Venice Biennale: Artists in the space

These days some of my friends are visiting Viva Arte Viva, the 57th Art Biennale in Venice, that it closes in two days.
As they ask for suggestions on what must to be seen, I found my mind going back to last May when I visited the Biennale during the preview days.
My trip to Venice, every two years, to attend the opening days at the Art Biennale became a kind of a ritual! It's a real journey - by train, plane or bus - taken by a group of professionals (Artists, Curators, Art Critics and a Gallerist) coming from different cities such as London, Rome, Athens and Paris, sharing the same flat - rented by a lovely old lady from Venice. Ready to be surrounded by notes, catalogues, ferries, planning and, above all, a very deep immersion into the Arts from all over the world!
I found this Biennale complex as its meaning "of consisting of many different and connected parts".
In fact, the Curator Christine Macel offers a journey through nine chapters representing each one a Trans-Pavilion.
I noticed at first how the SPACE was there for the artists to be used as their workshop, studio, theatre, rehearsal room.
Within the Pavilion of Artists and Books, I think of Dawn Kasper: painter, photographer, performer and musician based in New York. She moved her "nomadic studio" - an experience she started back in 2008 when she couldn't afford the rent of a studio anymore - into the Sala Chini of the Central Pavilion at Giardini.
Something, in a way, so intimate as an artist studio, a place that is not generally open to everybody, became, for 7 months, a collective experience. Visitors had the chance to see the artist at work, to spend time in the space, to check every detail from drawings to musical instruments, from photographs to her little bed on the side, to exchange words (something I was really willing to do but, shamefully, I stopped myself).
The artist didn't mind to share her creative process with the visitors as part of her research. 
Not far from Dawn Kasper, again, a huge space transformed into an officina/artist workshop by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson. Stepping inside the room makes you feel part of a collective mechanism: people at work producing and assembling the Green Light modules made from recycled and sustainable materials. During the artistic workshop refugees, asylum seekers, students and visitors are invited to partecipate to the actual construction of the lamps or to attend seminars, language courses and film screenings. The space offers here the opportunity to take part of a collaborative learning process in a continuous exchange where national and cultural barriers lose their meanings. The Green Light lamps are sold during the Biennale as part of a fundraising campaign benefiting two NGO's working with refugees.
"(...) Mass displacement and migration are core challenges in the world today, affecting millions of people around the globe. Green light displays a modest strategy for addressing the challenges and responsibilities arising from the current situation and shines a light on the value of collaborative work and thinking". O. Eliasson 

photo by F.L.A.

A different request of engagement, more spiritual one, it takes place in the center of Arsenale's main corridor where Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto invites people to enter his Um Sagrado Lugar (A Sacred place). I love and follow his work with great passion as I know it's always a multisensory experience. I didn't expect to see before my eyes such a powerful and huge structure of a Cupixawa, "a place of sociality, political meetings and spiritual ceremonies of the Huni Kuin", indigenous people from the state of Acre in the Amazonian forest.
Seriously, Neto took me into another dimension. I entered the tent without shoes and I was sitting in circle with other visitors, some members of the ancient tribe and the artist himself. We became part of a ceremony while the senses where all involved. I was keeping some pieces of bark (on the floor) in my hand in order to better connect with the spirit of the earth. This work was part of the Pavilion of Shamans.

At the beginning of Arsenale's path it became clear how crafts and textiles took over.
For the Pavilion of the Common, Taiwanese artist Lee Mingwei use its space as a workroom/performance: The Mending Project (2009). Again an artist who is engaging with the public. Mingwei (or a volunteer) seats at a long table ready to repair - using colourful threads attached to the wall - the clothing brought by the visitors. Once the job is done, each garment is stacked on the table with the thread ends still attached.
Not too far David Medalla, an artist originally from Philippines, who lives in London since 1964, presents A Stitch in Time (1968), an embroidery project that became a creative act. The artist hung a large cloth on the wall and here the visitors are invited to stitch items directly on the fabric. 

After a while I found myself wondering if the Biennale should present most recent works by the selected artists or even projects conceived for this worldwide renowned exhibition. I think the Biennale should state the status of the Arts in this moment in time.

When I entered the France Pavilion I felt completely refreshed: the whole space was transformed into a musical experience. I have to admit music and sounds are my weak point so I might not be objective. The lines, the volumes, the instruments, the shapes, the cables, the movement, the atmosphere, the sounds of Studio Venezia created by Xavier Veilhan, together with Curators Christian Marclay and Lionel Bovier made me think "what a beautiful piece of art!". Again, when I saw the musicians rehearsing, I had witnessed an act of creation... a very privileged moment!
I don't know if it makes sense but somehow this Pavilion with its movement of shapes and volumes made me think of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari movie... in its brightest version, of course.
What can I say? Viva Arte Viva!



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