The Biennale de Venezia, (Contemporary Art Exhibition) has been showcasing world talent since 1895, and takes place every odd year. It is combined with showcases of architecture, dance, theatre, music and cinema, to allow the audience a holistic discourse with current creatives, and their ideas. This year, the theme for the art exhibiton, set by curator Okwui Enwezor was ‘All the Worlds Futures’.
This directive, taken literally, could be a representation of our imminent or distance future, the impact of our footprints, more personal reflections on predicted journeys, or just a commentary on the passage of time.
Many of the exhibitors took an immersive approach to their offerings, allowing visitors to be consumed entirely by the artists vision. The ‘Giardini dell’Eden’ by Joana Vasconcelos was conceptually opposed as a negative, a polar opposite to preconceptions of a naturalistic Garden of Eden, utilising artificial flowers and a pitch black room. The absence of natural light is intensified by swaying, rustling, almost breathing fibre optic flowers, in a multitude of neon colours. The mechanical sounds of the flowers in motion, and their visual harshness should provoke a discordance, but the hyper realistic beauty of them instead mesmerises, captivating the senses. Vasconcelos allows us to confront our preconceived ideals of a natural garden and question what new aesthetic lies ahead.
Another example of an immersive space was by Japan’s Chiharu Shiota, ‘The Key in the Hand’, exhibiting a room of rusted keys hanging from individual red strings. The suspended keys, by sheer mass, almost swallowed the two shipwrecks installed in the room, as if under water. The effect was captivating, sinking the crowd into a stupor, treading imaginary water across the exhibition space.
The Dutch artist Herman de Vries presented an installment reconnecting the viewer with our inexplicable link to nature. He is fascinated by natural processes and phenomena, and directs our attention to this systematically; collecting and organising samples in a way that isolates and promotes their intrigue. It is in this way that he invites us to marvel aesthetically at these objects; thorns, pebbles, leaves etc. while allowing us to appreciate how our own existence is rooted within it. A beautiful accolade to nature, and a reminiscent breath of fresh air in our now saturated lives.
The collection of work submitted by Fiona Hall, in the Australian pavilion, reached out to a variety of emotions, humour, foreboding, anger and fear. Although not all the pieces exhibited had a direct relationship, collectively they captivated a feeling. From the hanging figures of African faces knitted from shredded military uniforms, to the selection of defaced clocks and the tirade of skull emblazoned vials, the mood was morbid. Concerns spanning global politics, world finances and the environment were interwoven with Hall’s own deepest darkest frustrations. Ordinary materials, perfume bottles, clocks, jackets were reworked and transformed into a visually stimulating statement about our worldwide state of affairs.
In the Arsenale, Vietnamese artist Tiffany Chung exhibits a collection of cartographic drawings relating to the ongoing crisis in Syria. Aesthetically pleasant, through shape and colour they become more haunting upon realising exactly what they map. One titled ‘Syria Tracker: numbers of children killed in different governorates, March 2011 – November 2014’ is a stark commentary on the dehumanising ability of facts and figures. The blurred line Chung achieves between art, sociology and anthropology is fascinating, but the macabre sense of meaning pervades. Is this all the worlds futures?
photography by ondulée