Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Venice Biennale in the rain

My wishlist had always included a visit to the Venice Biennale - the bi-annual event that those in the art world have on their must-go-as-often-as-possible-to-see-and-be-seen list. We just scraped in before it closed in late November. The main pavillions are housed in the Biennale Gardens where the majority of exhibits can be found. The smaller countries such as Azerbairjan have their exhibitions housed in satellite locations such as the odd palazzo and crumbling building dotted around the city.
Australia's 30 year old temporary pavillion
Now to be fair to the Biennale we could not have chosen a more miserable day to visit. The rain didn't stop and we ploughed our way into the wind and slopped our way around the Gardens. Drowned rats we were but we were hoping to be uplifted by the art. Up-lifted we weren't. Of course as loyal Aussies we wanted to visit our own pavillion which is tucked away in the forest right at the back of the Gardens. Now on a lovely day this 'shed' might have been uplifting - might - but instead it was an embarrassment. Built in 1988 as a temporary pavillion - it is still there. A new pavillion designed by Denton Corker Marshall is finally being built in time for the 2015 Biennale thanks to the support of the Australia Council and private philanthropists (thank goodness for the philanthropists who have 'driven' this replacement or it might still be there in another 30 years!). The Australia Council website states: The Venice Biennale provides Australian artists with critical international coverage, exposing them to key new audiences, markets and contexts. This exposure helps build the profile of Australian contemporary visual arts and facilitates the establishment of significant international cultural links, networks and dialogue for individual Australian artists. The Biennale also represents a significant platform on which the Council can promote contemporary Australian visual arts more widely. Now that's the kind of art-speak I find pretentious. If it was so important why has it taken the Council so long to replace the temporary Philip Cox designed pavillion!

Note the peeling wallpaper - that is part of the instillation!
To be honest we just didn't really 'get it'. As we sloshed around this mainly open 'shed' the two staff/ volunteers were pushing the water out with mops! It was explained to us that the artist Simryn Gill removed half the roof of the Pavilion and then installed the photographs, drawings and sculpture all of which were inspired by images of Australia's pit mines, dams, lakes and waterholes (there were waterholes everywhere that day!). It also included peeling wallpaper (meant to be but hastened by the downpours!) I do recommend you take a moment to listen by clicking here to the explanation by the artist and other luminaries. Their explanations prior to our visit may have helped!
On a sunny day....
We sloshed into a few other pavillions - including the Russian pavillion where women were invited to take a see-through umbrella (pretty appropriate that day!) and walk into the middle of a room where gold coins rained down on them. We were then encouraged to put the coins back into an old bucket which was then hoisted up by rope to be 'rained' down on the next unsuspecting women. I think this is called 'interactive art'. Now maybe I am missing something here but.... We never discovered what the men were expected to do?!
Stand aside while Russian gold coins shower down on you from above (note the bright orange E10 plastic wellies on the left)
Walking through a maze of chairs was the main attraction at the German Pavillion and the UK Pavillion seemed to be a hotchpotch of the old and the new. 
All I want to do is sit down!!
It was all a great let-down I'm afraid. I'll leave you with a sculpture that we passed each day crossing the Accedamia Bridge - she haunted us. We loved her. I hope you do too!

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps you should have pocketed a couple of those gold coins? The Biennale sounds a bit of a wash-out, but the rest of Venice as alluring as ever.