Admittedly, after my first installment about the Biennale, I began to write an in depth review on BGL’s Canadissimo Pavillion until I became completely paralyzed- there was no way I would be able to write anything short of a novel about my experience of this entire event. So instead, I am give to you something a little quicker, maybe a little more dirty let’s say, with snapshots of highlights and disappointments. Here we go…
Prior to entering Giardini you are greeted by an installation entitled “Flags” by Ivan Barlafonte. Pieces of highly polished steel are mounted on tree-stumps creating a bridge of light between the “heaven and early, the extraterrestrial and the terrestrial, the transcendent and reality.”
Within this pavillion, artist Vincent Meessen and curator Katerina Gregos have presented a series of works by artists from all over the world which comment on the colonial past of the Biennale, the nation of Belgium, and post-colonialism in general.
In the piece below, a group of Belgian artists from University of Ghent show a series of aerial photographs juxtaposed with preserved flies from the region. The piece illustrates a commentary explaining a 500 metre neutral zone oriented perpendicular to dominant wind patterns which separated blacks and whites at the time. This zone not only corresponds to the normal flight range of a malaria carrying mosquito, but it was also intended to prevent promiscuity between the two groups and protect whites from “the loud pastimes of the blacks, rendering each race clearly independent of each group.” The flies reference the 1929 Fly control campaign in which each worker was required to bring 50 flies in order to receive his daily ration.
James Bekett’s negative space: A scenerio gernator for Clandestine building in Africa, features an automated storage and retrieval machine configured to arrange building blocks to create small models of the negative spaces created by various Modernist buildings in Africa.
Herman de Vries “to be all ways to be” features a multisensory display of aspects of the natural world. Entering the pavilion, you are pleasantly greeted by the redolence of rose petals which are arranged on the ground in a huge circle. Soil and mineral pigment rubbings; pressed flora; mineral samples and other smaller specimens; photographs of the naked artist amidst his natural explorations and even a daily boat trip for viewers to visit an uninhabited island in the Venetian lagoon are ways de Vries pays testament to our sensory relationship with the world around us and our interpretation of our own existence.
Tsibi Geva’s “Archeology of the Present,” is a site specific installation of the artist’s work over time. Using hundreds of old tires to cover the exterior of the building, Geva attempts to destabilize divisions such as high and low, abandoned and found. His collection of random construction debris and personal objects is apparently a self-reflective questioning of political and cultural existential anxiety.
This installation of AstroTurf covered ramps resemble a minimalist mini-put range. Tablets arranged around the room allow the viewer to become an active participant in choosing “peace” (which causes flowers and butterflies to animate the screen) or the opposite (which breeds fire and war-images on the screen). Ahmed Abdel Fattah, Gamal Elkheshen and Maher Dawoud’s “Can you see?” urges the viewer to consider the choices they make within a world context. From above, the installation spells “peace.”
Ivan Grubanov’s floor installation features piles of flags from nations which no longer exist. Through artistic destruction of the flags themselves, as well as using them to colour the floors of the pavilion, the artist seeks to suggest that the spirit of the people once occupying these political spaces still exist, and that we need to reexamine our concept of “nation.”
In this large photo installation “Halka/Haiti,” C.T. Jasper and Joahnna Malinowska show the video of their attempt to stage the opera Halka- considered the “Polish national opera,” in a small village in Haiti which is still inhabited by descendants of Polish soldiers who fought for Haitian independence two hundred years ago. The genre of opera is a poignant choice not only due to its strong roots in Italy, but its divisive occupancy in modern culture as an art-form which has traditionally separated the rich from the poor, and now effectively separates old from young, erudite from philistine, and colonialist from savage.
Coming up next, Romania, Greece, Nordic Countries, Japan…