May 26, 2022

Balkan Travellers

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At the Venice Biennale, Contemporary Art Laundries or Swims

At the Venice Biennale, Contemporary Art Laundries or Swims

Venice – A little lost now in the brain fog of time, but in March 2020 one of the first memes of the coronavirus pandemic emerged from the calmer waters of this republic. some crook Post a picture of dolphins Supposed to swim in the Bacino di San Marco, swans sail down the unspoiled blue Grand Canal. Humans gone, Venice was a natural paradise! The city Henry James called his “warehouse of solace” was compressed to a shareable size: a watery utopia, visible on a touchscreen, as the virus made its way toward us.

dolphins It was a hoax. But the sense that humanity is the enemy of life and beauty: that part may be true, judging by the brooding, confusing, rambling preview days of the 2022 Venice Biennale. The world’s oldest and most famous international exhibition of contemporary art opened to the public on Saturday after a year-long delay, with barely a result The epidemic reduces the size of the exhibition or the subjective importance of visitors. Yes, the crowds are a little thinner than a tick in Venice in mid-April. (I’m not complaining.) Yes, the quotient of giant yachts has decreased somewhat. (I’m certainly not complaining.) It’s still a rifle, though, as the Biennale remains a more flammable artistic mix of creative minds, incredible wealth, and a global culture faltering its way into the future.

For newcomers to the lake, A Brief Primer: The Venice Biennale is a show of two halves. It consists of a major international exhibition – this year it is the 59th edition; The first was in 1895 – which takes the temperature of contemporary art, along with more than 90 pavilions where states organize their own shows. These pavilions often present solo exhibitions; This year’s United States Pavilion went to famed sculptor and pottery worker Simon Lee. Moreover, Venice’s many museums open the doors to their biggest shows during the Biennale, while merchants, institutions, and employees rent out a canal-side mansion for pop-up exhibits ranging from museum quality to cash and tote.

The main show this year, organized by Italian-born New Yorker Cecilia Alemaniis highly controversial and often successful. overwhelmingly Of the female participants, surrealism, cyborgism, animal and plant life are the main themes. There are absolutely gorgeous new paintings in the main show by New Yorkers Amy Silman and Jacqueline Humphries; The The Final Works of Carrie Upson, the highly ambitious Los Angeles artist who died last year; and fascinating historical entries of overlooked twentieth century figures, many Italians, all women. I’ll be posting a full review of Al Yamani’s exhibition next week, though I’ll say this a lot now: Her feminist, surreal, and ecological approach has produced a coherent and challenging show, whose optimistic vision of liberation through imagination seems pretty rare nowadays.

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But the patriotic presentations are the worst combination I’ve seen in my 20 years of biennale attendance: a Garibaldi street nightmare of half-warm concepts, vulgar pottery sculpture, groundbreaking political scoring, and at least one gender embracing a puddle. Great artists like Maria Eichhornan insightful analyst of artistic institutions, Japanese theater and collective technology Dumb Type, they do some of the less interesting work of their careers.

Breakthrough surprises, like the massive climate opera “Sun and Sea (Marina)” In the Lithuanian pavilion of the latest edition, is nowhere in evidence. Young artists face one by one. In the pavilions of both Serbia and Italy, we encounter distant views of the sky meeting the sea, a screensaver that evokes migration and loss. If you’re not “critical” or “questioning” some pre-existing material, you’re stuck creating fun, empty homes like Denmark’s Uffe Isolotto, which places highly realistic sculptures of dead centaurs amidst the tart hay, or Austria Jacob Lena Nebel and Ashley Hans Scherl, Her soft sculptures feature a color scheme that is more suitable for “the price is right.” Venice is a city where the present has failed to live up to the past for 500 years. This year, the present is really taking a beating.

By my count, only artists on the national wings have risen to the occasion. One is Majorzata Mirja Tas, an artist from Rome filled the Polish pavilion with a 12-piece tapestry covering whose images of Roma immigration and daily life are intertwined through endless scraps of stitched fabric, paisley, lace, and burlap. (Mirga Tas is the first female artist from Rome to represent Poland here.) Its lively scenes of shooters, guitarists, activists, and pallbearers have a grandeur that resembles the frescoes across this city, finally applied to those pushed to the sidelines. European history.

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the other Stan DouglasVancouver’s towering brilliance in photography and video art, delving into the cross-border uprisings of 2011 (Arab SpringAnd riots in londonAnd Occupy Wall Street) in a divided contribution between the Canadian Pavilion and the Old Salt Storage Depot. The painstakingly orchestrated graphic reconstructions of these 2011 insurgencies turn the Occupation and the Arab Spring into history, but a two-screen video, titled “ISDN,” reveals Douglas’ intense ability to reshape the present through imaginative interventions into the past.

Here, we see two London-based dirt artists and two Cairo-based rappers of a related Egyptian style, sharing an exciting cross-border call and response. But this is so much more than just a musical: Douglas recorded lyrics and bass line at 140 beats per minute separately, and an algorithm cuts and stitches British and Egyptian sounds into an always-new performance, an imagined community shaped through music and fiber-optic cables.

Among some grim national engagements, the Leigh Pavilion in the United States stands out for its ambition, productive values, and noble demeanor. Inside there are new works in ceramics and bronze, which walk from the decorations from Baja masks, Egyptian funerary statues, and the modernist style of Giacometti and Ernst, who republished African (and Oceanian) sculpture. (A bust of Leigh’s Brick House, a former 16-foot-tall on New York’s High Line, is also here in Venice, in the Alemani Central Gallery.) Outside, Leigh invested an entire new Palladian pavilion with a temporary thatched roof, echoing the colonial pavilions of Galleries world in the last century.

Reshaping or obscuring the architecture of the pavilion as a historical indictment has been a reliable approach here since Hans Haacke breached the German Pavilion in 1993. Interior art still has to work on its own, and Lee is still more successful in ceramics such as the large “jug” works White, a huge remake of the south face jug whose surface is studded with oversized shells, and the “wheel”, whose stone casing rests atop a large raffia skirt on African Credits and Post-Caribbean Ages.

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Lee’s bronzes are more viscous, and her works get more tacky as they become more symbolic: “Last Garment,” a candid depiction of a Jamaican washing machine woman staged in an actual pool of water, gains nothing from her heavy waist or imposing scale. The kind of intercession in history that Rome’s tapestries of Mirga Tass and Douglas’ intercontinental music perform with such vibrancy occur sporadically here, as for the black and white film depicting a burning man-style fire of one of Lee’s totem sculpture, the artist must trust her original medium.

So, welcome to the most uneven and discouraging Venice Biennale in recent memory, which came together in the midst of a global pandemic and has now opened under the label of European Land War. It has never been clear that the National Pavilions are a sideshow to the Biennial Central Gallery, and that each country’s new art gallery is decades after it was sold. (The courage of the international jury who had to see each and every one of them will award the Biennial Prizes on Saturday.)

Is it covid? I wonder if the isolation of these years, the assimilation of our lives enclosed by digital screens, has just wiped out any remaining commitment to art as something more than a means of communication. Venice, though, is the city that defined epidemics for the whole world: the word agricultural quarantine Coming from Venice, the ships carrying the “40 Days” had to stop working on the lake before their crews could disembark. Titian died of the plague here in 1576, while Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice” turned a cholera outbreak into a symbol of social decay. Now we have FFP2 masks, which are mandatory inside the fairs; Through the prosecco watch each respiratory for itself. A good Venice lesson is that epidemics eventually end. What art comes out of them is another question.