mechanistic installation in the French Pavilion.

In the general feeling among the salient but not systematic points, the continued use of "geometry" as the basis of modernity in the cases cited here, is not related to "infinity" of repetition that the geometry provides but to its "finishing". Paradox to say that this is not the architecture of current functionalist and rationalist international endlessly multiplying a base module, which Le Corbusier was part (except when he designed and builded churches or houses). Not here every time, forms operate in the fullness of their "finishing", their geometry will not receive more than one lign. As against the infinite be part of the finish of the geometric shape like the forms fed by the extreme eastern philosophies.

Christian  Boltanski, staging of the Music Scool Benedetto  Marcello
Christian Boltanski, staging of the Music Scool Benedetto Marcello

Apart from the use of staging and geometry, the third mark of this Biennial is the use of popular images — always — of fair, circus, cinema (don't forget that cinema was showed first in popular lunaparks and remains a popular consumer imaging) and comics, inexhaustible sources that reach everyone in the immediacy with their violence at one end and at the other end their nostalgia and sometimes their poetry. Reference to knowned who will stun — physically—, amaze, dazzle.

Then the tics becoming tiresome classic contemporary art as the "out of scale" of the wellknowned object (including Jeff Koons works, entirely absent here except in Pinault Collection) and puts it into abyss over its meaning and function, by concentrating its image. Similarly, the political commitment in its first degree where the art "denounces" shaped becoming empty slogans, or seen from afar. This denunciation is more incantatory, the artist utters the outside of the country concerned, while the artists on site find other ways to tell by the shape (like the dramatic treatment of the landscape in China in the 1990s ). And finally the repetition that seems to fade over the past two bienniales.

Continue in spite of their Pavilions that nationalism is to be obsolete, however, were carriers of a relationship to art sometimes quite conventional, but often with surprising strong artistic choices under a freedom which gave breath to the air of the lagoon. The African continent, out of its continental representation (the first one in 2007 with the first Pavilion of Africa curated by Fernando Alvim and Simon Njami) was present as never has been with the 4 national Pavilions of Zimbabwe, Haiti and South Africa, but also of Congo (not visited). The first three were engaged in a selection may appear shifted as they want to offer quantity of works and artists, while the Pavilions of the great countries only choose one artist and one strong work. What has approached South Africa with a powerful work by Mary Sibande very politically engaged. But in these countries, it is understandable that the lack of international visibility of national artists - unlike Europe or the USA and now China and India - can be compensated only by taking this large broad choicing this unique opportunity.

Venice, a city museum offers hundreds of other events as a major monographic exhibition by Julian Schnabel at the Museo Correr, the now usual contemporary inclusions in the magical Palace (as always falling apart) Fortuny, and two exhibitions at the Palazzo Grassi and Punta de Dogana showing the full power of dozens of foundations located in Venice. Most of these historic sites have been recently reworked here by Tadeo Ando, there by Foster as the Foundation Vedova with two special exhibitions for the Biennial - Kieffer and In Continuum. These "collateral" contemporary exhibitions have not only a great quality but also unprecedented spread over thousands of square meters, taking the time and the look of each one. Exhibitions of the Pinault Foundation had the advantage or disadvantage to show number of pieces acquired in the last Venice Bienniale 2009. Like what it is the market that make many collectors around the world flocked to Venice overwhelmed with so much money. This magic moment of worldliness to look like a work in itself, as the soft disgust accompanied by enthusiasm driven by the circulation of rumors. For the better openings and the dozens of parties — in four nights (!) — also make the Venice Biennale. To be informed, be invited to board or be welcomed is a game for those who like that. And there are many. Admittedly, this happens often in palaces and places like the incredible evening of Israeli Pavilion / South Africa Goodman Gallery / Paris Kamel Menours Gallery to Scuola Grande di San Rocco in a madness of paintings and frescoes by Tintoretto - again and again - who gives flesh and the spiritual in art that might suggest to have lost. Thus returning to the starting point of the new Venice Biennale.

Jean loup Pivin & Pascal Martin Saint Leon, juin 2011

PS: Funny flipping through the catalog to see the hierarchy given in the enunciation of national pavilions stakeholders: first the name of the commissioner and then commissioner of those assistants and those "fans" (galleries, sponsors, institutions) and finally (it's not too late) the name of the artist !

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