I decided to stay a bit longer at the Venice Biennale to have enough time to appreciate not only the individual qualities of the objects and installations exhibited there but also to see the way the art world as a ‘human group’ reacts to the changes that are pacing up in today’s world. This is why, we must separate the formal from the material analysis in order to make some sense of what is being shown.
Yesterday, in my review of the Central Pavilion, I referred to the way the curator in chief, Christine Macel had decided to raise relevant questions about what is human about art today. As aforementioned, her strategy has consisted of including a few artists whose projects claim to bring back the humane into what has, allegedly, become too impersonal in art. Raising those questions are timely and promising, the questions is how is she going to put it together in the only way that matters which is the visual. That is why I decided to come back to the Pavilion of the Joys and Sorrows to continue my analysis, exactly, where I had left it.
Back in the Giardini, nearby a few artists whose projects aims at make abstraction personal, there are two appealing videos by Cerith Wyn Evans and Agneska Polska, respectively. The former whose title is ‘Pasolini Ostia Remix’ (1998-2003) is 15 minutes long and combines video, photography, sculpture and light in order to disorientate instead of create meaning. The narrative starts in Ostia, a few metres from where Pasolini was killed in November 1975. Watching the video, it is event that Evans’ does not like solutions but instead to raise doubts which is always good in art. After viewing the video, one feels that both nothing and many things happened. Polska’s video is a camera closing up on the surface of some pigment which is dripping from a sculpture. All this with Joy Division’s rhythmic mainstreamish music. Something that these artists have obviously read and try to apply is the concept of Dasein which according to Heiddegger makes human existence self efficient upon the breakage of the instrumental relationship between Man and Nature. This can happen in real life (for example, breaking a leg) or through art which is the case of Polska’s isolating focus on how pigment moves and stains. Although this might sound unique for the uninitiated in art theory, the truth is that it is a very handbook approach to contemporary art. If this is the point, it is simply not enough. In any case, the Biennale’s Chief Curator, Christine Macel has included two videos that aim at emptying the medium of film from its narrative and contextual power.
This de-functionalisation can also be appreciated nearby the room where Olafur Eliasson transforms one of his designs into a serial table lamp assembled from 3D printers that are working in front of the viewer. A group of ‘artists?’/’interns?’ that look like they really know what this is all about (and we don’t) sell this ‘objects’ for 300 euros or more. The money is for a charity that deals with saving of Earth or something like that. This part of the show annoyingly transforms political correction into an artistic protocol. The opportunism of the whole endeavour is, to say the least, boring and the only appealing thing is the self conscious sexiness of the interns who have, obviously, been clearly chosen because of their looks.
From the point of view of the curation, until this point, the viewer is expected to appreciate a de-functionalisation of art which occurs, on one hand, in Heiddeggerian terms (Evans and Polska) and, on the other, in hipsterish politically correct terms (Eliasson). Next is Syrian painter Marwan and his extremes close ups both of painterly gesture and frame. In his large canvases, he efficiently deploys a lose and thick impastaoed brushwork which he photographically uses into a figure that is framed in photographic terms.
Luboš Plnÿ is next and his portraits aim at conveying expression through the use of scientific medical diagrams. In Plnÿ’s case, this transformation of the formal into the expressive is not as efficient as in Malwar. Something similar happens with the next artist, Hungarian performance artist Tibor Hajas who uses his body as plastic tool, putting his physical integrity in danger for the sake of art. The effect of placing someone like Hajas here is that he is reduced to one very small aspects of his practice and thus, dwarfed. We all know that this is often the problem with ‘authoritative’ curations.
Next is Argentine Sebastian Diaz Morales and his rather kitsch Bill Violesque film of a floating man shot from below. It is at that point that all this reflection on art as a human endeavour becomes more introspective although confusing with Kiki Smith, the boring Firenze Lai and the awfully Ed Wood-ian Andy Hope finishing the ticket.
Contiguous both spatially and thematically to the personalisation of the formal of the first part of this Pavilion (reviewed yesterday), Macel aimed at including an artist that creates geometric instalations with engines and panties. At this point, the selection seems too far fetched and tedious. With the exception of Smith, Marwan and probably Evans this pavilion fails to achieve what it promises. J A T