Monday, 11 November 2013

La Biennale

The initial reason Lucy and I decided to go back to Venice was for the 55th Biennale International Arts Exhibition. Alternating yearly between art and architecture, the festival features pavilions hosted by different countries where they can showcase their artists. It's an incredible insight into the diverse and exciting world of contemporary art.

There are the two main locations of the Arsenale and Giardini but exhibitions are also featured all around the city so you never know when you'll stumble across a hidden treat.
Whether it is giant sculptural conches by British artist Marc Quinn along the harbour of the San Giorgio Maggiore island....

...Or the Korean pavilion, entitled 'Where is Alice?', down a little unassuming alley way...

The light and artificial plant sculptures of Haegue Yang's Female Natives, 2010 (above) were contrasted with the surreal and nightmarish work of Choi Xoo Ang. Her anatomical sculpture was a stand out piece and has stuck in my memory, whether I'm thankful for this I'm not sure...

I thought I'd give you just a little taster of some of my favourite exhibitions from the rest of the festival. Sorting through the ridiculous amount of photos I took was quite a task but I'm so glad I took the time to document it, there were so many moments I'd forgotten about.

The first stop at the Giardini revealed how the Biennale, and art itself, is not purely ontological but interacts with the wider world and issues at hand. The social connotations of the Spanish pavilion were a fascination insight into notions of urban space and wasteland. The curator's description of Lara Almarcegui's installation describes it much better than I ever could so have a read...


The Belgium pavilion featured Cripplewood by artist Berlinde de Bruyckere. The fallen tree installation was accompanied by a thought provoking reaction from curator J. M. Coetzee. Clawing away the political and social implications of words, the 'crippled' tree takes almost human form and reaches out continuing to grow, for as Coetzee distinguishes, cripplewood is not deadwood.

Photos © Mirjam Devriendt


The Dutch presented a variety of pieces by Mark Manders. Curated by Lorenzo Benedetti, Room with Broken Sentence displayed a selection of Manders' art, combining existing installations with a monumental 4 meter high monumental new work.

Stepping through doors plastered with newspapers containing every work in the dictionary, you are surrounded by Manders' pieces where his fragmented works play with material: clay becomes bronze, bronze appears to be wood.


Danaë by conceptual artist Vadim Zakharov was created for the Russian Pavilion and curated by Udo Kittelman. The interactive installation draws on the symbolic imagery of the Greek myth of Danaë, the mother of the Greek hero Perseus, who was impregnated by the god Zeus, who appeared to her as a shower of golden rain. In the upper floor of the two-storey pavilion, 200,000 golden coins are continuously rained down, through a hole, into a 'cave womb' set into the ground floor. Only female visitors are allowed into the lower floors with an umbrella to protect themselves from this 'heavenly shower'.

This pavilion is supposedly a metacommentary on the corruptive wealth of Russia but the issue of gender segregation is unavoidable. The artist has defended himself but the patriarchy of the myth is instilled even in the architecture of the building with a male performance artist seated in the rafters and the multiple storeys dividing the crowd. Moreover, behind the practicality of it, in getting the female guests to replenish the bucket of gold coins surely they are perpetuating the continuing cycle of their symbolic rape? Conscious or not, however, the implication of the audience in the sexual rites and allegory of the art creates an interaction and conversation which makes the art world of the Biennale as dynamic and interesting as it is.


 Bang by Ai Weiwei was made up of 886 suspended wooden stools.
Apparently this structure speaks of the increasing volumes of organisms in our world’s mega-cities with the single stool a metaphor for the individual. These fun photos of the installation don't particularly need any commentary, however, they can be enjoyed purely aesthetically and are some of my favourite photos!


Odires Mlászho created a series of book sculptures, re-inventing and commenting on the possibilities of collage, particularly its developments in our growing digital world. I, frankly, could not get past the sheer patience and dedication it must have taken to layer all those pages together!!

South Africa 

The South African pavilion featured another use of books in scultpure... Do you see a geeky English student pattern emerging here!? Wim Botha used African encyclopaedias to create three dimensional portraits, using literary collections of the past to create something new.

This is just a selection of the incredible amount we saw.
Resulting in a bit of an art overload...

Have any of you been to the Biennale or have a favourite?
I may just have to return to Venice next year for the turn of architecture!

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