Taking advantage of staying in Venezia over the weekend, we went to the huge international contemporary art exhibit located all over the city but mostly in the Arsenale and in the gardens. This was quite impressive in terms of diversity and style, of course, although the general feeling was rather bleak, centering on pollution and apocalyptic themes. The particularly ugly French exhibit was for instance a highly polluted sea surface, made of glass and only accessible by going around piles of gravel in the basement of the pavilion. Most exhibits also involved videos, often not making much sense, and comparatively few paintings or photographs. Within this depressing catalogue, a few beautiful highlights from my own perspective. One was a construct of several thousands shell-like objects, sculpted from sheep leather by Zahrah Al Ghamdi, a female Saudi Arabia artist Another one, representing Ghana, by the artists El Anatsui and Ibrahim Mahama, recycled aluminum stickers into huge maps, reminding me of the recycled maps in Munbai airport.Yet another one, difficult to catch, was a huge construct from the Philippines by Mark Justiniani, made of glass that gave an impression of infinite depth and again recycled different objects into wells, reminding me of the automated art pieces appearing in Gibson’s Count Zero. Called “Island Weather” to reflect upon the elusive nature of truth and the notion that everyone is an island, with bottomless layers of accumulated memories.
A series [called Angst] of remarkable night photographs by Soham Gupta of some inhabitants of the slums in Kolkata where the persons chose to act in relation with the hardship or trauma that led them to survive in the street. And still exhibiting joy and engaging into farciful behaviours. A video was however striking [from my perspective], describing the fight of a Nunavuk father to prevent his children being sent far away for schooling by the Canadian government, as it reminded me of a so different time when, as a child then, a catholic missionary from the Far North had come to our primary school and told us fascinating stories of the cruelly beautiful (or beautifully cruel?) like in the Arctic, in what did not appear yet as a strongly biased manner… The title of the Bienale this year was May you live in interesting times, which prompted many attendees to scrawl Theresa May you leave in interesting times over the exhibit panels! Interesting if bleak times indeed.