Fresh Produce for Sale on the Fondamenta Sant'Ana
I thought I'd post a few last tourist snapshots before putting up some pictures of the art. This will also give me a chance to write a few more words on the context of the VB. For the past couple of weeks, my routine has been to wake up late, look at some art, stop by a cafe, and write down my thoughts in my journal. In Venice all that changed to a frantic pace of running running between pavilions, consulting maps, and catching traghettos.
Looking Across the Piazza San Marco
Outside the Dodge's Palace was a carved head with an opening in the mouth. Here one could deposit a slip of paper if you wanted to accuse someone of a crime and turn them in to the authorities. It seems like nothing has changed in the past five hundred years, with post-9-11 admonishments to report all suspicious activity. Today--as always--political systems are about control of the population, a sort of ham-fisted behaviorism. When I was a child, one of the exemplars of the evils of communism was that children were encouraged to turn in their parents as traitors if they spoke out against the state. Today DARE encourages kids to turn in their pot-smoking parents.
Statuary on the Palazzo Ducale
So much of the art encountered seemed to point to political problems, but in the end one felt as powerless as an inmate in the Palazzo delle Prigioni. Most of the better work took into account its context, addressing the civic boosterism of a 19th century exposition in the present tense.
Stonework detail on the Bridge of Sighs
In my next post I'll get to specific artists I liked (or didn't) but I thought I'd mention some general impressions. There wasn't much in the way of interesting new painters. In retrospect, most of the canvas I spent some time looking at were older generation artists: Gerhard Richter, Robert Ryman, Sigmar Polke, and Susan Rothenberg. It made me wonder if it's possible to make interesting and relevant painting when so much new work seems like fodder for art fairs.
I was also surprised by the amount of good video I saw: stuff that I plopped down in front of and watched to the end. Some of it was eye candy, and some was more pointed, but there was a lot that was thoughtful and interesting: Oscar Munoz, Sophie Whettnall, Francis Alÿs, Yang Zhenzhong, Steve McQueen, Sophie Calle, Sonia Balassanian, AES+F, and Paolo Canevari.
Prisoner's View: Looking of the Ponte dei Sospiri
Lastly, I couldn't shake Andrea Bowers comment on the choice of Felix G-T for the American Pavilion, that there are plenty of good living American artists that they could choose from. Somehow, the pointed work by dead people--be it FGT or Jason Rhoades--looses it's edge and moves from an intervention to a collectible.