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Call and response: Intriguing pavilions and collateral events
116 years running, 89 national pavilions, 4 new presences, 7 returns after years of absence, 37 collateral events, the 54th edition of the Venice Biennial seemingly is a display of numbers, but in fact it is much more...

Is the artistic community a nation? How many countries are there within you? Where do you feel at home? What language will the future speak? If art were to be a country, what would its constitution say?
In response to these questions, a myriad of eclectic answers, encouraged by curator Bice Curiger, are reconstructed through the 89 national pavilions of the 54th Venice Biennial, which will open to the public on Saturday, June 4th.
The political debate seems to be the point in question, used as a comparative measure, a common thread one can follow throughout each exhibition. This insight is made visible at the Poland Pavilion - at the Garden - where for the first time a foreign citizen represents this country: it is a trilogy of films in which Israeli artist Yael Bartana recounts the activities of the movement, which she founded, for the Jewish renaissance in Poland. They consist of explanatory videos, with overtones of irrational narrative, which exploit the artistic experimentation to universalize a political theme.
Less explicit, yet keeping with the expectation of Curiger’s initial questions, the Irish Pavilion - in Santa Maria della Pietà - Corban Walker, has tangled up a considerable number of blocks reduced to simple skeletal steel axes: a declaration to the plight of crisis that has been weighing on the nation since 2007, in conjuncture with a the artist typical study of the ever-changing forms of sculpture.
Another lasting impression permeating from all 37 events around the lagoon is a religious encounter with a new spirituality. Three sculptures by Jan Fabre, always made - in white Carrara marble, which symbolizes the human brain are drawing crowds. Attracting the most attention is Pietas, presented at the Nuova Scuola Grande di Santa Maria della Misericordia. With austere respect, the Flemish artist sublimates the love of a mother caring for her son, a new understanding is made of Michelangelo's iconic Pietà.  The Virgin is rendered as a skeleton, whose hallow eyes gaze down at Christ, depicted with the likeness of the artist himself. A moving sensation is grasped of a grieving mother yearning to take the place of her dead son.


A different nature of the Pieta can be found in the Korean Pavilion -The Love is gone but the scar will Heal - in which a mannequin and its model dummy offer up a fresh understanding of Michelangelo's famous work. The Virgin Mother, as the model, embraces the lifeless mannequin of Christ. In opposition, yet deliberately placed in the same room are two mannequin figures violently acting out the last moments of a brutal fight.


Perhaps more volatile and inconsistent, yet still tied to the sacred state of reflection is work by Anish Kapoor, exhibited at the Basilica of St. George, which lends itself to investigate artistic experimentation. A site-specific work, Ascension, is simply an artificially generated column of smoke that presents an ascent in the intersection between nave and transept. Through spirituality and a deep awareness of the continuous metamorphosis of sculpture, Kapoor exposes the fragile balance between presence and absence, offering up an invitation to reflect on the idea that in itself becomes the object of immateriality.

curated by pamela bianchi


Reserved Reproduction