57. Biennale in Venice – A Week in September – Tuesday

I will never forget the moment I arrived for the first time in Venice: twelve years ago – first stop of a rail trip to Cinque Terre (by the way another piece of paradise fallen on earth) via Verona, Florence, and Pisa.

Sunset in Venice
Under the Venetian Sky.

We got out at Piazzale Roma, it was July, it was hot, Venice was packed, hordes of (mainly American) tourists pushed themselves -and each other – through the narrow alleys and wider streets; usually the epitome of hell.

But I didn’t find the energy to nag (and usually I’m very energetic when it comes to nagging) – I was simply mesmerized by this surreal place, the narrow sidewalks along the canals criss crossing the historic center, the small bridges leading from micro-neighborhood to micro-neighborhood and sometimes just ending at a house entrance or even just a wall.

Where to take photographs? How can you pick a particularly atmospheric corner, which is the most enchanting view? Every single alley and niche is just mind-blowing.

Gondolieri in Venice
Traffic jam on a canal. I suppose the people in the gondola had something more romantic in mind than crashing into delivery boats.
OSM – oh sole mio!

I’m well aware of the social and ecologic problems Venice is facing, of the struggle against the water, the decay, the masses of people and the merciless cruise industry: Although the greater Venice area has more than 260,000 inhabitants, less than 60,000 are living in the historic center. Every year this little island built on Millions of steles that became a UNESCO world heritage in 1987 bends under ten millions of visitors – and I’m not using the verb ‘welcome’ on purpose – plus an additional 14 millions day trippers. It’s a miracle that the place is still there – but it definitely is an endangered species.

Cruise Ship Placards
In case you didn’t know: Venetians are happy to inform you.

Nevertheless, Venezia, you are one of a kind and will always have a very special place in my heart.

Saint Mark's Square
After today’s heavy rain at noon there is aqua alta on the Marcus square. Only the kids are thrilled playing in this unexpected kiddy pool.

57. Biennale 

This year’s biennal is taking place from May 17 to November 26. It’s the 57th issue and it’s the 4th time that it’s curated by a woman; I find that incredible!

Christine Macel - Biennale bye:myself
This year’s curator Christine Macel
(© La Biennale di Venezia, Photo: Andrea Avezzù)

This year’s curator is Ms Christine Macel, born in 1969 in Paris, who has been a curator at the Centre Pompidou in Paris since 2000.

She’s being criticized for not being ambitious enough regarding the public relevance of the event, since she’s focusing on the art it self and shouts out “Viva Arte Viva”. There is enough space to interpret this catchphrase in different ways, and Christine Macel left as well space for the artists to interpret it; and the nine sections’ mottos. I find her concept very discreet and thoughtful.

Although I’m undoubtably a political person, the art world’s big conscious-critical-political gestures and poses often deem so pretentious. Two years ago there was a reading of Karl Marx’ “Capital”  – I mean, come one, how pretentious is that!? (This page-turner celebrates its 150s anniversary next Thursday, by the way, so merci beaucoup, Christine, for not taking up this issue)
I had the feeling that only people who were tired from all the walking took advantage of the empty chairs in front of the stage and put up with the spectacle for the benefit of a short break.

So anyway, Mme. Macel declares her “Viva Arte Viva” to be inspired by humanism, and I find, that’s a beautiful idea that leaves enough space for inspiration and creativity. And maybe it’s a rather female pitch: not constantly feeling the urge to prove to the world how ‘intellectual’ and in control you are. Let’s get real, after 17 highly successful years being in charge of one of world’s most important art venues, this lady has nothing to prove to anyone.

Since I preferred to visit the Arsenale first, I have to skip the two first chapters which will be added tomorrow when I go to the Giardini.

Here comes part one of the Arsenale – the seven central pavilions. The post about the national pavilions will follow in part two mid of this week.

III – Pavilion of the Common

Lee Mingwei 

(born in Taiwan in 1964, currently living in Paris and New York)

the mending project
The Mending Project
An art project in the aftermath of 9/11

IV – Pavilion of the Earth

Kananginak Pootoogook

(born 1935 in Cape Dorset/Canada, died in 2010)

Kananginak and his wife
Untitled – Kananginak and his Wife Shooyoo in their Home.
Lovely pencil drawings by Mr. Pootoogook who is an Inuit.

V – Pavilion of Traditions

Francis Upritchard

(born 1976 in Christchurch/New Zealand)

Francis Upritchard
Various puppets – representing traditions, which remain unspecified.

Actually in this pavilion the best exhibit was the film “David” by Xiao Guan, showing us all a mirror how we consume art. While the video shows the overpresence of the David-statue and its consumption, the images are accompanied by a supposedly naive song about David – but if you don’t get distracted by the hilarious side, the message makes you blush.

VI – Pavilion of the Shamans

Ernesto Neto

(born 1964 in Rio de Janeiro)

Ernesto Neto
Since I wasn’t particularly crazy about any of the exhibits at the Shaman Pavilion, I’m introducing the most
spectacular one, the centerpiece that was covered by every media.

VII – Dionysian Pavilion

Kader Attia

(born 1970 in Dugny/France, now living in Berlin and Paris)

This Installation is simply genius: Voices from female Arabic singers make sand vibrate in glass globes. And it actually works only with the voices, it does not vibrate when there are e. g. instruments. Absolutely fascinating! And a clear feminist message, too.

VIII – Pavilion of Colors

Sheila Hicks

(born in Nebraska, lives between Paris and New York)

Sheila Hicks
Pavilion of Colors – what could be more iconic than Sheila Hicks’ Escalade Beyond Chromatic Lands?!

IX – Pavilion of Time and Infinity

Liliana Porter

(born 1941 in Buenos Aires, lives in New York)

Liliana Porter
While the Pavilion of the Shamans didn’t offer me anything really touching, at the Pavilion of Time and Infinity were
various pieces that I’d find worthy to be introduced. But I’m sticking to the cutest one, which was this tiny chaotic scenery
called El hombre con el hacha y otras situaciones breves (The man with the axe and other short situations)

…and other nice things I saw outside the Arsenale.

Pavilion of Taiwan

Tehching Hsieh

(born 1950 in Nanzhou/Taiwan, lives in Brooklyn/New York)
One Year Performance 1980 – 1981

Tehching Hsieh – One Year Performance 1980 – 1981 (Time Clock Piece) from FACT on Vimeo.

Pavilion of Mongolia

Chimeddorj Shagdarjav

(born 1954 in Mongolia)

Chimeddorj Shagdarjav
I’m Bird
Yes, cranes are graceful – but here there are guns.

Pavilion of Andorra

Eve Ariza

(born 1973 in France, lives in Andorra)

Eve ARiza
Eve Ariza is giving women earthen voices.

Pavilion of Macao

Wong Cheng Pou

(born 1960 in Macao)

Wong Cheng Pou
A Bonsai of my Dream
The cutest name for the cutest sculptures and corresponding etchings.
These two guys actually carry the one in the middle through the wall.

Pavilion of Hong Kong

Samson Young

(born 1979 in Hong Kong)

Samson Young
Songs for Disaster Relief
A super fun and campy installation with lots of cheesy music. I was relieved in a blink of an eye (actually, I’d rather need a metaphor with ear in it rather than eye…)

Chiesa della Pietà

Safet Zec

(born 1943 in Bosnia-Herzegovina)
Safet Zec
I was so glad having stumbled by incident over this fantastic, intense paintings depicting different scenarios from the current refugee topic, painted in the fashion of the old masters like Tintoretto. It’s amazing when a single painting is telling you a whole story. Not to be missed!

And this is where I had aperitivo tonight

Tonight I treated myself to an aperitivo at a cute little tavern right on the main street crossing Cannaregio. Here the niblets do not come with your drink, but they are also more sophisticated.
I had a fine little meatloaf (upper left), a melanzane parmigiano, a piece of bread with gorgonzola and nuts, and a piece of stuffed squid on polenta – could be worse, right?!

Cantina Vecia Carbonera
Cannaregio 2329

30121 Venice
Phone: + 39 – 41 – 71 03 76

Did I inspire you? Planning on going to Venice?
Get some special advice and detailed information how to get the best for less in the Sunday post.

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