Sunday, October 16, 2011

It's a Small (Art) World After All

This now iconic scene from Jean Luc Godard's Bande a Part (1964) pretty much sums up how I feel towards The Venice Biennale. The dead run through the Louvre in under ten minutes has been attempted time and time again, in homage to the film, which was then a joyous FUCK YOU to tradition and high culture. The fact that Godard himself has been raised to the position of a demigod in the eyes of most cinema rats should signal a shift in how and what we cherish as the established standard.

I have been wanting to see La Biennale for myself since I first heard about it roughly five exhibitions ago, hearing second hand the oohs and aahs about what an experience it all was from articles and people who were far more seasoned in the world of contemporary art.

I arrived in Venice late this fall, far after the mad rush of the press previews and high tourist season, but the leaves were still green and the crowds still moved in droves. I was undeniably an art tourist, and in the face of this archaic model of national pavilions, the Venice Biennale makes art tourists out of us all.

I have nothing to say about any of the individual national pavilions, as it is the overarching system that disappoints. Like a World Expo, the Olympics, or any other money making/money draining presentation of national glory and competition, the Venice Biennale left me feeling disconnected from any notion of national identity, which I do believe still exists, but certainly not here in the enchanting, yet aggrandizingly morose mausoleum that was the city of Venice and the Gardini and Arsenale.

Curated by Bice Curiger, who co-founded Parkett Magazine and now resides as Editorial Director for Tate Etc. Magazine, the Illuminations portion of the big show was literally a spilling out of all the "right" (now) names into the halls and onto the walls, from Pipilotti Rist, Cyprien Gaillard, Urs Fischer, etc, the list of names kept me running through the grounds, but save for the room of Sigmar Polkes (who passed away last year), I did not feel compelled to pause.

Queuing up for tickets, for toilettes, for art, for lunch, it will be the procession of arrows pointing me "this way" that seem to haunt my memories. Short of a parade and a marauding band of furry mascots, the Biennale reminded me of my first international vacation, when I was four, almost five, going from Hong Kong to Disneyland in California. As is now as was then, I meandered through a series of national dioramas, all projecting the same droning song with slight variations, that as long as we all keep singing the same words, then it really is a small world after all.

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