Accueil > LIVE FROM THE 54th VENICE BIENNALE
Allora & Calzadilla. Track and Field. Tank and athlete. 2011. Photo: Marjorie Och
The Biennale di Venezia has just opened and the world's critics, journalists and (connected) collectors descended on the lagoon to sample the latest in contemporary art.
One of those was Sigalit Landau, who not only gamely invited Backström to site a work outside the Israeli pavilion, but also radically reorganized the space within, including knocking a large hole through a wall to accommodate a complex network of fresh and salt water pipes. These act both as a metaphor for the human circulatory system and reinforce Landau's focus on the Dead Sea as a possible point of cooperation between Israel and its neighbors. A particularly poetic image (and possible future project) is Landau's vision for a salt bridge linking Jordan and Israel across the Dead Sea. Like the little girl in her video, tying together the shoelaces of adults sitting around a negotiating table, Landau is mischievous but insists on being taken seriously in demanding urgent attention to the region's water issues.
Christian Boltanski's installation at the French pavilion, featuring hundreds of faces on long rolls running through the space, reminded Preston of a blend of Claude Leveque (who filled the pavilion in 2009 with a similar metal framework) and Simon Starling (who created an absurdist device that projected a film about the metal shop where the device was constructed).
Marjorie had a different take on it, emphasizing Boltanski's computerized exquisite corpse-cum-Vegas slot machine "wheel of fortune" that combined sections of faces of Polish babies and elderly Swiss to create over a million possible combinations. Pushing a button froze the images, and if you lined up all three parts you won something. You can play at home at www.boltanski-chance.com. The element of chance in the production of any "face" foregrounded for both of us the infinite interpretations of contemporary art. Boltanski's space could also be read as an imprisoning and claustrophobic environment both for those mechanically produced by it and for those experiencing the world he creates.
Lastly, the sharp good humor of Thomas Hirschhorn was in full glory at the Swiss Pavilion. Hirschhorn used the most mundane of materials -- including his favored aluminum foil, cotton swabs, and brown plastic packing tape -- to create a riotous Merzbau-like environment that was part funhouse and part crystal cave fantasy. At close inspection, the wildly colorful appearance of Hirschhorn's work revealed troubling images of wounded, tortured, bloodied bodies along the path one took through the pavilion, a reminder that artists' materials often hide the intensity of their subject matter, linking Hirschhorn to both Goya and Manet. In his remarks to the press, the artist emphasized the necessity of panic in art, and you really did come away feeling that he had thought deeply about many things, but waited until about six hours before the opening to start madly taping them all together!
Tomorrow: the Arsenale and curator Bice Curiger's vision of the contemporary art field entitled ILLUMInations.
Marjorie Och and Preston Thayer reporting from Venice.