Monday, 13 January 2014

Venice: an abridged encyclopedia

I’m looking through the catalogue of the last Venice Biennial, The Encyclopedic Palace, which I picked up during my visit there last year. Reading it I’m reminded of the thrill it was to see Sarah Sze's Triple Point installation at the American Pavilion; I’d have been satisfied had I seen only that exhibition.

Having been to the biennial on a number of occasions during the mad rush that is the opening week, I was privileged this time to visit the Biennale near to closing week and had more time (and space!) to see most of what was on show, or so I thought. Looking through the catalogue entries for artists showing at both the Central Pavilion and Arsenale however, I’m not sure I did!

To prompt my memory, I’m making highlights in the catalogue. My art hit list will serve me as a kind of manifesto, a set of reminders, guidelines, at a time of year that calls for a new focus and fresh thinking.

The extracts below are all taken from the official short guide. The images are of Sarah Sze’s exhibits, featured at the American Pavilion, a show that was in itself an ‘Encyclopedic Palace’.

‘getting to know the world from scratch, object by object, and body by body’ - Chris Wiley (CW) on Ellen Altfest

‘sculptures act(ing) as ‘places’ rather than objects’ - CW on Carl Andre 

‘insistent monumentalizing of the detritus of modern life, of which (the artist) is a gleaner, a cataloguer, and an alchemist’ - CW on Phyllida Barlow

‘delicate but inexplicable objects (…) appear as elements of a secret language (…) furtive caricatures of secrets, which, however classified or consecrated often serve to instigate and simulate knowledge’ - CW on John Bock

‘Positioned at the intersection of the physical and the imaginative, (the artist’s) paintings seem to affirm that vision itself is a form of interrogation’ - Sam Korman (SK) on Varda Caivano

‘recursive relationship between (the artist’s) real and imaginary worlds’ - Shira Backer (SB) on James Castle

‘The strange sonic forms also inspire a primeval atmosphere (…) the entire environment becomes a mystically charged tableau, as (the artist) modifies the scope of perception to include our sense of what is immaterial’ – SK on Thrisha Donelly

‘represent(ing) the world through a seemingly arbitrary selection of events, objects, phrases, and concepts both historical and imaginary’ – CW on Peter Fischli and David Weiss

‘Buildings provide more than physical shelter and protection: they also frame our perceptions and house our memories (…) offer a blank screen onto which the viewer can project her own ghostly memories – SB on Robert Gober

“limiting your choices (…) gives you power” – Channa Horwitz

‘kaleidoscopic patterning with rigorous symmetry in configurations that call to mind fantastical architectures, or stratified cross sections of earth’ – CW on Augustin Lesage

‘through meditative repetition, tradition remains in motion, guided equally by the history of a craft and the hands through which it passes’ – SK on Prabhavathi Meppayil

‘prob(ing) the relationship between art and artifact (…) the allusion to the monumental, both industrial and antique, belies the work’s apparent fragility’ - Rachel Wetzler (RW) on Matthew Monahan

‘pair(ing) serious content with apparently haphazard execution (…) pizza box design aesthetic (…) awkward layouts and anarchic juxtapositions (…) a panoply of contemporary and outmoded image worlds, as if trying to grasp every fleeting aspect of our culture at once’ – CW on Albert Oehlen

 ‘the eroticism in everyday life’ – SB on Carol Rama

‘the work denies both narrative and the intimacy of a self-portrait: (the artist) shows us instead how one can wrest some sense of self from the stuff of one’s daily life’ – SK on Dieter Roth

‘half-remembered vignettes of dreams or memories’ – CW on Viviane Sassen

‘a principled refusal to add objects or images to a world already supersaturated with both’ – CW on Tino Sehgal

‘god’s ‘spiritual gifts’ – visions, glossolalia, and riotous trancelike dances’ – CW on Shaker Gift Drawings

‘abjur(ing) metaphor, focusing on the relationship between the active participant and sculpture as what generates meaning’ – John Arthur Peetz on Richard Serra

‘offering the possibility to recreating the scenes depicted and making viewers complicit in the act’ – RW on Kohei Yoshiyuki

‘In the end, what is made visible is not artistic genius, but the beauty in the externalisation of inner worlds’ – CW on Artur Zmijewski