In the collective imagination of professionals and art lovers, Venice Biennial is the mother of all art exhibitions, a living catalogue of ideas and an inspiration for artists around the world. Needless to deny the truth of this axiom, however, the 2011 Biennial, presents to us as a mother turned out into an emancipated sister, one that is free and outrageous just enough to appeal to free spirits as well as to the Conservatives. Innovation, deep and decided feelings. A sense of history nonetheless.
As stated by Bice Curiger, the director of the Venice Biennial "... art can give us access to more complex problems, the very causes of historical and social changes: the visitor must be able to look at the works carefully and only then he will understand. This is evident even in national pavilions: art can help us understand a deeper reality, something that cannot be done if we confine ourselves to the means provided by the media.
In addition to ideas, what herein comes forward is the myth, the Bible, the approaching to the literature and its references, its irony, its suggestions, in an embrace with the classic and ancient tradition. Thus the pigeons by Maurizio Cattelan
(Padua, 1960), hung from above, looking at what happen in the halls below, as the presence of powerful works by Tintoretto
(Venice, 1518-1594). Too bad that the animal activists didnít like the stuffed birds previously made, however. The air we breathe is that of a touristic Venice, a city surrounded by the pigeons of St. Mark, as it happens in everyday life here.
Animals act as masters: at the centre of the Arsenal, Loris Gréaud
(1979) exposes a white whale (The Geppetto experience
). We are immediately catapulted into the literary myth of Moby Dick, but also in that of Pinocchio, the Italian story best known to the world. And what about the biblical engagement of Jonah swallowed by the great marine animal, and then returned to live in balance and renewed in its decisions? Exciting and touching. The huge whale of a good old Geppetto moves the strings of our hearts and dreams, until the point of getting to the myth of the cave, as it should be.
Another animal, the vampire bird, which is narrated in Xhosa folk songs, perhaps herein representing a simulacrum of apartheid and AIDS in Africa. It is made with recycled material, including rags, and accompanied by the voice of the author, Nicholas Hlobo
(City Cape, 1975), singing a tribal hymn in African language. The idea is to exorcise the fear of living in a complicated world; however, as the visitor is annihilated, thoughtful, troubled.
They speak of man and nature, these animals, a privileged relationship with the environment and all its creatures. In a lay manner, of course, close to the feeling of the youth generation, which is seriously beginning to reject the hegemony of profit at all costs.
Other new features include the American Pavilion. U.S. Jennifer Allora
(Philadelphia, 1974) and Cuban Guillermo Calzadilla
(Havana, 1971) signed the pavilion with the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The title is particularly evocative: Gloria
. The two curators have collaborated since 1995, forming a collective of artists in Puerto Rico. It 's only a few years ago that their work has started to experience international exposure, from the MoMA in New York (2010), to the Kunstmuseum Krefeld Museum Haus Esters in Krefeld (2009) and the Haus der Kunst in Monaco of Bavaria (2008). In Venice the attention of visitors went to Track and Field
, and it couldnít be otherwise. This is a very realistic inverted tank, which track has been installed on a treadmill, set in motion at regular intervals by American athletes chosen from among the samples. War and sports, sports and war. The message is clear, at least for the young generation of visitors and art critics: put the sport on your panzers.
, another great idea from the civil clear impact. Inserted into a functioning organ (sounding) a real ATM machine that many have wanted to try. Is it a disguised body organ used as a cash machine or the contrary? The sound is spreading across the roof adjusting the performance of a dance troupe. Great enthusiasm for this work attracting money, music, dance, operational activities. The epitome of modern life.
And again, Body in Flight (Delta), Body in Flight (American)
, painted wood reproductions of first class seats currently in use on American planes, which become a real gym for athletes; Armed Freedom Lying on a Sunbed
, in the mail room under the dome of the pavilion, at the bottom side of the entrance: it is a modified copy of the bronze Statue of Freedom
, which since 1863 represents the dome of the United States Parliament. Two and a half meters long, it is lying on a functioning tanning bed and therefore brights. A mockery to the lovers of beauty at all costs.
Half Mast \ Full Mast
videos are two overlapping videos, with different landscapes. In each one of these movie, at the centre of the image, appears a gymnastic flag. Entrance is allowed to an athlete at a time, who gets into one of the two screens and poses as a human flag, which, according to whether the screen is higher or lower, the flag is either raised or not, in places that evoke a symbolic victory or defeat. The movie is dedicated to Puerto Rican island Vieques, U.S. based protectorate until 2003 now becoming a natural reserve, after years of dispute. The work is a representation of how much glory is fleeting and even an explicit reference is not made without allusions to the contentious U.S. military history.
Also socio-political oriented is the documentary 30 Days of Running the Place by multimedia artist Ahmed Basiouny
(1978-2011) at the Egyptian Pavilion in the Giardini curated by Aida Eltoire, director of Finding Project Association and former editor of the magazine Contemporary Practice , and the artist Shady El Noshokaty
(1971). Ahmed Basiouny was a precursor of New Media in Egypt, a charismatic leader of the "digital generation" who, with the help of social networks and blogs has stirred up and led the revolt. Martyr of the revolution, he was killed last January 28th by a sniper and then run over by a police car during the third day of protests. The movie, on the first day of the uprising, focuses on changes in the streets and on the involvement of artists. Itís the last work created by Basiouny before death and itís also his main project, presented for the first time in January last year at the Palace of Arts in Cairo, during the exhibition Why Not?
, Which aims to highlight the growing separation between young contemporary artists working in Egypt and the authoritarian government.
No wonder why the Italian Pavilion curated by Vittorio Sgarbi, is symbolized by a crucified Italy by Gaetano Pesce
(La Spezia, 1939). Our country, with the usual form of the boot, is reduced to a bloody mass of flesh, made of resin, and hanging from a giant wooden cross, black, clean, basic. Itís a crucified Italy, insulted and tortured, which replaces Christ. Pieces of flesh falling at the foot of the cross, where are accumulated debris, rubbles and destroyed false idols. A strong and unambiguous image, clearly legible and understandable, like many other international works in this Biennial, which cries out for justice and desire for change.