Magazine article Art Monthly

54th Venice Biennale

Magazine article Art Monthly

54th Venice Biennale

Article excerpt

various venues 4 June to 27 November

Given that there are too many artworks to see at the Venice Biennale and never enough time to see them, visitors may develop an acute form of Critical Attention Deficit Disorder. Symptoms may include an inability to stand in line or watch any film longer than two minutes, extreme impatience at bad signage and the absence of explanatory texts, not to mention a tendency towards sweeping generalisations and hasty dismissals. Christian Marclay's The Clock, 2010, a centrepiece for Bice Curiger's 'ILLUMInations', exhibition, should be prescribed to all CADD sufferers: not only can its film-bite format (a collage of film scenes featuring a clock or someone checking the time) be effortlessly and enjoyably consumed, but this 24-hour film also serves as a helpful real-time clock. The Clock is an exception, however, in the exhibition as a whole. If visitors can glide through 'ILLUMInations', it is not because the works are easy to 'get' but rather because the art seems to inhabit a smooth, unified space, somehow exempt from the frictions of reality. Neither Curiger's questions to every artist in the catalogue ('Is the art community a nation?' 'How many nations are inside you?') nor the work in 'ILLUMInations' succeed in offering a viable alternative model to the traditionally nationalist emphasis of the Biennale's pavilions. (The surprising inclusion of Tintoretto's or of lesser-known 'outsider' artists' paintings alongside new and established art world figures is of little help.) What emerges instead is a network of young, mobile, international artists who work in a shared language of expanded assemblage, painting and video that is at best light, intimate and intriguing and at worst self-referential, self-absorbed and vacuous. A loose form of sculptural assemblage accommodates different media--Haroon Mirza notably includes sound, but sculpture, painting, film and writing are key elements for others--as well as diverse identities and autobiographies: allusions to his African-American identity permeate Rashid Johnson's arrangements and constructions, while Nicholas Hlobo's huge, abject limpundulu vampire bird, made out of rubber, refers to a mythical creature in South Africa. The architectural dimension of many constructions, often using plinths and shelves, seems reinforced by the 'para-pavilions' commissioned by Curiger, which seem to introduce another layer of personal narrative, another step away from everyday life.

This tendency towards the creation of private worlds and private mythologies can also be found in some of the national pavilions in the Giardini. Installed after the artist's untimely death, the central church-like display of Christoph Schlingensief's work in the German pavilion includes, in fact, direct references to Joseph Beuys, famous for his active self-mythologisation through his assembled materials and performances. Entering Mike Nelson's labyrinthine transformation of the British pavilion transports visitors through a theme park of the artist's obsessions; this time, these seem to intersect with a western fear of the 'oriental' other. By staging collective, open-ended, polyphonic projects, the Dutch and Danish pavilions certainly avoid the risk of inward-looking self-centredness, but Thomas Hirschhorn's installation at the Swiss pavilion engages with the issue more directly, opposing bewildering opacity to Curiger's ideal of an 'illuminating' art. Here Hirschhorn mobilises his recognisable vocabulary of sprawling, overwhelming constructions and harrowing images of violence to 'fight against transparency everywhere'. His Crystal of Resistance, cobbled together out of tinfoil, sticky tape and cotton buds, is as complex as it is removed from the slick, rarefied world of diamonds, liquid crystals and electronics.

With the notable exceptions of David Goldblatt's photographic projects in South Africa and Mohammed Borouissa's absorbing film of France-based North African men playing--and cheating at--poker, 'ILLUMInations' is surprisingly devoid of photography and video focusing on other people's personal lives. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.