At the 2017 Venice Biennale

Two people and a bit. Luca is safely asleep in her pouch. I carry her and I point things to her daddy, as we walk through the Arsenale location. There’s a staff member here who wears a badge that says “ask me”. I’d like to ask her how one gets to be staffing the event. To be paid to walk about and be in a position of authority. People usually ask her the way to the loo.

This is my second visit to a Biennale. As Alex says, we should come to every edition from now on. It’s like Disneyland for adults who happen to know about contemporary art. Everyone here is interested. It’s not like your usual museum visit. People do take photos with the art, but they’re not only stopping at the celebrity exhibits.

Alicja Kwade, WeltenLinie, 2017, Arsenale, 57th Venice Biennale; Photograph: Alex Radulescu

There’s another level of cool that the visitors themselves exhibit. Dark clothes and red shoes are the lazy way out. There are so many possible combinations in between that I feel, as always, under-clothed. I’ve never felt cool enough to belong. And now, I can’t even un-belong ironically! I would need to wear a too short pair of cullotes. And sneakers. Instead, I’m wearing a baby.

Video/digital art is still a thing at this edition, just like it was 16 years ago. Projectors must be used to show the images. There are cheap ones, which project into darkness and a bit more expensive ones, which need darkness to show things well, too, but are better for the eyes. The cheapest ones have a most disturbing rainbow effect. It can be seen by about 10% of the population. Alex is not among them, usually. But here, he can see it, too! This rainbow effect is not only distracting, it can be a migraine trigger. After putting on such a thing as the Biennale, using cheap projectors is like painting with bad paints. It was a bad idea during Leonardo’s time and it’s a bad idea now.

At the Giardini location, Germany’s Pavilion got the big prize. Even though the Biennale is on its last leg, I had to use my press ID to get to see it. The line was too long otherwise. Performance art is on display and one must see the performers perform for it to make sense.

Anne Imhof’s “Faust” at the German Pavilion. Photograph: Ale Radulescu

I don’t know the story, but it was obviously having to do with repression, being confined, the human condition, angst, etc. So, yeah, the usual German expressionism that they have excelled at (at least) since the twelfth century. It was done well: I liked the scarcity of objects. But, too obvious, too loud! The performers could barely be separated from the audience once the performance began. It was easy after a while: no one was wearing red shoes; one of them was wearing a red headband used to hold his glasses on during the punching phase. The music was excellent! Other members of the press described it as “noise”. But, it was definitely the best part of the whole thing, in my opinion.

Anne Imhof’s “Faust” at the German Pavilion. Photograph: Alex Radulescu

Luca was mildly interested in the hustle and bustle and then fell asleep. At one point, I left because it didn’t seem that important to see all the moves. The photos my partner took show me that I was wrong: the choreography was well designed. I left because it seemed, really, too obvious. It is me: I’ve never understood performance art. Is it supposed to be visually interesting? Am I supposed to appreciate it as I would a theatrical play? Or a ballet show? As I said, the music seemed the best here: invoking electronica, of the techno persuasion, but brought to the bear witness to the technology of the 21st century.

This year’s edition of the Biennale is now over. It was the best attended yet: 650,000 visitors. We went on its last leg: we’re really happy it was still open in November. Since we have one week off for Thanksgiving and, as all immigrants, we don’t really understand this holiday (I’ve never much liked turkey, anyway), we can go during that time, every other year. And give thanks to the gods of art and amazing cichetti!

 

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