Adrian Piper in All the World’s Futures, La Biennale di Venezia, 2015

by James Lipovac
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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

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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.

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Chiharu Shiota “The Key in the Hand” @ the Japan Pavilion, La Biennale da Venezia 2015

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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. “


Joana Vasconcelos for Portugal – Venice Biennale 2013

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.

Joana Vasconcelos, Portugal, Venice Biennale 2013

Joana Vasconcelos, Portugal, Venice Biennale 2013

Joana Vasconcelos, Portugal, Venice Biennale 2013

Joana Vasconcelos, Portugal, Venice Biennale 2013

Joana Vasconcelos, Portugal, Venice Biennale 2013

Joana Vasconcelos, Portugal, Venice Biennale 2013

Joana Vasconcelos, Portgual, Venice Biennale 2013

Joana Vasconcelos, Portgual, Venice Biennale 2013


BGL to represent Cananda in the Venice Biennale

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After seeing this fox impaled by a plexi spire, the Futurelab is excited to see what BGL, an artist collective established in 1996, comes up with for this year’s Venice Biennale.

The three artists live and work in Québec City.

From the Parisan Laundry website:

Renowned for cheeky, critical and explosive works, BGL creates self-referential, site-specific installations that seek to re-contextualize the space of the gallery. These artworks are at once nostalgic, while simultaneously indebted to contemporary culture. The trio often utilizes local signage, foodstuffs and urban clichés as references into a long-term investigation of our own unpredictable relationship with nature and consumer culture. Within BGL’s playful scenarios, we are able to witness the transformation of the Canadian landscape: an ongoing battle between the organic and the artificial. As a result, the viewer becomes more aware of their personal implication in a disposable consumer culture. This is precisely what BGL is engaging with in their artistic practice: a process of recycling and reusing that is then restaged and recontextualized within the gallery space. The collective’s massive exhibitions have included the staging of a seasonal ornamental tree factory, a bonfire and even a ‘Marché aux puces’ (flea market). Such works reposition found objects, cultural ephemera and unique sculptures in new and thought-provoking ways.

BGL was created while the three members—Jasmin Bilodeau, Sébastien Giguère and Nicolas Laverdière—were students at Laval University. For almost two decades now, the collective has presented major installations and performances and participated in innumerable group and solo exhibitions. BGL has been invited to show their work by a variety of institutions, including the first edition of the Bienal del fin del mundo (Ushuaia, Argentina), the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, the Musée d’art moderne Lille Métropole (France), Mercer Union (Toronto), Hart House (Toronto), The Havana Biennale (Cuba) and The Montreal Biennale. More recently, the artists have enchanted their public with the installation Fancy Canada conceived especially for the 2013 major group exhibition Oh Canada! at MASS MoCA (Massachussetts). In 2012, the members of BGL took part in the Louis Odette Sculptor-in-Residence Program at York University (Toronto). Recent notable projects include Alberta’s Nuit Blanche, Cultiver son jardin at the UQAM gallery,Marshmallow, Cauldron + Fire at the Vancouver Art Gallery and Le discours des éléments at the National Gallery of Canada, among others. The collective has been recognized by the Canada Council for the Arts and The Conseil des arts et lettres du Québec on numerous occasions and has twice been a finalist for the Sobey Art Award. Their work is found in the collections of The Musée National des beaux-arts du Québec, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and The National Gallery of Canada. BGL was chosen to represent Canada at the 2015 Venice Biennale.


Bedwyr Williams, The Starry Messenager, Welsh Pavilion, 2013 Venice Biennale

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Bedwyr Williams immersive five room installation looks at the microscope and the astronomic. Its Powers of Ten meets early Mtv. The youtube clip below is an interview with the artist about the piece. Fast forward to 4.0o to see a portion of the video component of the installation.

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Sara Sze @ the United States Pavilion, Venice Biennial 2013

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Sara Sze @ the United States Pavilion, Venice Biennial 2013

If the Futurelab was to give its own Biennale awards, Sarah Sze would have been one of the winners.

This year’s US artist painstakingly transformed their Pavilion with a myriad of tiny objects, suspended from tiny strings, wire, wood, and plastic. There is a real feeling of being inside of another universe where Sze is the benevolent ruler.

Setting the tone for the exhibit, suspended precariously above the entrance to the US Pavilion are several enormous boulders that are situated on narrow boards, held down by only a few straps. One would be forgive for being afraid to come closer. Upon reaching the entrance, the viewer is greeted by another large rock placed safely on the ground, and it becomes obvious that the boulders are not rocks at all, but mere paper imposters. The surfaces are digital paper prints of rock texture pasted over a lightweight structures. And here begins the experience with Sarah Sze’s outstanding performance at this year’s Venice Biennale.

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Although Sarah Sze and the US did not win the Golden Lion this year, the Biennale’s top prize, her performance has been well-received.

This year’s prize went to Angola, with an equally stellar performance, with its much more subtle installation at the Palazzo Cini,conceived in 1984 as a house-museum, after a collection of Tuscan masterworks were donated by Princess Yana Cini Alliata de Montereale.)

The theme of the Biennale this year is Encyclopedic, and this is necessary to know when engaging Sze’s installations. One the one hand, there is an encyclopedic cataloging of her own personal objects(tea bags, granola bars, tools, and coffee cups), and on the other hand, obsessive micro representations of the marco (entire galaxies of things orbiting around precarious sun-like shapes. All the elements of our universe and all the elements of human life and death represented by the most unexpected and simplest of things makes for a truly eye-opening art experience.20130529-232536.jpg

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