Venice Biennale in 2013 has a firm idea at its heart. Curated by Massimiliano Gioni, the Encyclopedic Palace – il Palazzo Enciclopedico – might have a long, and slightly off-putting title, but brings together a range of artists, those that have been around a long time – Carl Andre, Walter de Maria, a curated section by Cindy Sherman – alongside others that might be called outsiders or amateurs. People who have made carvings for years, created beautiful, uncanny life-like dolls, or built tiny houses out of thin cardboard show us a glimpse of their brain, the bit that drives the desire to create and make.
The show in the Italian Pavilion begins with Jung’s Red Book – a collection of visions and fantasies – followed by Rudolf Steiner’s blackboard drawings, so the rest of the exhibition is framed and centered around this. It also feels firmly based within a Surrealist aesthetic, of dreams, of the body and the uncanny object. Some artists I had forgotten about – Carol Rama! – and some were new to me, like Hilma af Klint (born 1862, died 1944), who painted over 1000 works all about the occult. A surrealist before Surrealism.
Some works I loved:
The video Blindly, 2010 by Artur Żmijewski was gripping. Żmijewski invited a group of blind people to make paintings, first of themselves and then of a landscape. The paint is applied thickly with their own narrative throughout – painting with thick brushes, with feet and with hands and fingers spread wide, feeling where the thick paint is going. How to create with this medium a sun? a face? through other means than looking. Paint becomes a sensual material, with the importance of having the right colour very much in evidence – ‘to paint the sun, you need yellow’. The blissful look on one woman’s face as she moves the paint around with her feet made me want to do the same – to enjoy paint for its own sake, on a big piece of paper, using my body as the brush.
Shinichi Sawada has severe autism and can barely speak; but he makes extraordinary objects from clay, covered in spikes, which resembled many of the African fetish objects that I remember seeing back in 1995 at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery in an excellent show called Fetishism: Visualising Power and Desire, curated by Dawn Ades. The fetish objects were shown in relation to Surrealist objects from the 1920’s and 30’s, and a room of contemporary ‘surreal’ artworks. Sawada’s small figures contain the same magical feeling, full of power and beauty. They are also quite cute, like little Pokemon characters.
Jeremy Deller’s English Magic at the British Pavilion was really good. It combined stone age hand axes with hen harriers, Bowie and the IRA. A chatty and charming young woman showed us an original William Morris wood carving which we were invited to ‘touch’; a nice touch. At the end, you could have a nice cup of tea, as long as you sat down on the wooden benches; but this enabled a number of impromptu conversations to take place about the English habit of tea-drinking amongst a German couple, two Italian girls and an English man.
Finally, out along the Grand Canal, is the Pavilion of Ireland with a remarkable film by Richard Mosse called The Enclave. Mosse as Director, with Trevor Tweeten as cinematographer and sound by Ben Frost, explored the ‘conflicted landscape’ of the Democratic Republic of Congo for three years. The result is a multiple screen installation, which means you have to keep moving around the space to see all that is going on; and this mirrors the action which changes from a calm, contemplative coastline, to a vivid pink jungle with Congolese fighters moving swiftly through the foliage. The pink is due to Mosse using a discontinued military reconnaissance film, that registers an invisible spectrum of infrared light. Green turns to pink, and the landscape literally bleeds. It’s hard to watch, as you see dead bodies and crowds of people lining up to take pictures from their mobile phones. It literally makes your heart beat faster.
It was interesting to then go to see the curated show entitled Prime Material at Punta della Dogana. This former customs house is the place for François Pinault’s collection, and his taste ranges from American artists like Richard Prince to Arte Povera and Minimalism. Prime Material seemed very dry after the dreams and visions of the Biennale. Usually I would love looking at this kind of work – the coolness of Roni Horn’s ten cast-glass blocks in varying shades of pale blue, grey and white; the stillness of the cylinder and rectangle filled with water by artist Nobuo Sekine. Maybe it is time, the right time, for us to be looking inward at our dreams, and listening to the visual language of others that are not ‘trained’.
5252 is a project I have set myself; since the beginning of 2013 I have been sending out, via social media and my website, info and an image of a photographer of my choice. I do this to highlight and explore the range of photography that also speaks to me, and I say why within each post.
@EffervescentUK very beautiful! lights going on all over the place! x
52:Week 30, Stephen Shore, Army-Navy Store, 1973. Finding beauty in the mundane – a pioneer of colour photography pic.twitter.com/uTKiAQaA8E
Great examples of Artswork / ArtSOUTH projects at the seminar today- artists, arts orgs and schools pic.twitter.com/FhVRi4jNm9