Last weekend I visited what is known as the biggest, most important, most international art event of the world: the Biennale in Venice. This year was the 56th edition, there were 89 participating countries, the chief curator was Okwui Enwezor and the overarching theme and title was: All the World's Futures. I have to speak in the past tense, because I visited the very last days of this years Biennale.
Just to give you an idea of the atmosphere and context of the Biennale; some photographs of the pavilions in the Giardini and the Arsenale and the islands of Venice seen from the vaparetto:
Some works that stood out for me:
Steve McQueen, video artist and director of movies such as Hunger and Shame, showed a beautiful new video installation called 'Ashes' in the Arsenale. On one side of the screen you see the creation of a grave. Attention is given to ever detail - the engraving of crosses, the inscription. On the other side of the screen you can see footage of a charismatic young man, sitting on a boat and smiling. The overall effect is heartbreaking.
The Japanese pavilion was transformed into a visual spectacle of color and light with Chiharu Shiota's installation "The Key in the Hand", made out of countless real keys, red thread and old rowing boats.
Raha Raissnia, an artist born in Iran yet living in New York, showed a 16 mm film in the Arsenale called 'Longing'. Due to the filming style, the continuously moving camera and the fact that parts of the film are solarised, it is often it hard to know what exactly you are seeing. I couldn't take my eyes of it.
Driftwood sculptures of animals in the Australian pavilion by Fiona Hall. It takes some staring to see beyond 'funny shaped branches' and see all the animals in there. Yet once you see them, they are unmistakable and perfect. Beautifully done.
Elena Damiani showed several works in the Giardini's central pavilion, including the series 'The Victory Atlas', in which she plays with maps and their subjectivity.
In the Romanian pavilion Adrian Ghenie was one of the few painters in the Biennale. His work is mesmerising. I particularly loved this drawing. It is as if the person is wiping out his own face.
Ah, but in the end I have seen way too much to choose. The biennale forces you to choose what to watch (because it is simply too much to take in all of it) yet it also felt like I was walking trough this huge gift box filled to the brim with ideas, shapes, forms and thoughts from all these artists from all over the world, and I felt very lucky that all this art was there and that I was there.
A final whirlwind of things I've seen: