Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Venice Chronicles: Day 1

A friend of a friend was recently quoted as saying “If travelling was free, they’d never come back home.” That they’d keep going without stopping. I believed them and wished I’d be as honest as they were!

Hanging out with the folk I do, I was meant to come to Venice earlier but wasn’t really sure I wanted to. I am at a point in my life where my travels are dictated by numerous factors – will, family, time, finances, immigration terms & conditions etc (not necessarily in that order). I had every reason not to but thanks to my partner-in-crime, when the Biennale started, I had to get here. I got ‘the release’ from family, made time, accessed some funds and dealt with the consular man. Come Saturday, after Kim’s show, we caught the flight and after the usual airport delays, some profiling and misplaced luggage we got to Marco Polo.

It’s my first time in Venice so I gave myself time to play tourist; Amanda, Soi and I even had time to be fleeced. We almost paid five euros a piece to feed stray pigeons yet when we were 10, that would have been enough to own all the birds in the hood we grew up in. True story. Luckily we didn’t!

After settling in, we did the usual – pizza, beer, photos, getting lost… then started doing what we told the immigration guys was bringing us to Venice – the true story!
We even got a “Guida alla Biennale di Venezia 2017” and hit the road to see the Biennale. As it was Sunday, most places were closed but we set out to get our bearings and laugh at other tourists taking selfies. We saw a couple of spaces and identified the next day’s targets.

Monday morning, everything was still closed so we set out on a mission to see Damien Hirst’s “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable” at Palazzo Grassi but had a chance encounter with the Cuban (National) Pavilion – Tempo De La Intuicion. It felt like winning a lottery! There is an unmissable communist era typical Cuban car for special effect that draws everyone in Venice to the location.

Rene Pena's Digital photographs On Canvas (133x100cm Each) - Images courtesy Michael Soi
When I walked into the Instituto Veneto de Scienze, Lettere Ed Arti, I wasn’t ready for what awaited! Every work takes your breath away. It all deserves to be there. It is coherently put together. That pavilion cannot be described by a couple of words but when forced to use a single word, It’d be in the superlative.

Abel Barroso' Cuban Style Cyber Lounge (Xylography Based installation)

It’s one helluva pavilion. The type of stuff artists live for. Well conceptualized and properly presented. Their publications are all in Spanish but to hell with languages. The work speaks to you. In your mother tongue. You don’t want to leave.

Ivan Capote's Life Is A Text That We Learn To Read (l) and Aimee Garcia's Rewind (Perfomance & Video installation)
As someone interested in presenting contemporary culture, I figured - what does it take to commission artists produce work of such scale & importance, ship it to ‘remote’ Venezia and exhibit it for the duration of the biennale? I thought I did. Maybe I do. But for the team that did it - Viva Cuba. I shall definitely go see it again and when I grow up, I wish I can walk into an exhibition somewhere far away from home and see work by my kinsfolk presented just like that. In a space as grand as that. Or even better.

Once upon a time, we had a vision of having a proper country pavilion in Venice. We still do. Some of us think we already have. Long story for another day. 

Propaganda tells us that countries like Cuba, North Korea, and Zimbabwe among others, are dictatorships that can never get anything right but that’s just what it is. Propaganda.

This morning, the plan is to go see Zimbabwe, South Africa, Nigeria, Damien Hirst and Another Country.

Pleasant suprises are welcome though.

No comments:

Post a Comment