I love going to the biennale. It gives me a chance to go to Venice, where I get to eat cicchetti at my favorite place where there are no tourists, people watch at Harry’s Bar, and get to go to the Giardini and the Arsenale as well all the other venues and museums. I always think how it would be like to live to Venice. I do this for all the cities I like, cities where you can walk and really have a good time, and wonder how it would be living in them. Peggy Guggenheim, who left New York to live in Venice in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni of course makes me think of that more. I think Venice, like Paris, might be more fun to visit than to live in. Better to keep that as a dream I guess.
These past years I usually go to Venice with such limited time that I don’t get to go to authentic parts of the city like the Jewish quarter which always makes me think of Jessica of the Merchant of Venice, and I always think of Erica Jong of course; and her wonderful book which when I first read it was named Serenissima: A Novel of Venice, but was later renamed to Shylock’s Daughter: A Novel of Love in Venice, in which written in the first voice a Shakespearean actress stays in Venice past the Film Festival where she is a judge, and is transported back in time where she becomes the Jessica of the Merchant of Venice and gets to meet Shakespeare. I just loved and still love that book. I guess that’s why I like Venice when it is not in the summer, when it is darker, mistier and it feels like if I take one wrong turn, which is actually like always, I can be transported back in time. And back only, because who really wants to go to the future?
The 56th Biennale of Venice of this year curated by Okwui Enwezor is named All the World’s Futures, which deals with all issues political, social, gender, environmental and warring. Enwezor is a curator I have followed and read about in my classes and I was looking forward to this biennale, as I do love biennales since I love the combination of politics and arts.
In the 3.5 days that I had with a broken toe still not healed thanks to my constant traveling and walking and standing, which caused me much pain at times, I had to arrange my day in a way that I ended up going first to the Giardini. Now, the Giardini at this day and age definitely needs modern landscaping is what you think, and that the concept of individual, separate pavilions for different countries is somehow outdated, but I actually enjoy going from one pavilion to another, taking a little respiro in between exhibitions to absorb and contemplate.
In the end I liked the Giardini exhibitions, and each one to me seemed like it was about the future and climate change, which made me think of those politicians who do not believe in even its existence, and that nothing should be done differently. I just wish they went to the Giardini of the Biennale before it’s over and try to acknowledge the truth from the artists.
I loved Australia, Fiona Hall’s All the Wrong Turns, which was my favorite, and turned out to be Dani’s favorite too, but was very difficult to photograph unfortunately.
Dani’s other favorite, Japan, was visually very stimulating and gave good pictures too. The Key in the Hand, reminded me of migration, forced emigration just like the Spanish Jews’ expulsion and when they took keys of their homes thinking they would one day come back; hence making the key a symbol of their heritage and existence and remembrance to this day.
On the other hand the Arsenale as a whole, while had a good story to tell, I would have to say was too crowded. The story was weaved well from time to time and was given breathers by some household artists, the celebrity effect, like Chris Ofili, Georg Baselitz, Marlene Dumas, Isa Genzken, Hans Haacke and Bruce Nauman, and made you forget your train of thought, but I wonder if indeed it made sense. I would have liked to see less in the Arsenale as it was too packed and crowded.
The exhibitions of the countries at the Arsenale were not as impressive as the ones in the Giardini, which really had me excited the day before, except for only a few that didn’t. In the end it was nice to see Xu Bing’s Phoenix and think, hey everything will end and will turn to ashes. It reminded of the inevitability of it but then in a corny way, through the phoenix, reminding one of rebirth, or being in Italy, perhaps a new renaissance.