/ by John McGurk

Venice Biennale, 2nd Installment

The Giardini


The above photo is the entrance to the main Pavilion in the Giardini section of the Biennale. It's a great setting to look at art, with different buildings or "pavilions" scattered throughout the grounds, each dedicated to one country. The building pictured above exhibits a broad survey of international art every two years, this one's theme "ILLUMInations", clearly stated by artist Josh Smith's mural at the entrance. 

Looking over my photos, I am actually surprised at how few I actually took. I had a lot of art to take in over a small amount of time, so maybe this resulted in less picture taking. In any case, this is a fitting photo of a piece by Maurizio Cattelan, the perpetual trickster. These pigeons can be seen all around the main pavilion, a constant reminder that the canals of Venice are just outside the front door. Which, depending on your place in the exhibition, may be exactly where you want to run:

There is so much art that I decided to just really focus on the work that appealed to me immediately. I didn't want a lot of text or codes to decipher, just immediate reactions. A couple of piece worth mentioning were the wall murals of an over sized Cindy Sherman looking old fashioned and three video pieces by Pipilotti Rist that I found to be a lot of fun, sort of a hightech kitsch. 




For all the grumbling about how this Biennale was not up to par, I found some really poignant work that made the whole experience come together with moments of clarity, and dare I say, ecstasy. A new discovery for me was the artist Haroon Mirza, but his work is almost impossible to photograph so I will have to talk about him more later. Let's just say his work is a breath of fresh air, a truly innovative approach to the often tiresome genre of new media installation art.

The above photo is one of David Goldblatt's, a stark reminder of the strange and contradictory times we live in. His photos are hung on the walls of one of the four "parapavilions" that can be found throughout the Biennale. This first architectural intervention by Monika Sosnowska was great, a nice compliment to the art found within each smaller room.

Just below this room of multiple delights, was another piece that I was immediately drawn into. I am not familar with the work of Omer Fast, but I think maybe I have been missing out. This video is an amazing piece of work, a tense narrative of predator drones and the Americans that are at their mercy. A telling scene is when a family on vacation runs into a small group of men burying an "IED" and everyone is killed by a missile strike. The scene ends with the family getting out of the car and walking into the distance, in a non-zombie kind of way. Shortly after this scene we are catapulted into a fly-by of Vegas at night, in a very zombie kind of way.

To be continued...