The Venice Biennale is a spectacular extravaganza. La Biennale includes art, architecture, cinema, dance, music and theatre. Most popular are the International Art Exhibition that occurs every other year, and the International Film Festival. Founded in 1895, it is avante garde and cutting edge. I can’t do an explanation justice, so click here for the link to the Biennale’s website.
This is the fourth time I’ve attended the Biennale Art Exhibition. I was first introduced to it a number of years ago through the Chicago based, non-profit art organization, Art Encounter. A Sedona friend and artist, Ellen Kamerling, is one of the founders and also the travel director of Art Encounter. My first two Biennale experiences were under the knowledgable, watchful, and astute eyes of Ellen and her co-founder Joanna Pinsky. The experiences were life changing for me and fed my love of modern art. Michael and I attended the Biennale 2 years ago while still living in the US, because I was missing the charms of Venice and wanted him to experience the magic.
This year, living in Roma, I couldn’t imagine being so close, actually in the same country! and not going, so last weekend Michael and I took the train to Venice and spent the weekend. In hindsight, I regret that I didn’t do my homework before attending and look online to learn more about the main exhibition and the numerous ones that are found throughout the city. A weekend is hardly enough time to view the 2 main exhibitions at the Arsenale and Giardini. There are over 150 artists from 37 countries represented in these two venues, plus there are 44 collateral events around town representing 88 “national participations” (their words, not mine). It’s overwhelming.
According to La Biennale di Venizia’s website, this year’s “Exhibition draws inspiration from the model of a utopian dream by Marino Auriti who filed a design with the U.S. Patent office in 1955, depicting his Palazzo Enciclopedico (The Encyclopedic Palace), an imaginary museum that was meant to house all worldly knowledge. Auriti planned the model of a 136-story building to be built in Washington, in that would stand 700 meters tall and take up over 16 blocks. Auriti’s plan was never carried out, of course – Massimiliano Gioni [this year’s curator] says – but the dream of universal, all-embracing knowledge crops up throughout the history of art and humanity, as one that eccentrics like Auriti share with many other artists, writers, scientists, and self-proclaimed prophets who have tried—often in vain—to fashion an image of the world that will capture its infinite variety and richness. Today, as we grapple with a constant flood of information, such attempts to structure knowledge into all-inclusive systems seem even more necessary and even more desperate.”
“Blurring the line between professional artists and amateurs, outsiders and insiders, the exhibition takes an anthropological approach to the study of images, focusing in particular on the realms of the imaginary and the functions of the imagination. What room is left for internal images—for dreams, hallucinations and visions—in an era besieged by external ones? And what is the point of creating an image of the world when the world itself has become increasingly like an image?”
“Il Palazzo Enciclopedico (The Encyclopedic Palace) is a show about obsessions and about the transformative power of the imagination.”
I have to admit, I didn’t LOVE it. I’ve loved past exhibitions. Talked about them for years. Committed some art to memory. This year, not so much. Don’t get me wrong, there were some fabulous exhibits at both main venues and the ones we dropped into around the city. Some too that we didn’t see, that my Austrailian friend Margo called to my attention from this website, Yellowtrace, which provides a nice highlight of the author’s favorites from the Biennale.
But this year’s theme brought many more paintings, very small paintings and lots of them, that were difficult to see. It was near to impossible to read the information cards about each exhibit because they were written in tiny script and in some parts of the exhibition hall there were so many different things displayed you couldn’t tell who’s work went with what description. I missed seeing the beauty of the Arsenale building. So many fake walls had been erected to hold the zillions of little paintings, that I didn’t feel I was in this magical place. Sometimes the fake walls were used well, like when exhibiting R. Crumb’s 250 comic drawings of the Book of Genesis. And saying that this year’s exhibition was about “obsession” was an understatement. You just have to see the work of the American artist Sarah Sze to understand the meaning of the word. Mama Mia!
I think I need to go back, to see what I didn’t see the first time. Not sure that I will, though. Regardless, I hope you enjoy the following photos of some of the art from this year’s Biennale.