La Biennale: 55th International Art Exhibition, Venice – Italy
The Encyclopedic Palace
A visit to the Venice Biennale every two years keeps the art world exciting. Plan to visit in two days because one day is just not enough. Better yet would be a third day to see the collateral events.
For the 55th International Art Exhibition, theme is an all-encompassing collection of ideas, The Encyclopedic Palace, curated by a young Italian curator now with the New Museum in New York, Massimiliano Gioni. The inspiration derived from an actual proposal made in 1955 by Italian-American Marino Auriti (1891-1980) for a sort of imaginary museum, of skyscraper scale, an edifice to be built in Washington DC to house an encyclopedic record of universal knowledge and the greatest creations and discoveries of man kind.
The idea for this edition’s theme obviously opens up an immense spectrum of possibilities, especially since the bank of information and knowledge grows exponentially as history is created. The usual goal of defining with a theme has instead made the restrictions disappear with a vastly open approach.
Perhaps in our attempt to understand the world we live in, we are required to refer to that traditional sense of an encyclopedia where all the answers exist and are based in some sort of research, experimentation, explanation, conclusion, and documentation. As seen in a large percentage of the work in the exhibition, much of this discovery is found through maniacal collections of information, cataloging, and processing to understand the information.
Like many visitors, I made my own photographic catalog of the works which most related to my interests, a visual encyclopedia, if you will, of this year’s Biennale. Here is a selection of work from pavilions in the Giardini location.
Many of the pieces I was drawn to were ready-made objects found and collected by the artists presenting them, such as these building models found in a junk shop, not made by the artists Oliver Croy and Oliver Elser, but by an obsessively detailed insurance agent interested in quotidian architecture, displayed here as a record of perhaps invented buildings based on reality. This brings up the question proposed by Duchamp…is the art of recognizing the intrinsic value of these objects valid as art itself? And isn’t artistic merit found in everyday objects and even those we have produced, used and discarded?
Eva Kotatkova creates a sort of archeological installation that examines institutions and disciplinary structures and their psychological effects of barriers and obstacle courses sometimes created by these systems. Ai Weiwei created another, physical obstacle.
Lara Almarcegui used the same materials and the precise same weight/mass amount made to construct the Spanish Pavilion, and she filled the pavilion itself with piles of the deconstructed, broken-down debris (brick, glass, iron, etc.), spilling through and invading the space. Seen as a record of the rubble waste that will eventually be of this pavilion, the measures of materials also seemed to be the ingredients to make the building, relaying between pre- and post-construction of materials originating once from the earth and returning to become the raw elements.
Poetic re-compostition of book forms and sinuous flowing silk figures were suspended examples of more quiet moments found at the Biennale.