The Venice Biennale

07.06.2013 | Art , Blog | BY:

Artist and previous interviewee Seana Gavin headed down to the annual arts mecca The Venice Biennale this week. In the following piece, Gavin handpicks her top ten pieces from the event exclusively for Twin…

I am only just recovering from a very full week spent at The Venice Biennale. It is my third time there and its always a great experience, but this year I really connected to the work on a more personal level.

In Il Palazzo Enciclopedico in the main Giardini there was a very obvious spiritual theme, with lots of cosmic, supernatural, scientific and nature over tones which I found really inspiring and relates to some of the subjects in my own art work. Here is some of the work that I especially connected with:

Carl Gustav Jung, ‘The Red Book’ in II Palazzo Enciclopedico

Jung experienced visions, visual fantasies and premonition dreams from a young age. In 1913 he thought he was going insane after having very intense apocalyptic visions, which he soon realised were omens of the horror of 2nd World War. He began to fill notebooks with detailed descriptions of his dreams and visions which then became the ‘The Red Book’. I loved the way the pages from the book were displayed in a round shaped room – it reminded me of a scene from film ‘The Holy Mountain’ by Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Shary Boyle, Canada Pavilion

This was one of my favourite pavilions. The room was blacked out. Inspired by the moon, the only light was a subtle glow highlighting revolving moon-related sculptures. The main piece was a 3D set, containing white figures in a landscape with collage imagery projected on to it. It would flash between the white figures with a moon-like glow and the collage projected version.

Jakub Julian Ziolkowski in II Palazzo Enciclopedico

He created a series of paintings including imaginary beings, hybrid and mythological creatures. I particularly liked ‘The Sleep of Reason’ depicting a bodily and grotesque hellish landscape.

Roger Caillois’ stone collection in Il Palazzo Enciclopedico

He was a poet and theorist heavily involved in the Surrealist movement. He praised how stones appear to depict landscapes and commented on their beautiful patterning. Here his personal, well chosen stone collection was displayed in glass cases. As someone who has collected stones and crystals since I was 5, I really appreciated it and enjoyed examining his collection.

Shinro Ohtake in Il Palazzo Enciclopedico

There is a whole room full of Ohtake’s scrapbooks displayed in cases. They are held open to view random pages of his mixed media collage images responding to mass media and contemporary urban life. I love the layering and looseness of his approach.

Ryan Trecartin, Il Palazzo Enciclopedico

He creates weird uncomfortable alternative realities in video form, inspired by game shows, reality TV and talk shows featuring transgender characters and Spring Break-like American teenagers. The digital effects, bright coloured face paints and exaggerated personas create a strong flavour of a bad acid trip. Here he has collaborated with Lizzie Fitch and other artists to create sets around the viewing space that expands the environments from the videos. You feel as if you are emerged into the films.

Bedwyr Williams, ‘The Starry Messenger’, Wales in Venice

He created a series of rooms relating to the exploration of infinity and minute space. I was blown away by the video piece which took you through a journey like a string of consciousness – going from the details of the granite marble flooring beneath your feet to the galaxy in the sky.

Museo Fortuny

Axel Veervordt curated the exhibition this year in this amazing space. It consisted of Tapies’ personal art collection along with some of his own works. It is so inspiringly put together. Often the architecture becomes part of the work – as with these pieces the crumbly walls where the work is hung seems to fuse into the paintings.

Palazzo Peckham

This space was created by a group of south London based creatives. Artists including Jon Rafman, Rob Chavasse, Samara Scott and Viktor Timofeev were commissioned to create the interior. The palazzo included a bar and an internet lounge and became a hub for Londoners in Venice. Throughout the week they hosted a series of events and served a lot of aperol spritz!

Jeremy Deller, English Magic at the British Pavilion

The whole pavilion contained several works all connecting to British culture and history. One wall showed a display of Neolithic hand axes dating 4,000 BCE all found along the Thames. In a corner of the room there was a stand where you were invited to hold 2 of the axe heads carved from stone while being told the history of the objects made by pre-humans! In another interactive area you could make your own DIY Jeremy Deller print to take home. But equally worth mentioning was the seriously fun after Party which the Brits do so well – which included a spontaneous naked male dancing as the steel band played British classics such as Voodoo Ray.


Words and images by Seana Gavin

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