Thursday, June 29, 2017

Venice Chronicles – Day 3

Yesterday was a long day. Seeing 5 pavilions and hanging out abit into the night, somewhat derailed us. Started late and left the house when ’twas already hot.

The plan was to see the South African Pavilion and like many, the specific address is not on the info pack. Just says Sale D’Armi, Arsenale, Venice. With our limited knowledge of Venezia we set out, got lost and frustrated before we ‘accidentally’ found it. Stumbling upon things has been a key element of this trip.

There’s a lot happening at Sale D’Armi. One half of the main Venice exhibition Viva Arte Viva is happening there. Also there are the national pavilions of Albania, Singapore, Turkey, South Africa, Peru, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Macedonia, Tunisia, Argentina, New Zealand, Latvia, Ireland, Slovenia, Georgia, Kosovo, Croatia, Macedonia, Indonesia, Tuvalu, Chile and Philipines. It also happens to host the biennale sessions and education secretariat.

So here we are at Viva Arte Viva – the Venice blockbuster. Which the curator Christine Macel says, “is a biennale designed with artists, by artists and for artists, about the forms they propose, the questions they ask, the practice they develop and the ways of life they choose. Quite flattering for an artist. No?

Adrenaline’s pumping as we walk in. I see my partners in crime 4 hours later but in between I experience strange emotions/sensations.

Rasheed Araeen's "Zero To Infinity in Venice" (l) and Lee Mingwei's "The Mending Project" (Photos Courtesy Michael Soi) 
You know a show is great when the first artwork is you encounter is by Rasheed Araeen. He of The Third Text. Those guys you want to be when you grow up. I shall not embellish his achievements for he is who he is. I rarely get star struck but Rasheed’s work and a few (if I were to be honest, a lot) other artists do the trick (another long story for another day, hopefully).

A walk through the exhibition feels like a kid a candy store. Or our 10 year old having a fifteen inch Hawaiian pizza all for himself.

Francis Upritchard (Photos Courtesy Michael Soi)
I get to see a lot of artists whose work I know but there’s this indescribable feeling of seeing great work by artist you’ve never heard of, who’ve got great philosophies behind their practice. This somewhat feels like that favorite class in art school.

The only not-pleasant thing I can say about being in this space, just like in any blockbuster exhibition in these times is the annoying number of ‘viewers’ who want to take selfies when you’re having that ‘serious discourse’ with a an artwork. I had at least 10 rude requests to move so that I don’t photobomb someone’s perfect selfie. It’s a compliment to artists when it gets to that and it’s good for the money-men when the visitor count is that high but it’s infuriating for someone who just wants to enjoy the exhibition.

Nicholas Garcia Urubiru's "Coloration Urubiru" (l) and thu Van Tan's "overly Forced Gestures, From Harvest To Fight"
Viva Arte Viva is a great show. Venice seems to be going monumental – everywhere you turn the works are huge. A constant however, is the commonalities in issues artists are addressing - human rights, geopolitics, migration, consumerism and environmental concerns.

My personal favourites included Lee Mingwei’s ‘Mending Project’, Nicolas Garcia Uriburu (Coloration Uriburu), Thu Van Tran (Overly Forced Gestures, From Harvest To Fight), Anri Sala (All Of A Tremble – Encounter) Huguette Caland (Christine) and Maha Malluh (Food For Thought “Amma Baad’). There is also a good presentation of videos but it’s a shame I skipped a lot of them. I’m one of those who can’t watch TV in a dark room. And just a peek into the darkened cubicles with those 60ish inch UHD TVs was enough to remind me of the consequences of televisions and dark rooms.

Huguette Caland
It’s a show anyone remotely interested in contemporary art should see. Artists especially – it is important to be aware of what other artists are doing and how work is presented in such platforms. It’s also one of those projects curators or anyone involved in art presentation should use as a benchmark. One of those ‘when I grow up shows.

It’s overwhelming as I leave the show but there’s a little energy still left in me and have 30 minutes before the forecast rains start pounding Venice so I do a quick dash to the South African pavilion. I find Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and UAE before I get to RSA. It’s not what I expected. I mask my disappointment and try to get to Canal Grande before the rains.

A beer with my partners in crime while reviewing the show is when Amanda informs me that I missed my friend Jelili Atiku’s work! Not sure what else I didn’t see. Another good day.

The other part is in Giardini. Thursday plan.

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