In June this year my husband Brian Inkster and I made our second trip to Venice Biennale Arte and we were not disappointed. We visited the Biennale for the first time in 2015, and I fell in love with discovering a city I know in a completely new light – stumbling across works in the most unexpected spaces, and really enjoying the juxtaposition of the contemporary and historic.
The original Biennale site, the Gardini, with the national pavilions is a bit of an architectural zoo. I was again inevitably drawn to pay homage to the Scarpa garden, Aalto’s Finland pavilion and Sverre Fehn’ s Scandinavia Pavilion. And the Gardini site is bought bang up to date with Denton Corker Marshalls air conditioned Australian Pavilion offering great respite from the hot sunshine.
For me it was fascinating to see just how different the spaces felt between 2015 and 2017 due to the differing artistic response to the space. This was particularly noticeable in the Dutch Pavilion and the architectural lines and slightly claustrophic feel of 2017 Cinema Olanda contrasting hugely with the light open space of Herman de Vries’ “to be all ways to be”
In the German Pavilion, the simple move of inserting a glazed floor at about 1.2m above the original floor level and then entrapping 5 young performers below made for a really moving and disturbing experience – voyeuristic yet compelling, watching the minutiae of their incarceration. This was easily the most moving and profound of the years’ Pavilions and made Anne Imhof’s ‘Faust’ piece a worthy winner or the Golden Lion.
For me some of the most interesting work was to be found in ‘Man As Bird’ Pavilion showing digital and photographic work from across the globe. ‘Private Moon’ by Leonid Tishkov was sublime, and the 3d interactive imagery of Marnix de Nijs’s Exploded Views 2.0 was properly immersive.
Flying the flag for Scotland, Rachel Macleans’ ‘Spite your Face’ was an epic film, perfectly proportioned to the interior of San Caterina. Rich in both visual imagery and ideas this short film captures the zeitgeist perfectly. Both of these are big recommendations from me for anyone heading to Venice in the final weeks of the Biennale – thoroughly worth the effort to seek out.
Another highlight of this trip was Damien Hirst’s exhibition ‘Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable’. After seeing this brilliantly bonkers show I read various not too complimentary art press reviews. Yes – it is totally self-indulgent and excessive – yet again captures the mood of today perfectly – ‘Somewhere between lies and truth lies the truth’. On a purely aesthetic level it is a sumptuous coupling of exquisite work in the splendid settings of Palazzo Grassi and Punta del Dogma – and in my opinion, a masterclass on how to display well.
Once again my trip to Venice was only long enough to scratch the surface of what is on offer in the Biennale. I cannot wait to make a return visit to discover more in 2019 during the 58th Esposizione Internationale d’Arte.