Fiona Hall, Wrong Way Time
Australia’s first permanent pavilion opened with a traditional indigenous smoking ceremony, followed by heartfelt speeches from arts minister George Brandis and actress Cate Blanchett. Designed by Melbourne-based starchitects Denton Corker Marshall, the $7.5 million structure is built in black granite, following a ‘clean and concise’ aesthetic inspired by the sculpture of Richard Serra.
Tasked with filling the newly-built pavilion is Adelaide-based artist Fiona Hall, whose exhibition Wrong Way Time is an exploration of political, financial and environmental issues. Incorporating mediums from sound to video art, the show features around 1000 works — from shredded American dollar bills to an AK47, shaped from a load of bread. In the artist’s own words, it is a ‘minefield of madness, badness and sadness in equal measure’.
Fiona Hall. B. 1953, Australia. Based: Sydney; Represented: Roslyn Oxley9; Commissioner: Simon Mordant, Charles Green; Curator: Linda Michael; facebook.com/ausatvenice
Danh Vo, Mothertongue
All eyes are on Danh Vo this year, the Vietnamese-born artist who is not only representing his adoptive Denmark, but whose work also features in Slip of the Tongue, a solo exhibition at the Palazzo Grassi, widely touted as one of the Biennale’s most exciting collaterals.
Entitled Mothertongue, Vo’s pavilion show continues an interest in juxtaposition, language and identity, recording the material trail left by activities including the discovery of America, space exploration and trade with China. Promoting the idea that ‘culture is not native’, but the result of ‘cross-pollination’, it is a fitting addition to an international event — as well as a reminder of Vo’s oft-referenced biography: the artist came to Denmark at the age of four, fleeing his native Vietnam in a boat built by his father.
Danh Vo. B. 1975, Vietnam; Based: Berlin; Represented: Marian Goodman Gallery; Isabella Bortolozzi Galerie; Xavier Hufkens; Galerie Chantal Crousel; Commissioner: The Danish Arts Foundation Committee for Visual Arts Project Funding; Curator: Marianne Torp, Tine Vindfield, Amy Zion; www.danishpavilion.org
Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, Rêvolutions
In the grounds of Venice’s leafy Giardini, something very peculiar is happening: a fleet of fir trees is silently navigating the Giardini of its own accord, the plants clinging to root balls as though freshly-plucked from the ground. This ‘kinetic forest’ forms part of Rêvolutions, a solo exhibition by artist and composer Céleste Boursier, intended to transform the French Pavilion into an ‘oneiric and organic island’.
In the pavilion itself, a motorised tree weaves an idle path, its movements — like those of the trees outside — dictated by naturally occurring electrical currents within the plant. A ring of low seats turn the white-walled space into a serene open theatre, and Mougenot has stripped the building of its roof, further obscuring the boundary between the natural and man made.
Céleste Boursier-Mougenot. B. 1961, France; Based: Sète; Represented: Paula Cooper Gallery; Galerie Mario Mazzoli; Xippas Gallery; Commissioner: Ministry of Culture and Communication, Institut Français; Curator: Emma Lavigne
Since its inauguration in 1950, the German Pavilion has gained a reputation as an echo chamber for German history and identity. Entitled Fabrik, or factory, this year’s pavilion is no different.
An installation by Tobias Zielony considers the experience of Europe’s African refugees, while works by Jasmina Metwaly and Philip Rizk focus on the closure of an imagined factory — a film of its ‘employees’ bubbling with the threat of economic instability. In an adjacent space, Heto Steyerl’s The Factory of the Sun transforms a darkened room into an immersive computer game, exploring the experience of slave labourers.
Most captivating, perhaps, is Olaf Nicolai’s Lucarne, an installation that takes place unseen on the pavilion’s roof. For the duration of the Biennale, three anonymous workers will ‘operate a shadow economy under the blazing sun,’ producing boomerangs that will be flung into the Giardini below, and sold by street hawkers across Venice.
Jasmina Metwaly B.1982, Poland; Based: Cairo; Represented: Open Gallery. Olaf Nicolai B.1962, Germany; Based: Berlin; Represented: Galerie Eigen+Art, Carolina Nitsch. Philip Rizk B. 1982, Cyprus; Based: Cairo. Hito Steyerl B.1966, Germany; Based: Berlin; Represented: Andrew Kreps Gallery. Tobias Zielony B.1973, Germany; Based: Berlin; Represented: KOW; Lia Rumma. Commissioner: Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, Nina Hülsmeier, Elke aus dem Moore. Curator: Florian Ebner, Ilina Koralova, Tanja Milewsky. deutscher-pavilion.org
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO
Billed as the Biennale’s ‘bawdiest’ exhibition, Sarah Lucas’s I SCREAM DADDIO is a triumphant assault of the themes that have come to define her art — including gender, death, sex and the innuendo residing in everyday objects.
For those unfamiliar with Lucas’s practice, the pavilion offers something of a baptism of fire, welcoming visitors with a brilliant yellow phallus of the artist’s Maradona. The monumental sculpture is one of a number of outrageous forms that droop, bend, dangle and thrust, with series such as the Tit Cat sculptures representing an ongoing interest in the female form.
In this video, Richard Riley, curator of the British Pavilion, discusses the ‘standout’ talent of Sarah Lucas and a show that serves up a blend of ‘classicism, irreverence and toughness’.
Sarah Lucas B. 1962, United Kingdom; Based: London; Represented: Sadie Coles HQ; Gladstone Gallery; Kurimanzutto; CFA Berlin; Commissioner: Emma Dexter; Curator: Richard Riley, Katrina Schwarz; venicebiennale.britishcouncil.org
Chiharu Shiota, The Key in the Hand
Berlin-based artist Chiharu Shiota has stretched dense swathes of red yarn across the exhibition space and hung hundreds of thousands of keys from the ends, to astonishing effect. Beneath the red arches, two boats are filled with yet more keys, the floor around them a sea of hundreds more — all donated in response to an advert, posted by the artist online.
Shiota is known internationally for her large-scale installations stretching yarn into vast spatial structures and suspending objects redolent with memory and transience — beds, dresses, suitcases, dolls. Speaking on her Venice show, she said, ‘Keys are full of meaning… You hold a key in the hand and a hand is like a boat holding the key. A key means you have a chance; you have a future. If you lose a key, you lose so much, but if you have one, it opens a whole new world.’
Chiharu Shiota B.1972, Japan; Based: Berlin; Represented: Galerie Daniel Templon; Kenji Taki Gallery; Commissioner: The Japan Foundation, Haruka Nakajima, Manako Kawata, Yukihiro Ohira; Curator: Histoshi Nakano; 2015.veneziabiennale-japanpavilion.jp
Camille Norment, Rapture
Having previously been host to collaborative projects, this year’s Nordic Pavilion is — for the first time in its history — the sole responsibility of its Norwegian curators.
Representing Norway is American-born, Oslo-based artist Camille Norment, whose site-specific installation Rapture is an ethereal combination of glass, water and sound. Sung notes, played through hanging speakers, clash and blend with a composition played on a glass armonica — an instrument once banned for its supposed tendency to provoke sexual excitement in women. Sound reverberates through a glistening carpet of broken glass, the artist exploring both the sensuous and violent potential of sound.
Camille Norment B.1970, USA; Based: Oslo; Represented: Tanja Grunert; Commissioner: Office for Contemporary Art; Curator: Katya Garcia Antón, Antonio Cataldo; oca.no
Pamela Rosenkranz, Our Product
The queue of people outside the Swiss pavilion stands bathed in nuclear green light, waiting to make their way down a corridor that leads to a bubbling pool of flesh-coloured liquid.
The immersive installation is the work of Pamela Rosenkranz — one of the biennale’s youngest exhibitors, at just 35 years old. Emitting a ‘fleshy’ scent, her pinkish pool continues an investigation into the material make-up of the human body. ‘It smells, it shines, it sounds and it moves. It seems to live,’ comments the artist. Overhead, a voice from a speaker reads a list of Latinate compounds — Carneam, Evoin, Magmelia, Neoten, Methlene, Silicone — the words ringing out like a laboratory inventory.
Pamela Rosenkranz, B.1979, Switzerland; Based: Zurich; Represented: Karma International; Miguel Abreu Gallery; Commissioner: Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetica, Sandi Paucic, Marianne Burki, Rachele Giudici Legittimo; Curator: Susanne Pfeffer ourproduct.net
Joan Jonas, They came to us without a word
A pioneer of video and performance art, Joan Jonas has filled the five galleries of the U.S. pavilion with prints, drawings, videos and objects — all evoking the spiritual potential of nature, whilst acknowledging its fragility.
Layered video projections offer fleeting glimpses of the Nova Scotia landscape where Jonas spends her summers, their flickering light reflected in Murano glass chandeliers and rippled mirrors. Others show children — used here for the first time in Jonas’ career — dancing, collected oral histories of playful ghosts are broadcast alongside. Objects including swordfish carcasses and natural sponges sit alongside drawings of bees’ communication dances, the artist’s trademark kites hovering overhead.
Joan Jonas, B.1936, USA; Based: New York and Nova Scotia; Represented: Wilkinson Gallery; Gavin Brown’s Enterprise; Commissioner: Paul C.Ha, MIT List Visual Arts Center; Curator: Ute Meta Bauser, Paul C.Ha; joanjonasvenice2015.com
Simon Denny, Secret Power
A response to the impact of leaks by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Simon Denny’s Venice exhibition is a continuation of the artist’s interest in national identity, technological evolution, corporate and neoliberal culture and the Internet.
Unusually, the artist’s show straddles two venues: in the Marciana Library, at the heart of the city, Denny has installed a server room, featuring the Snowden slide archive along with sculptural and graphic elements based on the work of formed NSA designer and Creative Director of Defence Intelligence David Darchicourt. At the other side of the city, Denny has covered Marco Polo airport with photographic replications of the library’s Renaissance interior, filling surveillance spaces and constructed borders with ancient maps and allegorical paintings.
Biblioteca Nazionale; Marciana, Piazzetta San Marco n.7, and Marco Polo Airport, Via Galileo Galilei, 30/, 30173 Venice. Simon Denny, B.1982, New Zealand; Based: Berlin; Represented: Petzel Galler; T293; Michael Lett; Galerie Buchholz; Commissioner: Heather Galbraith; Curator: Robert Leonard
See also: The Iraq Pavilion: Finding creativity amongst conflict
Read our interview with Tamara Chalabi, the chairwoman of the Ruya Foundation for Contemporary Culture in Iraq, who commissioned the country’s pavilion. She talks about the task of tracking down artists in a war-torn country, and the triumph of creativity against all odds.
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