Biennial of Venice 2009


Date of the article: July 2009
by Anna Maria Santoro

From an airplane or from the window of a speeding train, the Veneto landscape recalls a succession of works of art in a museum: old farmhouses reminiscent of the paintings of Cézanne; expanses of water reflecting colors like those of Monet; rows aligned like the pencil marks of Balla.

In the imagination, these paintings evoke the novels of Hemingway, Thomas Mann and Melania Mazzucco; the ‘Caffè Florian’, the ‘Mascareri’, Murano glassware and the pale peaches in an iced "Bellini" aperitif.

When you arrive in Venice time slows down: you feel the first sensation of disorientation near the railway station. There you'll hear the sound of water; you'll see the boats’ moorings and the ʻcalliʼ and ʻcampielliʼ (the names for streets and roads in Venice). There are so many tourists and art pilgrims that you can soon feel dazed. As you cross Calatrava’s bridge, you’re amazed by the way its stairs continually change in size. The bridge is also called the ‘walkway of light’ because these stairs are made of glass as are the balustrades.

Information for the Biennal is displayed on red totem poles in white writing, for example ‘Making Worlds, director Daniel Birnhaum’ a title borrowed from the book by Nelson Goodman ʻWays of Worldmaking’.

For Birnbaum, Rector of Staedelschule in Frankfurt, a work of art is not an object to possess but a vision of reality on which to reflect:

“Some marks drawn on paper, an unfinished painting, a large installation or a performance may all be different ways of making worlds” and the strength of the vision is not dependent on the complexity of the tools.

Paintings, videos, sculptures and performances in the ‘Giardini’ and the ‘Arsenal’ and events along the calli and the campielli, many of which blur the boundaries between art and craftsmanship.

There are some works of art that need explaination, but they are still beautiful and loved by the visitors. Some of the experimental arts surprise you and make you ask yourself, what is art? “There isn't a thing called art but there are the artists and their works and it is more important to understand the role of each than what they produce” Gombrich wrote.

 In Venice you can see the very best of contemporary art.
 When you go beyond the ticket office and along the avenues of gardens you meet the pavilions of Spain, of the Netherlands and of Belgium where you can see the work of Jef Geys: a multitude of photos of medicinal plants for the homeless taken from 1934 to today.
Then you can see the work of Gosha Ostretsov and Anatolij Shravlev and his "Victory on the future".

Also the work of Madelon Vriesendoro with his many objects scattered in a room representing the unconscious. Inside another darkened room there are lots of staked appliances to be perceived as released from their duties.
Also this year in the Italian Pavilion in the ‘Arsenale’ and in the ‘Giardino delle Vergini’, are works by Luca Pignatelli, Sandro Chia, Matteo Basilé, Marco Lodola and Bertozzi & Casoni.

Outside there are some rubber dinghies floating on water with microphones that amplify sounds of cutlery and chattering: this is ‘Site-specific’ by Tamara Grcic.
Then there is a swamp placed in a garden with the unequivocal caption: ‘Momentary Monument’ by Lara Favaretto; you can hear a visitor’s comment: <Are these works of art as well? My God!>


Then you remember that Picasso was excluded from the "Biennale 1905" because he was considered too innovative and only exhibited in 1948. You also recall the cries of scandal by the clerical press for the painting of Giacomo Grosso ‘Supremo Consiglio’, produced in 1895 for the first edition of the Biennale and you remember the protests of Marinetti and Prampolini because of the umpteenth exclusion of Futurists from the edition in 1924. But, above all, you cannot fail to remember the philosophy of Berkeley who wrote: “Objects do not exist apart from a subject that thinks them.”

 Venice, 2009, ph Anna Maria Santoro 

Make a free website with Yola