I was recently bowled over by the powerful work of Adrian Piper currently on display in Venice. A conceptual artist with a PhD in philosophy from Harvard, Piper was born in New York City and works out of Berlin. Her art opens eyes and seeks to build bridges between people. Last week at the Biennale, she received the Golden Lion for best artist for her efforts.
Among the group of pieces is an interactive installation titled “Rules of the Game” which called on viewers to sign life-long contracts at three separate desks, with one of the three rules:
I will always be too expensive to buy
I will always mean what I say
I will always do what I say I am going to do
In another room, objects were covered with the words “everything will be taken away” and hung next to a giant photo of the Nazis at their Degenerate Art Show. I was taken, as is often the case, by the way the work effected the audience, or didn’t. You can see in the photo at the top of the post, viewers standing around blankly, while the man on the right talked loudly on his cellphone for the entire time I was viewing at the work. Her ominous prediction sees so much more probable in this setting. After a week of contemplating the theme of All the World’s Futures, I found Piper’s directness on the topic hard to describe as anything less than courageous and superb.
by James Lipovac
This image of a giant Venus Fly trap dwarfing a man in a trench coat standing underneath a menacingly heavy sky was a stand-out at Ghenie’s speculator painting performance at the 56th La Biennale di Venezia in the Romanian Pavilion.
I first came across Adrian Ghenie’s work at Pace in New York in March of 2013. A painter friend of mine encourage me to check out the show. The strength of the work is Ghenie’s ability to harmonize elements of abstract figuration and more realistic interpretations all in the same canvas.
I was excited to see what a fellow painter would do given the chance to represent their own nation, in this case, Romania. In his show “Darwin’s Room” Ghenie uses Darwin, evolution, and survival as themes for his grand brushwork and sheets of oil. He switches between and harmonizes intimate slow moments of finessed detail, larges areas of squeegeed paint, and thick sections of impasto.
Chiharu Shiota’s “The Key in the Hand” installation is a bold vision of the the dark beauty of the human life lived. This Berlin-based artist was born in Osaka Prefecture in 1972.
Curator, Hitoshi Nakano- “After being confronted with the deaths of several intimate friends and family in recent years, Shiota has converted these experiences into the lingua franca of pure and sublime art without averting her eyes from the reality that all human beings must face “life” and “death” but that each of us must do so individually. “
By Lauren Gidwitz
originally published 6.30.2013 for Thred Projects
Rather than join the crowds, and take a normative place in a land-locked pavilion, Portugal decided to choose and artist who reflected, with beautiful nuance and subtlety, on her own identity as a citizen of a country largely dependent on the ocean. They chose well. The floating effervescent world of Joana Vasconcelos habituated itself on Praia, a tubby ferryboat from Lisbon, and spent the Biennale moving through the watery surroundings of the city. The outer shell was covered with tiles made in Portugal, depicting the city of Lisbon in blue on a white background. At key moments the floating pavilion would pull up to a pier and welcome wary and excited visitors onto the deck’s lounge and down into its belly.
Upon entrance into the lower level, we were enveloped into an environment akin to a visceral representation of the interior of the human body, as well as the bioluminescent underbelly of the deep ocean, complete with the sounds of the lapping waves from the outside. Our eyes were lit by a subtle harmony of blues vibrating underneath swirls of slow dimming and brightening LED lights in cadence with our breathing; bulbous forms enveloped by knit yarn and rows of tassels, and long ropey tendrils snaked out and into our physical space. A series of questions nagged at the back of my mind… was it pushing into our bodily space? Was it allowing us in? Or were we the intruders in this habitat? Through its intervention on the exterior and interior of the boat, bringing to mind the outside and inside of the body, and the surface and depths of the ocean, as well as integration of both technology and handicraft, the experience, though tranquil, required active and mindful engagement from its visitors.
It was a beautiful reminder of the unseen beauty of the darkest depths of our ocean, the strong cultural connection and interdependence with the coastal country of Portugal, the future of Venice as it slowly sinks into the depths of the ocean, and the vital and beautiful ecological role it plays in all of our lives. In both content and formal execution, this is the most eloquent political work I have come across in a long time. Brava.