The Arsenale @The Venice Biennale
Yesterday I spent the day at the Arsenale. It’s one of two main Venice Biennale exhibition sites encompassing “50.000 square metres (with 25.000 of indoor space). The South-East area of the Arsenale has become the stable site of the Biennale activities, with exhibition spaces such as: Corderie, Artiglierie, Gaggiandre, Tese Cinquecentesche, Tese delle Vergini.”
The spaces are arranged in a long interconnecting corridor starting with “The Encyclopedic Palace” curated by Massimiliano Gioni and then followed by Cindy Sherman’s artist as curator exhibition, then a series of rooms of works by youngish artists (lots of different kinds of video installation) and then more and more pavilions representing our world. Not quite separate and not quite united.
It’s almost impossible to fully grasp this much work in one day or two.
Sifting through all that work, tonight my highlights are the gender erotica drawings of Yuksel Arslan, Rosella Biscotti’s minimalist, durational, and interventionist works (made from compost bricks, pooled rubbish from inmates of the women’s prison on the island of Guidecca, Venice and Arthur Bispo Rosario’s collections of objects, phrases and incantations that promised him a fulfilling afterlife.
I’m smitten with these works as part of an Encyclopedia of art-making that brings up questions about how we define who’s an artist- and intent. Many artists talk about intent but much of this work palpably demonstrates.
Unlike cave paintings, we haven’t yet lost the artist’s narrative and yet the works still are troubling conventional/ contemporary ideas (I think wrongly) about professionalism and value. Often a discerning public spends quite a bit of time researching an artists biography than assessing the work on it’s own merits, whatever that may be.
More importantly- who bears the unexhibited artist’s profound collection of art to the public? Who rescues hours of research and assembly from the landlords disinterested arm? The landlord is a disinterested public…or an actual landlord who throws out an artists work if evicted or upon death…Also- these pieces I’m describing have an artist’s narrative/bio attached that doesn’t follow the current market trend that often ascribes value based on education/ exhibition/ sales. These artists work troubles that definition in a good way.
At the Arsenale I breezed by some works to give myself time to read other pieces’ interesting title cards. And-geez, you could march right by Alfredo Jaar’s piece in the Chilean Pavilion and miss the city rising up from the still waters. Or like the day before- just be bone tired and think that Jesper Just’s intervention at the Danish Pavilion at the Giardini was a space in disuse. I saw people give up while trying to get in.
“Intercourses” by Just was a piece I’d wished to have seen at the beginning of the day. Not the end. I wanted a bit more time there contemplating relationships between the cinder block walls, bamboo and video. His use of dissuasion, his blockages at the front and back were materially gorgeous. Architectural sandwiches on par with Mark Manders. This piece really snuck up on me.
P.S. Follow my rapid documentation with dribs of commentary interjected on the blog in reverse chronological order. Much of what I reference is there somewhere. Was a different work your fave? Let me know…and why.
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P.S.S.S. this piece was updated Saturday June, 22nd at 11:11pm Venice time.