Venice Biennale 2015

Sunday 8 November 2015

Key in Hand, an installation at the Japanese Pavilion, by Chiharu Shiota

The Key in the Hand, an installation that forges a link between a space made up of keys, yarn, and two boats, and photographs and videos of children, transcends national, cultural, linguistic, and political contexts, and emotionally arouses countless visitors from all over the world.

Every other year Venice hosts an important global exhibition of contemporary art, this year there were 89 participating countries. Living in Italy, I have been fortunate to attend 15 Biennales, each time discovering some intriguing new artists, and rediscovering some old familiar ones too.

All the World's Futures

The Biennale seems appropriate content for an IB art blog post as the international character of this exhibition corresponds with the international-minded vision of the IB programme. The Biennale includes its fair share of art-world stars as well as giving voice to artists from places that are not always evident in mainstream exhibitions. To witness what artists from diverse cultural contexts all over the world are doing right now, at this particular time in history, on this planet, with its common global context, makes interesting stuff for reflection.

With the title of “ All the World’s Futures”, curated by Okwui Enwezor, this years biennale presented a pretty bleak vision of that future. Seeing “ the world in disarray”, those artists who can communicate the larger social and political issues with works of wit, imagination and beauty are a bright spot in a darkening landscape.

I thought I'd share a few of my personal favorites from this year, who happen to be mostly female artists. Just for a little IB fun, I choose examples from each of the 3 columns of the art making forms table, although many of these artists work across a range of media.

2D highlights

Vietnamese artist Tiffany Chung's installation of 40 map-based drawings relating to the ongoing crisis in Syria. Political fused with lyrical.

Adrian Ghenie ( Romania) check out his magnificent oil paintings. Chris Ofili, Peter Doig, Ellen Galllagher and Lorna Simposon were present with new paintings too. (yes, painting is alive and well!!)

Qiu Zhijie-Chinese artist and Professor revists the ancient art of scroll painting, with a more current subject matter. His exhibtion includes work across a range of media, in fact, Qiu Zhijie defines his modus operandi as “total art,” - artistic creation cannot be uprooted from the artist’s historical and cultural background.

Abu Bakarr Mansaray from Sierra Leone makes fantastic, spooky, diagrammatic drawings of invented machines, like the "Nuclear telephone discovered in hell"

3D wonders

Fiona takes the cake

In the stunning exhibition by Fiona Hall at the Australia pavilion, art, science, politics and culture collide, with whimsy and elegance. Laura Cummings at the Guardian describes the show as

"a condensed museum of wondrous objects – warrior masks knitted out of military fatigues; precious weaver-bird nests created out of shredded banknotes; strange new fish fashioned out of the unscrolled lids of sardine cans. Time ticks both forwards and backwards in her fantastical imagination: art makes the future look ancient."

Maja Bajevic

this Bosnian artist translates statistics into textiles: a carpet and eleven wall hangings embroidered with various stock indices and measures of inequality.

Lens based reflections

Mesmerized by " The end of carrying it all" Kenyan Artist Wangechi Mutu on the demise of materialism. Her three channel animated video fuses film photography and animation. Beautiful and apocalyptic.

"The End of Carrying All, the animation, which can be considered a sequel to her first animated video “The End of Eating Everything” shows the horror of how Wangechi Mutu sees the world ending. A world consumed by desires, innovations and endless materialism. In a journey that started with few basic items – mainly the tools that are used to feed their families, as many African women still do on a daily basis – Mutu’s woman walks the earth while collecting more than was necessary with every step of the passage. Eventually, engulfed by the weight of all she’s acquired, she mutates into lava and erupts. The explosion ripples through the earth, absorbing her and all she carried along. Ultimately everything goes back into the earth: “earth to earth, ashes to ashes”.

watch a clip of The End of Carrying All" by Wangechi Mutu

Time based, performance

Sound based art was not missing either, like Jason Moran's (USA) music hall set and performance. Live performances were scheduled at set times on a main stager, but a player piano occasionally played a melancholy song to passerbys, evoking the absence of the player over presence. Jason Moran and Alicia Hall Moran’s Work Songs maps and investigates the tempos of work songs sung in prisons, fields, and houses.


Tags: contemporary, artists, exhibitions, art making forms table, media, culture


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