Biennial of Venice 2011


Date of the article: July 2011
by Anna Maria Santoro

 There's a good smell of sea salt in the air.
The shimmering water meets the sky.
From above, Venice looks like a fish in a crock bowl.
 At the Biennale you think you're in Kafka's world, where the dream seems incredibly real.
Art is beauty.
Art is the sense of death that helps you to live.
Art is suffering.
Art is happiness.
It's a symbolic significance.
It's a game.
It's a work.
It's the desire to be like God.
In this enchanted Venice you think that everything can change.
From the canal you can see the title of the 2011 Biennial: “ILLUMInazioni”.
On the rocking motion of waves, in front of The Gardens, you find the floating installation of Harush Shlomo “And to hell with everything”.

 I can't tell you anything you already imagine or know, but you know that the melancholy welcomes visitors.
 The melancholy is like joy.
 It is an emotion.

In The Gardens you can see Iris Brosch.

 She's a divine beauty, taking pictures which catch and convey the multiple facets of women.

 Then, when you arrive in the first, dark room of the Central Pavilion, you see three canvases by Tintoretto. He used many light sources to create a special atmosphere for these works The Last Supper, The Stealing of the Body of St. Mark and The Creation of the Animals.
 In the other rooms of the Central Pavilion, on the beams in the ceilings, there are 2000 stuffed pigeons made by Maurizio Cattelan.

In the Swiss Pavilion Thomas Hirschhrn has covered mobile phones, televisions, mannequins and dolls with cellophane tape.
Then, when you arrive in the German exhibition room, somehow you can see everything in the dark.
It is like a church with candles and includes Christoph Schlingensief's installation;  he died of lung cancer in 2010.
His work represents his fight against the disease.

Nearby is “The Love is gone but the scar will heal”, which resembles Michelangelo's 'Pietà': Mary in white plastic and Christ in pink.


This reminds us of the marble sculpture by Jan Fabre which is located in the church of 'Santa Maria della Misericordia', which is also similar to Michelangelo's 'Pietà'. The artist created the Virgin's face like a skull because he imagined Mary's pain in longing to take the place of her dead Son.
There are a lot of art works and performances.
There's a chaos of words, noise, footsteps on gravel and the sound of the sea but art needs silence.
Too many people. Too many.
So you look for a little calm and meditation in amongst the squares, the streets and the canals where you find more exhibits.
When you leave the Gardens you meet the Brazilian Menelaw Sete for example. His pictures are exhibited in the Palazzo Pesaro Papafava.

 Menelaw says: <It is the first time that I've been to Venice. This city is a melting pot of art. Venice with art is a gift to the soul>.
 Then, proceeding along the narrow streets where the blue of the sky meets the blue of the water, beyond Santo Spirito convent, you arrive at the Peggy Guggenheim museum; 
in 1964 this place saw Rauschenberg's American pop art exhibition.

 Here is Mike and Doug Starn's work the 'Big Bambu', an immense tower made from bamboo that pierces the sky.
It's incredibly tall and if you manage to climb to the top, you have to exit on the top floor terrace of a nearby building to go back down.

 Continuing further on you arrive at the 'Arsenale' where you can see exhibits by Oscar Tuazon, Monika Sosnowska, Franz West, Nicholas Hlobo, Haroon Mirza, Klara Lidén etc.


 Then, in the "Padiglione Italia" there are a lot of Italian artists in fact there are so many works to absorb that you recall Kounellis' phrase:
“Living in Italy is so difficult that surviving becomes an occupation”.
 In the 'Tese delle Vergini' Gardens Yuan Gong's water cloud 'Empty Incense' surrounds the visitors and nearby there's Gelitin's nude performance 'Some Like It Hot'.


 In the end it's impossible to tell the difference between reality and fiction, art and life.

 Venice 2011, ph Anna Maria Santoro 


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