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Standing Out at the 52nd Venice Biennale

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2nd Oct 2008

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Maaria Wirkkala: Vietato Lo Sbarco - somehow compelling
Monday, 11 June 2007

And the word is: morbid. One word to sum up the zeitgeist of the show, to capture as much of the mood as possible, while remembering it can't possibly be accurate.
To break new ground in art is often subjective, so let's not pretend any of this is any more important than observation, that most unmeticulous of commentary.

Here are some names and ideas we noticed, and some have a common theme ingrained maybe it's the never-ending war on terror (or you), maybe it's boredom with fashion and materialism, but the anatomy of struggle, life and death is a core theme.

Night falls and projects ranging from Bill Viola's Ocean Without a Shore to the Pinault collection at the Palazzo Grassi come alive in new ways and much is to be seen at numerous locations around the city.

Here is a sample of the relevant:

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Alexander Ponomarev & Аrseny Mescheryakov: Shower
The previously mentioned AES+F for last riot at the Russia National Pavilion.

Jason Rhoades for his work in neon and communication. An exception, as it lacked the death vibe seen elsewhere - ironically.

Alexander Ponomarev and Arseny Mescheryakov for their media shower, which changes as you tilt the shower head. A cynical and relevant commentary on the constant information that rains down on us.

Andrey Bartenev for connection lost/field of lonely hearts, a mesmerizing video piece, also in the Russian National Pavilion.

Herbert Brandt for organic landscape pieces on a grand scale at the Austrian National Pavilion. Refreshing.

Vanessa Beecroft's performance exhibition on Sudan, real and powerful, a bloody tribute to sadist realism.

Reflective taxidermy in the Canadian National Pavilion outdated, yet strangely representative of Canada's place in the world, created by David Altmejd for The Index.

Iran do Espirito Santo an orderly effort in chains and bricks simple and elegant, yet reminiscent of walls and obstacles prison and confirement.

Yang Zhenzhong's "I Will Die" a study in human psychology, terrifying and sad exploitation of the moment a person realizes they too, will die.

El Anatsui, the artist from Ghana, featuring Dusasa II, a magnificent stitching that could only have been done in Africa it reflects so many ideas that are about Africa now from the use of gold to its micro-macro conflict as a form of fabric.

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The Vanessa Beecroft performance: Still Death! Darfur Still Deaf?
The Finnish artist Maaria Wirkkala for her secretly interactive Vietato Lo Sbarco a gondola on a sea of broken Venetian glass, that rocks gently upon entry and exit.

Joshua Mosley's Dread in the Italian Pavilion, similar in feel to White Noise in the Brazilian.

Nikos Alexiou for his work in the Greek National Pavilion a creeping kaleidoscope of color.

Little bravos extend all around, and of the hundreds of artists at the Biennale, you rang true.