The Biennial Project Venice Biennale 2017 Artist Trading Cards

by the-biennial-project 11. November 2017 12:28

For those days in Venice we walked down streets so beautiful as to defy description, enjoyed the unfathomable generosity of spirit of the Italians, drank from fountains of prosecco, shared the company of our dearest friends and co-conspirators, swam in an ocean of art, and most importantly lived as artists citizens of some parallel possible world where all countries hold sacred the role of art and artists in defining and maintaining our common humanity. We did (for once) not think about the terror of our current reality, but about the tremulous joy of being alive.

Yep, it was good. And as we now approach the closing of the 2017 Venice Biennale, we’d like to share a few of the artist profiles we did of participating 2017 VB artists. Enjoy them, and if you would like to have your own deck of over 50 artist profiles, let us know and we can send you one for cost plus shipping.

XXOO, The Biennial Project

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Venice Biennial 2017 What We Saw, What We Liked in Summary

by the-biennial-project 7. October 2017 15:53

Breaking news – being an artist is hard.

We’re generally broke, and when we do come by a little money, we usually spend it on stuff to make more art, which perplexes the normal people around us.

And making art means being immersed in the reality of the human experience, which – spoiler alert – sort of sucks these days.

That’s why this particular group of artists gets together every two years to travel to an imaginary land – one in which all the nations of the earth meet in a place of hallucinatory beauty and grandeur to make and experience art, art, and more art.

We mean Venice of course. We went in May, and it was a salve for the soul, as usual. We couldn’t see everything that we wanted to see, as usual. We allowed ourselves to harbor a tiny dream of going back to see more in the fall after the crowds were gone, as usual. There is no way we are going to be able to make that plan work, as usual. [SOUND EFFECT: deep resigned sigh.]

So we’re going to have to make do with our memories. Here are some new WHAT WE LIKED posts, and links to some of the older ones.

Enjoy the read, keep working, and send us plans for art trips we can do together to warm our collective souls.

INTUITION at Palazzo Fortuny

by Coral Woodbury, for The Biennial Project

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When you reach the end of what you should know, you will be at the beginning of what you should sense.” Kahlil Gibran

“When the body functions spontaneously, that is called instinct. When the soul functions spontaneously, that is called intuition.” Shree Rajneesh

Peter Greenaway's installation at Palazzo Fortuny during the 1993 Venice Biennale left such an impression on me that the one thing I knew heading to Venice was that I would return to the Palazzo. Even in Venice this is a unique space, embodying faded and decaying grandeur while preserving the home and collections of Mariano Fortuny, an early twentieth-century stage, fashion, and lighting designer. So the house is a stage set of sorts, and one an artist like Greenaway knew how to animate eerily.

As it turned out, I was in time for the sixth and last collaboration of Axel Vervoordt, Belgian antiquarian, art dealer, interior designer and curator, and Daniela Ferretti, Director of Palazzo Fortuny. Intuition was absolutely worth the 25 year wait. READ MORE

The Irish Pavilion

by Anne Murray, for The Biennial Project

“My broken bones shall be a weapon, chaos is the bread I eat!”

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photo of Jesse Jones’ installation by Anne Murray

With an impressive sense of dignity, profound understanding of the human condition, and in full knowledge of the challenge that women face in a rapidly morphing set of boundaries created through elusive and divisive judiciary systems in Ireland and abroad, Jesse Jones has created a meta world which challenges the legal system, where what we think and see implores us to react and evolve or suffer the vile subsistence living that will ensue in the storm of chaos unleashed in the form of women forced to take justice into their own hands.

Tremble, Tremble, curated by Tessa Giblin, is more than a pavilion, it is a space between, a space possessed by magic and where fears take shape in an unearthly form, as a human buried under the bog, preserved in flesh, but morphed, shape shifted into something beyond comprehension.

Here, women have an enormous tempest of power controlled only by the force of the black hole of the body of Olwen Fouéré, as a photon encircling and drawn into it only when encountered by the the Higgs boson particle, a weight that gives our thoughts as light mass, and thus, slows us down; we are trapped in this hole with her, as if time would stop or else become eternal, both one in the same. READ MORE

The Mongolian Pavilion

by Victor Salvo for The Biennial Project

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photo by Victor Salvo

Lost in Tngri

Fire. The Sun is Heaven sent. The Sunfire makes the pastures grow the pasture grass. The sun droughts up the land or runs away for too long. Cattle sheep ram lamb burn to black. Fire lovemaking sperm seek along the skulls.

Fire droughts up the land. Circling us. Cooking us. Sits down on a lone fire red fish still alive, Sun, still swimming above the scorched economic lines.

Fire. Fire your weapon straight and true. The scope tells you where to aim. Fire molds the bronze. Fire curves the barrel. Water remembers and walks the rifle after rifle, a flock of the ungainly.

Water flows in a ribbon, flows the trees, rivers come from Tngri, the gods, down from the sky, up to the sky.

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photo by Paul K. Weiner

NOTES FROM VENICE

by Charlene Liska, originally published in the North End Waterfront

The Biennial Project at Spazio TanaIl Mondo Magico (photos courtesy The Biennial Project)

In this era of biennials, The Venice Biennale, the vast international art festival begun in 1895, is the grandmother of them all. While Venice is revered for it’s great Renaissance and earlier art, the Biennale has always managed to feature avant-garde and contemporary art, and somehow the contrast enlivens both worlds.

I attended the first week of the Venice Biennale with an East Boston-based arts organization, “The Biennial Project” which began about 10 years ago as a send-up of the many pretensions of the art world and has since grown into a world-wide network of people who care a lot about art and not at all about the pretensions. The BP stages its own counter-biennials, including one in Marfa, Texas and four Boston Biennials that have been held here locally, last in 2016. These people are the most serious fun around!

This year, in addition to attending the official Biennale, the Boston-based organization held its own parallel Venice event that featured several hundred artists from across the globe. Participating artists included German-born painter-sculptor Artemis Herber, Florida-based photographer Barbara Revelle, videographer Tom Corby from London, and Zsolt Asztalos, who represented Hungary in the official 2013 Biennale but who chose this year to appear in the Boston organization’s parallel event instead. Poetry, in English and Italian, was recited, locals and visitors confabbed, words and prosecco flowed liberally. One couldn’t really say it was a bit of Boston in Venice; it was more like a bit of the world, that had come together under prompting from Boston on a dark night in a Venice neighborhood to talk, and drink, and talk some more about art, because they admired the weird and interesting spirit of the Biennale and the art works that were on display.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: CLICK HERE to see the galleries of beautiful work exhibited in ArtVenice Biennial IV.]

And there were some stunning pieces in the Venice Biennale, not least, the small old wooden country house with holes in its roof that was imported in its entirety from the Republic of Georgia, down through which the artist, Chachkhiani, caused artificial rain to pour unceasingly, covering everything inside with dripping water; it captured everyone’s worst fear about waking up in the middle of the night to hear water dripping, and finding that somehow a hole has opened up in the roof — in this case many holes! — and the rain is starting to come in. And in the Italian pavilion, Il Mondo Magico, an exhibit which showed an assembly line in which simulated dried and mummified life-sized corpses of Christ were manufactured from plastic materials and then were heated in ovens and allowed to molder, and then, once finished, were broken into large pieces and displayed, in more or less random order, on a dark wall. It was about imitation versus reality, yes, and the almost unbelievable power of technology, but also about magic, and how and why people hope, and the power of belief. Of course, there were more conventional pieces too, in their hundreds; but this gives you an idea.

About timing, for anyone who might be thinking of attending — and it’s well worth going to see! — it makes a Venice trip even more dramatic than it would otherwise be. Either go early, as I did this year, in May, for the excitement of the crowds and the fun of getting there first, or otherwise consider waiting till late in the year — say, October month — which can be exquisite too, since the fact that there are no crowds then means you can actually see and enjoy and understand things in your own good time.

And full marks to “The Biennial Project”: they’re projecting Boston onto the global arts scene in a singular way, and they do it basically because, being artists themselves, they can’t help it. These people are living to make, and view, and talk about art. Interesting way to live.

The Taiwanese Pavilion

by Barbara Jo Revelle, for The Biennial Project

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Ok, I’ll admit this up front. I’m wildly attracted to durational performance art. I do it myself sometimes. Not so long ago, as part of an art installation scrutinizing my father’s big game hunting practice, I walked continuously - eight hours a day, seven days a week, for two weeks - on a treadmill set up in a gallery. I stopped only to take pees. While I moved I edited 100+ hours of my father’s old hunting films and videos - mostly shots of him watching game from blinds, hanging cut up animal parts baits in trees, or posing with dead animals and the African natives who helped him track and kill them. This footage was projected onto the gallery walls in front of me as I walked and worked. READ MORE

READ MORE OF WHAT WE LIKED IN VENICE

XXOO,

The Biennial Project

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Mongolian Thoughts on Chinese Economic and Environmental Policies

by the-biennial-project 9. September 2017 13:25

Mongolian Pavilion

at the 2017 Venice Biennale

by Victor Salvo for The Biennial Project

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photo by Victor Salvo

Lost in Tngri

Fire. The Sun is Heaven sent. The Sunfire makes the pastures grow the pasture grass. The sun droughts up the land or runs away for too long. Cattle sheep ram lamb burn to black. Fire lovemaking sperm seek along the skulls.

Fire droughts up the land. Circling us. Cooking us. Sits down on a lone fire red fish still alive, Sun, still swimming above the scorched economic lines.

Fire. Fire your weapon straight and true. The scope tells you where to aim. Fire molds the bronze. Fire curves the barrel. Water remembers and walks the rifle after rifle, a flock of the ungainly.

Water flows in a ribbon, flows the trees, rivers come from Tngri, the gods, down from the sky, up to the sky.

VB306

photo by Paul K. Weiner

 

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Exodus: A Mirror of Hope for the Future of Art Biennials - 4th Mediterranean Biennial of Contemporary Art of Oran, Algeria

by the-biennial-project 12. August 2017 10:46

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The Biennial Project is immensely proud to be able to bring you this very thoughtful look into this biennial exhibit, written by our world-traveling correspondent Anne Murray.] 

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Photo credit Anne Murray, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Oran

4th Mediterranean Biennial of Contemporary Art of Oran, Algeria

https://www.facebook.com/Biennaleoran

Interview by artist and participant Anne Murray, http://www.annemurrayartist.com , MFA and Master of Science in Theory, History, and Criticism of Art and Architecture, Pratt Institute, with the curators and co-founders of the Mediterranean Biennial of Contemporary Art of Oran, Algeria, Sadek Rahim, http://cloudconversations.weebly.com/sadek-rahim.html and President of Civ-Oeil Gallery Tewfik Ali Chaouche, http://www.civoeil.com/

July 2nd-31st, 2017

At the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Oran (MAMO, Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain d'Oran )

With today’s mixture of classic and unconventional biennials, it is necessary to think again about the purpose and drive behind the biennial itself and to wonder where we are going globally in terms of art, its movements, and its connections to globalization.

This year’s Venice Biennale brought about many questions concerning the depth and political responsibilities of the biennial and its context.  Viva Arte Viva seemed a bit superficial in terms of themes, although, yes, we all hope for Art to keep living and to remain strong in terms of significance and output around the world. It played a safe role in terms of not making anyone get too fussy about political titles, while subterfuge allowed some of the individual pavilions to give out unique passports and visas such as the Tunisian Freesa and the NSK pavilion passport.  Although these ideas are not new, since it was Jorge and Lucy Orta who gave out Antarctica World Passports at the 9th Shanghai Biennale back in 2012, they are an indication that just beneath the surface or the superficial title, artists are still challenging the viewer and the world of politics.

Recently, such avant-garde approaches to the biennial format as the Museum of Non-Visible Art Biennial (MONA Biennial), the upcoming Wrong Biennial which combines digital pavilions with physical exhibitions around the world, and the Worldwide Apartment and Studio Biennial, have created a different context all together for the purpose and even, venue of a biennial in contemporary times.

The United States has seen a rise in interest in Islamic art with the displays at the Museum of Modern Art being changed over to represent Islamic art in the collection as a protest to travel bans, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/18/autossell/proposed-travel-ban-at-art-dubai-its-plainly-wrong.html, as well as the active collecting happening with the important Guggenheim UBS Map Global Art Initiative, https://www.guggenheim.org/map, which has expanded the collection to include more artists from South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa.

In Spain, the recent exhibit, Making Africa, showed at the CCCB, Center of Contemporary Art of Barcelona, http://www.cccb.org/es/exposiciones/ficha/making-africa/213052, and represented artists and designers from all over Africa, and was a more than subtle hint at the necessity of constructing a vision of Africa of the future through art. Still in Venice, we had a limited amount of representation from Africa and the diaspora with the Diaspora Pavilion, including some key emerging artists and mentor artists of influence from multiple diaspora, and the Nigerian (for the first time), Egyptian, and South African Pavilions.

So, what happens when someone decides to create a biennial that defies convention and is themed from the heart, refusing to indulge in the mass of political ambiguity and safe quadrants of benign titles and approaches, but instead, confronts directly the global issues of exodus? Well, the answer is, the Mediterranean Biennial of Contemporary Art of Oran, Algeria (Biennale Méditerranéenne d'art contemporain d'Oran), which is in its 4th edition this year.

Why is it important? How did it start? Well, considering that there has never been an Algerian Pavilion of Contemporary Art at the Venice Biennial, one realizes that its importance is tantamount in the contemporary art scene, in elevating and preparing the road to an Algerian Pavilion in Venice, in 2019 or 2021.

I asked the curators, Sadek Rahim and Tewfik Ali Chaouche, of the Mediterranean Biennial of Contemporary Art of Oran, Algeria, a few questions about its development, challenges, and the direction it is heading towards, in terms of creating a solid contemporary lift-off for Algerian artists and a pavilion in Venice for the future.

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Photo credit Anne Murray, Curators Sadek Rahim (on the left), Tewfik Ali Chaouche, and journalist Stéphanie Pioda

Murray: What did you expect from artists who submitted work for the theme of Exodus? 

Ali Chaouche: There were 37 Algerian artists and 20 foreign artists this year, hailing from England, Canada, Spain, France, Syria, Switzerland, Turkey, Tunisia, Palestine, the United States, Greece, Italy, and Thailand and the exhibition took place at the recently inaugurated, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Oran.  The participating artists who submitted their work for the theme of Exodus, were welcomed as a part of this project, because of their human and artistic engagement: as was stated in the open call for the theme, ‘Art is the mirror of society; it reflects one’s daily life- happiness and sadness.’ The works of these artists echo this reflection to the public, (of which, there were many visitors in the 4th Biennial)... for me, my objectives as a curator were to re-introduce contemporary art to the people of Oran who could not see and frequent exhibitions and visual art events for a long time except at the Civ-Oeil Gallery (www.civoeil.com), which shows contemporary art of Oran from time to time; there are no other visual art exhibition spaces in Oran and in the region for that matter.

Murray: Similarly to the early days of the Venice Biennale, I noticed that the biennial in Oran included a selection of invited artists, open call artists selected from around the world, and emerging Algerian artists, is this the way that the selection was made in the past or was it a new combination this year? Was there a particular reason why you made the grouping this way this time?

Ali Chaouche: Concerning the selection of artists, this year, we opted to have three invited artists  (our choice was to have three contemporary Algerian artists who have been recognized recently for their creative productions and their diverse exhibitions across Algeria and abroad).  The other artists who were chosen, represent all the different cities of Algeria, (the young creators), and some of the Mediterranean countries. We accepted some countries outside of the Mediterranean region, because of their relationship to the theme of Exodus. This year, since we had this particular theme of Exodus, our selections were made with this topic as a priority.

Murray: Sadek, what was your major role as a curator in this exhibition?  I understand that you worked with several of the young artists helping them to develop their ideas, what can you share with us about this experience? In the Diaspora Pavilion in Venice, they paired more established artists with emerging artists, to help build and support the younger artists and their careers. Do you think this combination will be a new trend in biennial exhibitions? How do you see what you did in relation to the pairing of artists in the Diaspora Pavilion? As an established artist yourself, were you acting as curator and mentor to these young artists?

Rahim: What David A. Bailey and Jessica Taylor have done, as curators of the Diaspora Pavilion in Venice, and which is very interesting, is to create a pavilion structured as a project. They had the great idea to put out an open call for emerging British artists of various backgrounds in 2016. These young artists had not only to work for projects for the biennial, but also a two-year agenda of mentoring and support by a group of established artists. What we wanted to do at the Mediterranean Biennial of Contemporary Art in Oran, was a bit the same, except with regard to Algeria, there is a sense of urgency, because we are significantly behind in this area.

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Photo credit Sadek Rahim, Camps, an installation by Djamel Benchenine

Rahim: The curatorial work with three young artists, which I had, was such a great experience for me as an artist and as a supporter of change in the cultural and academic programs of our country. These three young artists: Islem Haouti, Nora Zaïr, and Djamel Benchenine were such a good example of what we can do to help young artists to take a step forward. Djamel Benchenine had proposed at the end of my work with him, an installation 6/7 meters called ‘Camps’ a model of a Sahrawi refugee camp (Dakhla) in the city of Tindouf in Algeria. The artist made the tents of this camp out of wood, originally white, Djamel painted them in black, a color that reflects the tragedy of these peoples lives. In 2016, Djamel was invited as an artist to The International Film Festival of Western Sahara (Fisahara), which takes place at this camp among others and also, simultaneously, in Madrid, allowing for a greater number of personalities from the world of Spanish cinema, culture as well as Spanish citizens sympathizing with the Saharawi cause, and to the public in general, to attend and to inquire about the situation of the Saharawi refugees.

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Photo credit Nora Zaïr, a photograph called, Up, by Nora Zaïr

Rahim: Nora Zaïr, photographer, worked on Rumi poetry. Rumi was one of the first who elaborated the ‘Sufi turning’ or the dervish dance, the physical exertions of movement, specifically dancing and whirling, in order to reach a state assumed by outsiders to be one of ‘ecstatic trances’ a way to travel ‘above’ to be closer to heaven. Her installation, a photograph ‘big sticker’ is glued to one of the panels of the museum elevator. Nora photographed a kid next to graffiti on a wall, which said ‘’towards a reinvented world”.

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Photo credit Sadek Rahim, Freedom by Islem Haouti

Rahim: My work with photographer Islem Haouti was mostly about contemporary techniques and how to represent photography in a contemporary way. Islem chose to print a photograph called ‘freedom’ taken in the Western Sahara camps on a sticker and directly mounted it on one of the walls of the museum. The picture was taken when he worked with the Spanish human rights organization ARTifariti, inside a camp in the Western Sahara in 2016. And finally, yes, I think this combination should be a trend in the biennials, especially those of the Arab world and more precisely of the MENASA region (Middle East North Africa South Asia).

Murray: Who were the main jury members for the selection and what background do they have? Have they been involved with this biennial since the beginning?

Ali Chaouche: The principle members of the jury were : Sadek Rahim: artist (https://www.saatchiart.com/account/profile/90542)master’s laureate of the world-renowned, Central St. Martins University of the Arts in London, Co-curator and Co-Founder of the the Mediterranean Biennial of Contemporary Art of Oran, Hafid Boualem: Filmmaker and screenwriter (member of Civ-Oeil Gallery), Karim Benacef : Journalist (director of publication), Abdelhamid Aouragh : Photographer (journalist for Elkhabar ), Tewfik Ali Chaouche, President of the Jury: Artist (Co-Founder and President of the Mediterranean Biennial of Contemporary Art of Oran) During the 3rd and 4th Biennial, Tewfik Ali Chaouche was the curator representing Algeria in the Magmart International Videoart Festival. The members of the jury are all members of the Association of Visual Arts, Civ-Oeil and they have participated actively in the preparation of the 4th biennial. Of note,

I, myself, in the role of co-curator, consulted many professionals in the field of contemporary art, concerning the choices for the 4th biennial (outside of the jury itself) and with Sadek Rahim, we made a final selection taking into consideration the context of contemporary Algerian artists (integrating the works of some young emerging artists) who were included at the end with the selected artists.

Murray: What particularly surprised you about the submissions this year?

Ali Chaouche: This year, many artists surprised us with the context of their works :

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Photo credit Djamel Benchenine, Installation, Exodus Cigarette by Djamel Benchenine

BENCHENINE Djamel, with his installation, Exodus Cigarette: this recent graduate of the Fine Arts School of Oran, made a connection with the younger generation of artists searching for liberty and discovery, he started by making graffiti on the walls of Oran (he draws, paints, and writes poetry to express himself and communicate a message) …with this installation, he delivers to us a strong and expressive message of Exodus in relation to cigarettes (youth smoke Kif or hashish for their specific Exodus)…through these drawings on cigarette papers, he tells us of the daily life of all youth who are forgotten in the shadows of the exodus of the cigarette (he cites 3 stages of the trip for young people : 1st trip towards God (with the worst and the best… to meditate), 2nd is a trip across Europe (immigration or exile), 3rd a trip through the cigarette papers (his drawings on these little translucent papers, but it’s also a trip into recklessness from the effects of hashish used to forget all of life’s daily problems).

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Photo credit Tewfik Ali Chaouche, artist Reyna (Renée Rey) performing Les Naufragés at the Mediterranean Biennial of Contemporary Art of Oran

Renée Rey (Reyna): This French artist is personally engaged in the theme with her performance art connecting photo-video and installation with paintings of drowned people, she presents to us a different way of participating in a biennial of contemporary art, where her way of sharing with the public of Oran engages the audience, quickly. Her section at the exhibition was the most visited and achieved the greatest interest and curiosity from the public.

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Photo credit Sofiane Zouggar, Stories/Moving Objects by Sofiane Zouggar, www.sofianezouggar.com

Sofiane Zouggar : who made up part of the young contemporary Algerian artists, in this biennial, he presents his reflection in Exodus through a work entitled, Stories/Moving Objects, a beautiful story of a Syrian refugee from Aleppo, exiled to Algiers through the melodies of reed instruments that he makes and plays…this video shows us the drama of the Syrian Exodus from a different artistic angle with musical harmonies of the Ney (an oriental flute made of reeds)

Murray: Were there interpretations of the theme, Exodus, that were different than one would expect?

Ali Chaouche : Yes, there were some artists whose works interpreted the theme of Exodus in a very different way- that is what makes contemporary art so rich, the video art was more present in this biennial, which was a new thing for the MAMO

(Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Oran) which was, recently, inaugurated in March 2017 and did not always have the technical requirements for video projection.

One specific interpretation that caught our attention in terms of the technical and the artistic features, is without a doubt, your (Anne Murray) performance video, Exquisite Exodus. As an American artist, and global citizen, your work was quickly noticed for your beautiful performance video and photo installation highly enhanced by the technique and style of the interpretation of the theme of Exodus, which takes a dimension more psychological in the video accompanied by a narrative text … I see it as a professional work, which makes us proud to have you among the selected artists.   

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Photo credit Anne Murray

Exquisite Exodus by Anne Murray, watch the video here: http://www.annemurrayartist.com/exquisite-exodus.html (pictured above is fellow artist participant, Sihem Salhi, watching the video) www.annemurrayartist.com

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Photo Credit Anne Murray, video Exquisite Exodus by Anne Murray

Murray: What were the last three biennials like? What venues? How many artists? How were they selected?

Ali Chaouche: The three previous biennials were at the Oran Cathedral (Médiathèque). The 1st Biennial theme was, Contemporary Art in Every State, and it took place from November 27-29, 2010. There were thirty artists who participated hailing from four countries, with 120 works of plastic art and 30 videos. We had 1200 visitors, and it was curated by HACHEMI AMEUR, Director of the Fine Arts School of Mostaganem.  

The 2nd Biennial theme was, Young Contemporary Creation, and it was from March 29-31, 2012 with fifty artists, 15 were foreigners. We had 2 artists-in-residence: Samta Benyahia  and Flaye. There were 3000 visitors and I was the curator. (Tewfik ALI CHAOUCHE, artist/painter –Founder and President of Civ-Oeil)

The 3rd Biennial theme was, The Other, and it was from June 8-10, 2014, also with 50 artists including 15 foreigners and we also had the same 2 artists-in-residence: Samta Benyahia  and Flaye. We had less visitors that year because the timing was during the Baccalaureate exams, around 1500 visitors. We also has a an art intervention by the collective  BOX 24 (Algiers) and had a video projection, a selection fo the international festival, Five. The curator was Karim SERGOUA (artist –teacher at the Fine Arts School).

Murray: What do you plan for the upcoming biennial?

Ali Chaouche: Everything depends on finances: if our association sustained financial support from the ministry of culture for this event it would have been different: We would have an open call to find an event agency that could create the programming for this international event a year in advance. We would choose 3 independent professional curators, with each proposing a different theme: 1 curator for the Algerian diaspora abroad, 1 curator to choose the local artists, 1 curator to choose the foreign artists. The biennial would extend to other spaces around the city of Oran and we would create a catalogue before the opening of the exhibition and other brochures to share around the city and to attract tourism. There would also be guided visits for students and scholars with mediators of contemporary art

Murray: How much do you think the venue and the support of the organizations involved has affected the outcome of the biennials of the past and the current biennial?

Ali Chaouche: Without a doubt, the place of exhibition and the support of state institutions plays a crucial role in the continuation of this art event: previously we had no financial support from the Ministry of Culture, and yet, thanks to various sponsors and partners, we were able to mount this biennial anyway (in the basement of the Mediateque (former Cathedral of Oran, which is currently empty). Now with the new Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, the director is in favor of a partnership and so the financing for the next edition is open to possibilities and we have an optimistic vision for the future.

Murray: Tewfik, what do you as a curator and/or artist bring to the biennial that is unique?

Ali Chaouche: As the curator and artist founder of this biennial, I do everything I can with the organization, administration, and the making of the different exhibitions. There are multiple objectives for this biennial: to create a platform of contemporary art for exchange between artists of the Mediterranean region, also to create an Algerian art market in partnership with the international art market, to make the work of contemporary Algerian artists known internationally, to participate in the confrontation of some of the themes that unite us, and also to participate in the evolution of contemporary art in the Mediterranean region with conferences and round tables, as well as to create catalogues and brochures.

Murray: How do local artists feel about the Venice Biennial? Is it a goal to be represented there?

Ali Chaouche: The Venice Biennial remains the principal frame of reference for excellence for every artist in the Mediterranean region and, most certainly, for Algerian artists in their quest for international recognition, knowing full well that after having exposed their work in the ‘oldest biennial of the world’ its fame will move an artist further up the list of notoriety; some of the artists who have benefited from this recognition and opportunity are French-Algerians, who have had the opportunity to show in other national and curated pavilions, which are not labeled as Algerian, thanks to the help of their galleries, examples are Kader Atia and Adel Abdessemed.

Murray: Sadek, as an Algerian artist with growing distinction in the world, especially after your recent participation in Art Dubai, what are your thoughts and goals and are they related in any way to the Venice Biennial?

Rahim: Even though one’s chances are slim, with my gallery owner in Algiers, Amal Rougab, and the president of the Biennale of Oran, Tewfik Ali Chaouche, we are setting up a project and hoping that the Ministry of Culture will finally make a contribution to try to have a space in the next edition of the Venice Biennale.  We are very motivated since for a very long time artists of Algerian origin participated in the Venice Biennial under so many other flags other than the Algerian one:Kader Attia, Zineb Sedira, Samta Benyahia… in 2015 Massinissa Selmani presented with curator Okwui Onwezor the project 'All the world's future' which had a ‘Special Mention’ during the 56th Biennale Of Venice.

Murray: What are some of the similarities and connections between Venice and Oran historically and in contemporary times?

Ali Chaouche: Oran and Venice are both Mediterranean cities, which have experienced a rich history of cultural and artisanal exchange since the time of the Ottoman empire, when the governor of Oran, Mohamed Kebir, employed some Venetian artisans for the decoration of his palace and vice versa, some Andalusian artisans from Oran, passed their knowledge and skills to Venice. From previous Venice Biennials, one has seen some connections made to Algeria-  in the French pavilion, most notably with the architecture in the balconies of the architect Pouillon (from the period of colonization)…

Murray: What is it that attracts Algerian artists to the Venice Biennial, is there an interest in its connection to the art market?

Ali Chaouche: The Venice Biennial is the tipping point of contemporary art; it is of major importance in the world art market with its reputation and above all, it is the meeting place for art enthusiasts and collectors, from which stems, the interest of curators and Algerian gallerists to eventually have representation with an Algerian Pavilion in Venice.

Murray: How do you see the attraction of Algerians to the Venice Biennial and what are some of the issues related to the contemporary art scene in Algeria that you see manifesting themselves?

Rahim: Many artists leave Algeria because there is a great lack of galleries, museums, art fairs and above all the art market here is at its very infancy. Most of these artists leave the country for Europe or the USA, like Yazid Oulab, Massinissa Salmani or Adel Abdessemed. Artists who are still in the country bet on international events to show their work, to make a living and especially to prove to all the world that there is a consequent art production in the country. So, events such as the Venice Biennial are the ideal opportunity for Algerian artists to prove themselves and their very artistic existence.

Murray: The development of national pavilions has been a large part of the history of the Venice Biennial, how does that relate to Algeria historically and the desires of Algerian artists?

Rahim: In Algeria since its independence in 1962, protectionism, populism and above all nationalism are strict in the country; I wonder how the Algerian state resisted an opportunity like the Venice Biennial to show its power and greatness as is often done during military parades and other nationalist occasions.

Murray: What makes the biennial in Oran distinct from other biennials in the world?

Ali Chaouche: It’s the people and the city, who are open to Mediterranean cultures and to the world, the people are welcoming and curious about contemporary art. On the economic plane, Oran is the 2nd largest city in Algeria after the capital, with its oil port of Arzew and its industrial zone; it has been in a state of urban expansion since 2010 and there is an awareness of that it is still in an adolescent stage (Metro-with the formation of new networks of roads and urban spaces, etc.)… from this, the interest springs to create a new contemporary art space like the Museum of Modern and Conteporary Art of Oran, where the biennial is held this year, and for the work of the organizers of the creation of the network of art lovers and emerging collectors, businessmen like Mr. Dillali Merhi who owns a collection of Dinet, which he donated a part of to the Royal Hotel of Oran, an art space where many art enthusiasts who are investors in Oran in the domain of art and culture can meet up ; it is a city that flourishes day by day with its youth population very focused on new mediums of contemporary expression (photo, video, installation).

Murray: What makes this year’s biennial  in Oran important?

Ali Chaouche: In our eyes, the 4th edition of the biennial in Oran is important because it confirms how unique this union of contemporary art of the Mediterranean is, unique because it is created by an artistic and cultural association (Civ- Oeil glalery). For this reason, one can not simply compare it to other biennials that are run by state authorities and ministries (where politics lays a hand on art). Also, another imporant element of the 4th edition, is the theme, Exodus, which tips its hat to humanity, which, in my opinion, remains the center of interest of authentic and sincere contemporary creation. This is especially true with regard to the artists of Mediterranean countries.

Murray: How is Oran influenced by tourism and what does this mean for the role of visual arts professionals?

Ali Chaouche: Yes, it is influenced tremendously by tourism. During the holiday season, 8 million tourists come to enjoy the spas with their natural springs in the city. It is important for visual arts professionals to invest in the creation of galleries and contemporary art exhibition spaces connected to tourist sites, in order to magnify the exhibitions and festivals in this domain to ensure a creative and dynamic environment, in the sense that it is the tourists, who are in a way the ones who can help launch the art market, as I said before, (this implies both art enthusiasts and collectors).

Murray: Why do it? What makes you put the time in to create a large-scale exhibition like this in Algeria?

Ali Chaouche:  Our association, Civ-Oeil, was created in August of 1997.  For 20 years, we have, myself and some other founding members, organized the 1st National Salon of Fine Arts of Oran. In 2000, we followed with several editions in partnership with the director of culture of the city of Oran, but our ambition grew beyond the scope of the Mediterranean in 2005, and since then many countries have participated. The 5th Mediterranean Salon of Fine Arts, was a complete success in terms of artistic exchange and culture, and let’s not forget to mention that at the time we organized, simultaneously, the Mediterranean Salon of Visual Art and the International Rai Festival of Oran(another level of sharing between visual artists and musical artists). Since 2010, we decided to create this biennial, thankfully with the encouragement of many partners, who have promised us their help (it is only that we had some financial problems relating to our commitments, which are neutral and non-political).  We maintain our freedom in our choices and ideas with respect to the founding principles of the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria. Our Biennial is a biennial founded and created by an artistic and cultural association independent of any guardianship. In the end, what really brings us to realize the magnitude of the impact and importance of this biennial, is our success in the previous editions, which makes our commitment to sharing and creating exchanges between other countries and artists of the Mediterranean and the world, a key factor in creating a message of peace for a better world.

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Photo credit Anne Murray, Guided visit with curators and artists to the Institut Français of Oran

Murray: I also want to mention that there were and continue to be, great things happening for both the public and the participating artists in the biennial. Several of the artists gave artist talks and also met and interacted with the other artists, including going on a guided visit with both of you to an exhibition at the Institut Français, http://www.if-algerie.com/oran. Also, there have been poetry slam events, musical events, author events, with much more to come. Congratulations to you both on a very successful biennial with such tremendous attendance on a daily basis from the public!

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Response to the Dana Schutz Controversy by Joe Lewis, Artist

by the-biennial-project 27. July 2017 13:07

ANNA, MAR 25TH, 9:39AM Hi Joe I hope you are well! This is Anna Salmeron from The Biennial Project. You entered work for our upcoming show - which we love. I am writing to you because I have been thinking about the controversy at the Whitney Biennial in NYC. I would like to put together a post of artists of color giving their thoughts related to this controversy. Would you be willing to write something on this subject? What do you think?

JOE, MAR 26TH, 1:42PM Joe Lewis accepted your request. I like the idea. Count me in. what are your next steps?

ANNA, MAR 26TH, 3:54PM Great!!! Write what you think, and send it to us with any info about how you would like us to introduce you and any links to your work that you would like to have included. Here are a couple of articles on the controversy:

HYPERALLERGIC: Protesters Block, Demand Removal of a Painting of Emmett Till at the Whitney Biennial

ARTNET: Social Media Erupts as the Art World Splits in Two Over Dana Schutz Controversy

JOE, MAR 27TH, 4:39PM The following thoughts crystallized for me after reading Brian Boucher’s balanced March 24, 2017 piece on the controversy, “Social Media Erupts as the Art World Splits in Two Over Dana Schutz Controversy,” and then scrolling down to read the Artnet piece that followed “Turkish Artist Zehra Doğan Sentenced to Prison for Painting of Kurdish Town Attack. Doğan has been given a sentence of 2 years and 10 months by a Turkish court. [ ARTNET: Turkish Artist Zehra Doğan Sentenced to Prison for Painting of Kurdish Town Attack  ]

How close are we to that?

I oppose censorship in all of its forms but am inclined to open conversation and dialog.

However, this doesn’t negate the fact that the non-artist-of-color enjoys access, place, and creative privilege.

But let’s not assume the worst characteristics of the oppression – erasure, and suppression.

Joe Lewis, Artist (I am uncomfortable attaching any additional info/images/website about my work to this statement because the issue is not about me. ) Regards, Joe

ANNA, MARCH 27TH, 8:46PM Wow, Joe, this is perfect and very thoughtful. Thanks so much.


Chat Conversation End

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The Irish Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale 2017

by the-biennial-project 23. July 2017 13:17

by Anne Murray, for The Biennial Project

[Editor’s note: profoundly strong review of one of the most powerful exhibitions at the 2017 Venice Biennale, written by another member of The Biennial Project Gang in Venice, Anne Murray - whose own art is also a must see!]

“My broken bones shall be a weapon,

chaos is the bread I eat!”

clip_image002Photo of Jesse Jones’ installation by Anne Murray

With an impressive sense of dignity, profound understanding of the human condition, and in full knowledge of the challenge that women face in a rapidly morphing set of boundaries created through elusive and divisive judiciary systems in Ireland and abroad, Jesse Jones has created a meta world which challenges the legal system, where what we think and see implores us to react and evolve or suffer the vile subsistence living that will ensue in the storm of chaos unleashed in the form of women forced to take justice into their own hands.

Tremble, Tremble, curated by Tessa Giblin, is more than a pavilion, it is a space between, a space possessed by magic and where fears take shape in an unearthly form, as a human buried under the bog, preserved in flesh, but morphed, shape shifted into something beyond comprehension.

Here, women have an enormous tempest of power controlled only by the force of the black hole of the body of Olwen Fouéré, as a photon encircling and drawn into it only when encountered by the the Higgs boson particle, a weight that gives our thoughts as light mass, and thus, slows us down; we are trapped in this hole with her, as if time would stop or else become eternal, both one in the same.

clip_image004       Photo of Jesse Jones’ installation by Anne Murray

The performer, a witch pulling the strings of the legal system as if she could change all at the wave of a finger or by towing a cart filled with fallen furniture, is a challenge by her sheer size and demeanor alone, but her words haunt us. As the work unfolds, two gigantic curtains are heard moving along tracks and encircling us, portraits of the artist Jones’ mother’s arms photo-printed upon diaphanous black fabric curtains, they stop with the two hands cupped over an invisible orb, the implication is the Earth, our world in her hands. The arms as giant as Ozymandias disembodied, strong and alive with light. Later, when the curtains move again, each arm encircles a sculpture of a bone, perhaps the bones of the witch herself pulled from the preserving womb of the bog and wiped clean for this display - they suggest the power of potions, a talisman, and reliquaries.

The artist Jesse Jones worked with the performer Olwen Fouéré and composer Susan Stenger, forming a triangulation akin to the Morrigan or the infamous witches in Macbeth, who could see the future passing one eye to share with another. The sound is perfectly aligned, mysterious, startling and eerily haunting.

We see performance artist, Olwen Fouéré, a collaborator in Jones’ production, who taunts us from her position of power on a twenty or so foot projection screen, “Are you ready for chaos?” her voice challenges us. At first her shoulders thrust back, in a power stance, as advertised by those advising us on television and the internet to take this position to equal our stance in the presence of those who would oppress us in the work place, Fouéré floats down from the upper left hand corner of the screen, growing larger and filling the space as she emerges, a tall witch clothed in homespun clothes of some earlier epic. Her sheer height with her exaggerated perspective looking down on us, brings to mind the powerful dragon shapes of the Northern lights as seen hundreds of years ago and their mysterious movement across the night sky without explanation or constancy. She appears then across the room, another screen holds a close-up of her face, her wrinkled and ashen skin warns us of our own mortality. We see lips and hair and teeth.

I am reminded of a remark made by a board member of Chapter in Cardiff, about how a woman becomes invisible as she reaches middle age; in the work of Jesse Jones, the woman as witch, is not only visible, she is a deity standing over us casting spells with her defiant words.

clip_image006                                                       Photo of Jesse Jones’ installation by Anne Murray

Fouéré turns a podium in her hands in a toy-like fashion, her huge form emerging again on the screen, she picks it up and twists counter-clockwise around and around as to turn justice upside down and time backwards. She chants:

All that is has its other as above shall be below. Drink your wine and spoil the barrels. Your house in ruins at my feet. My broken bones shall be a weapon, chaos is the bread I eat. My broken bones shall be a weapon, chaos is the bread I eat.

Have you had enough yet, or do you still have time for chaos? Huh, more? I’ll be watching you. You won’t forget us, even if you try and sweeps us away.

In an archaic text projected on the wall one reads:

Whoever believes that any creature can be changed for the better or worse? And bring it to utter confusion. They could destroy the world for if it were so.

One remembers the works of the artist Annette Messager comparing the different roles of women in history - as the temptress and the trickster, but here the witch is somehow more than just a symbol - something visceral, dangerous and possibly more wise than one would like to know; it is as if all the projected fears of 800 hundred years of women’s history have given birth to the vile woman that each of us is secretly perceived to be, the monster that apparently many cultures think exists inside of us.

But, is she a monster, or a witch, or just old and wise and eating chaos in the same way a mother follows in the wake of a family and all its chaotic existence in daily life, picking up toys and clothes, and cleaning up? What exactly is Jones trying to tell us here, what does she want us to realize?

Tremble, Tremble, conjures up images of witches in a subliminal way, somehow the repetition immediately drawing out one’s memories of Macbeth and the three witches chanting. The title comes from a chant made by Italian women fighting for wages as housewives in the 1970’s, “Tremate, tremate, le streghe sono tornate! (Tremble, tremble, the witches have returned!)”.

This exhibition lives up to this immediate reference of our collective unconscious, connecting the Italian historic words of women protesting for their right to wages and women all over the world fighting for their rights in historic Women’s Marches that began in Washington, DC this past January 2017, and have spread in solidarity across the planet.

If you can, go see it and stay for all 27 minutes, it is worth every second and will stay with you until you decide what you are going to do to change the world, the legal system, and to fight for women’s rights, because women’s rights are everyone’s rights, we are your mothers, sisters, daughters, students, and we need you to stand up for us and eat the chaos before it eats you.

Article by Anne Murray

www.annemurrayartist.com

www.cloudconversations.weebly.com

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NOTES FROM VENICE – The 57th Venice Biennale and ArtVenice Biennale IV

by the-biennial-project 16. July 2017 08:21

WONDERFUL article about the Venice Biennale (and ArtVenice Biennale IV organized by The Biennial Project) by Charlene Liska, originally published in the North End Waterfront.

The Biennial Project at Spazio TanaIl Mondo Magico (photos courtesy The Biennial Project)

In this era of biennials, The Venice Biennale, the vast international art festival begun in 1895, is the grandmother of them all. While Venice is revered for it’s great Renaissance and earlier art, the Biennale has always managed to feature avant-garde and contemporary art, and somehow the contrast enlivens both worlds.

I attended the first week of the Venice Biennale with an East Boston-based arts organization, “The Biennial Project” which began about 10 years ago as a send-up of the many pretensions of the art world and has since grown into a world-wide network of people who care a lot about art and not at all about the pretensions. The BP stages its own counter-biennials, including one in Marfa, Texas and four Boston Biennials that have been held here locally, last in 2016. These people are the most serious fun around!

This year, in addition to attending the official Biennale, the Boston-based organization held its own parallel Venice event that featured several hundred artists from across the globe. Participating artists included German-born painter-sculptor Artemis Herber, Florida-based photographer Barbara Revelle, videographer Tom Corby from London, and Zsolt Asztalos, who represented Hungary in the official 2013 Biennale but who chose this year to appear in the Boston organization’s parallel event instead. Poetry, in English and Italian, was recited, locals and visitors confabbed, words and prosecco flowed liberally. One couldn’t really say it was a bit of Boston in Venice; it was more like a bit of the world, that had come together under prompting from Boston on a dark night in a Venice neighborhood to talk, and drink, and talk some more about art, because they admired the weird and interesting spirit of the Biennale and the art works that were on display.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: CLICK HERE to see the galleries of beautiful work exhibited in ArtVenice Biennial IV.]

And there were some stunning pieces in the Venice Biennale, not least, the small old wooden country house with holes in its roof that was imported in its entirety from the Republic of Georgia, down through which the artist, Chachkhiani, caused artificial rain to pour unceasingly, covering everything inside with dripping water; it captured everyone’s worst fear about waking up in the middle of the night to hear water dripping, and finding that somehow a hole has opened up in the roof — in this case many holes! — and the rain is starting to come in. And in the Italian pavilion, Il Mondo Magico, an exhibit which showed an assembly line in which simulated dried and mummified life-sized corpses of Christ were manufactured from plastic materials and then were heated in ovens and allowed to molder, and then, once finished, were broken into large pieces and displayed, in more or less random order, on a dark wall. It was about imitation versus reality, yes, and the almost unbelievable power of technology, but also about magic, and how and why people hope, and the power of belief. Of course, there were more conventional pieces too, in their hundreds; but this gives you an idea.

About timing, for anyone who might be thinking of attending — and it’s well worth going to see! — it makes a Venice trip even more dramatic than it would otherwise be. Either go early, as I did this year, in May, for the excitement of the crowds and the fun of getting there first, or otherwise consider waiting till late in the year — say, October month — which can be exquisite too, since the fact that there are no crowds then means you can actually see and enjoy and understand things in your own good time.

And full marks to “The Biennial Project”: they’re projecting Boston onto the global arts scene in a singular way, and they do it basically because, being artists themselves, they can’t help it. These people are living to make, and view, and talk about art. Interesting way to live.

Contact Information:
Venice Biennale 2017 —
http://www.labiennale.org/en/art/exhibition/
The Biennial Project blog —
http://the-biennial-project.com/blogengine.NET/
Facebook —
https://www.facebook.com/The-Biennial-Project-208168052547147/

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INTUITION at Palazzo Fortuny

by the-biennial-project 2. July 2017 19:55

[part of an ongoing series of reviews by Biennial Project Artists on their favorite things at the Venice Biennale 2017]

by Coral Woodbury, for The Biennial Project

“When you reach the end of what you should know, you will be at the beginning of what you should sense.”

- Kahlil Gibran

“When the body functions spontaneously, that is called instinct. When the soul functions spontaneously, that is called intuition.”

- Shree Rajneesh

Peter Greenaway's installation at Palazzo Fortuny during the 1993 Venice Biennale left such an impression on me that the one thing I knew heading to Venice was that I would return to the Palazzo. Even in Venice this is a unique space, embodying faded and decaying grandeur while preserving the home and collections of Mariano Fortuny, an early twentieth-century stage, fashion, and lighting designer. So the house is a stage set of sorts, and one an artist like Greenaway knew how to animate eerily.

As it turned out, I was in time for the sixth and last collaboration of Axel Vervoordt, Belgian antiquarian, art dealer, interior designer and curator, and Daniela Ferretti, Director of Palazzo Fortuny. Intuition was absolutely worth the 25 year wait.

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The exhibition explores “how intuition has, in some form, shaped art across geographies, cultures and generations. It [brings] together historic, modern and contemporary works related to the concept of intuition, dreams, telepathy, paranormal fantasy, meditation, creative power, hypnosis and inspiration.” It showcases work by anonymous ancient artists to iconic surrealists and modernists to El Anatsui and Marina Abromovich. The resulting show probes questions about the creative impulse, the subconscious origin of art making. You come to sense that the four floors of art are brought together as a devotional study, a deep research into an inexplicable yet ultimately knowable mystery. Within the palace walls are volumes of thought about this thing that is beyond thought. This thing that cannot be expressed in words.

Beyond words, but Vervoordt fully articulates it in vision and experience. Entering on the ground floor, most raw of the spaces, you are first confronted with Neolithic menhirs, powerful in their monumental quiet. Then you turn, and you see they are paired with a large Basquiat. In a flash of comprehension you sense the connections between these disparate works before you could ever start to formulate words about them. The entire show is like this: a dynamic dialogue of works speaking to each other, and you enter into this dialogue. Seemingly unrelated works create a humming

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energy. If you are quiet you can attune yourself to this vibration. Juxtapositions and connections unfold across time, across geography, across culture, but unite in exploring this one overarching theme that connects humanity across all of its separations.

As you move up to the piano nobile, a violin sound installation resonates through the historic interior, creating an enchanting environment. It is a dim space, almost too dim to read the labels, but illuminated by irregular pulses of soft light from great domed fixtures overhead. These lights brighten in response to lightning hitting anywhere in Italy, connecting this interior space to the outside world, and your experience to others’. From the darkness of this floor you move up into light, the blacks give way to whites where airy rooms are filled with the light of Venice and work enlivened by light. Soft shades of damaged frescoes meld with the colors of paper, felt, and

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canvas. Up another floor the walls are the color of terra cotta and the work there has an earthiness to its form and materials. A participatory installation invites visitors to roll balls from lumps of clay, leaving behind an embodied meditative moment, amassing collectively on a giant oval table. Each level of the show contains and is an example of exquisitely sensitive creation.

The sheer beauty of the works, independently and in harmony, set this show apart. There is a lot of brute and ugly art during the biennial, as there is brutality and ugliness in the world, but not here. The beauty is soothing and embracing; the silent conversations between the works, inspiring and exciting; the wholeness of the show is ethereal. Vervoordt’s final exhibition here cannot explain intuition, but it does engender a deep understanding of it, and a sparking of it in one’s own spirit.

https://intuition.art

Fortuny Palace info and tickets

Check out Coral’s beautiful work here: http://jcoral.com/

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The Taiwanese Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

by the-biennial-project 18. June 2017 12:51

by Barbara Jo Revelle

Ok, I’ll admit this up front. I’m wildly attracted to durational performance art. I do it myself sometimes. Not so long ago, as part of an art installation scrutinizing my father’s big game hunting practice, I walked continuously - eight hours a day, seven days a week, for two weeks - on a treadmill set up in a gallery. I stopped only to take pees. While I moved I edited 100+ hours of my father’s old hunting films and videos - mostly shots of him watching game from blinds, hanging cut up animal parts baits in trees, or posing with dead animals and the African natives who helped him track and kill them. This footage was projected onto the gallery walls in front of me as I walked and worked.

I was trained as a photographer and filmmaker but there has often been at least a nod to durational performance in my own art projects. In the late 1970’s, more than half a lifetime ago, when I was just getting serious about art making and was traveling from San Francisco to Belize, I did a 91-day durational performance called Reading. The rules I gave myself included traveling only at night, reading the local newspaper from whatever town I woke in each day, and then spending whatever was left of the morning reading art theory. At noon I stopped reading and used the rest of the daylight hours trying to track down and photograph whatever was referenced in the news, using whatever strategy the theory readings had inspired. My “tracking” activities got me into all kinds of trouble, legal and otherwise. The resulting exhibition at the San Francisco Art Institute consisted of 91 columns of my daily photographs, a diaries, maps, the front pages of each newspaper and xeroxes of the art theory hung so that viewers could take each text off the wall and read it.

So, yeah. No big surprise that the artist I loved the most in all the dizzying array of projects and spectacles at the 2017 Venice Biennale was Tehching Hsieh in the Taiwanese pavilion. Hsieh is the quintessential endurance artist. In this exhibition “Doing Time” various documents, maps, charts, films, photos and artifacts evidenced two of his monumental ‘One Year Performances’. In one (Time Clock Piece, 1980-81) he clocked onto a worker’s time clock on the hour, EVERY hour, for the entire year. Talk about extreme measures, abjection, suffering, and survival through adversity? Wow! Each time he punched the time clock a movie camera shot a single frame. The film went by in about 6 minutes. You could see his hair grow and the effects of extreme sleep deprivation worsen, but mostly you just had to imagine what it might be like to do something that insane to your own body. Hsieh makes other endurance artists look like pleasure seekers by comparison.  Was this piece intended as a metaphor about labor? How selling your time cuts into one’s sense of self as a sentient being? Was this a politically inflected critique of routinized labor practices? Capitalism? Over the top masochism? WTF was this event? What did it mean to do something like this? By comparison, all this year’s other Venice sights paled (even Damien Hirst’s mind-boggling, two-museum embarrassment, even Roberto Cuoghi’s crazy Jesus-statue-factory in the Italian Pavilion.)

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“Endurance art” AKA “durational performance art” arguably started in about 1971 with Chris Burden (who taught at UCLA and who had an office right next door to mine… who also famously had his hands nailed to the roof of a Volkswagen Beetle in an artwork he called “Transfixed”). Before any of this he did his MFA thesis by locking himself into a small school locker for five days and nights. In the locker above his he placed a five-gallon bottle of water to drink, attached to his locker with a hose. In the locker below him was another five-gallon bottle, initially empty. That’s all.

A bit later others did similar strange things in the name of art. In 1974 the German artist Joseph Beuys, wrapped in his signature felt, had himself delivered by ambulance to a NYC gallery and subsequently caged in with a wild coyote for seven days and nights.

Today there are many venues, shows, journals and whole conferences devoted to durational performances. Scores of artists have become famous and infamous doing them. In The House with the Ocean View (2003), Marina Abramović lived for 12 days without food or entertainment, in total silence, on a stage entirely open to the audience. Since that time she has done all kinds of similar pieces culminating in the Artist is Present, 2010, Museum of Modern Art, NY, where she sat opposite museum visitors for eight hours a day, without speaking, for a total of 750 hours. She and her one-time lover Ulay, after they decided their relationship had run its course, each walked the Great Wall of China starting from opposite ends. They met in the middle and hugged goodbye. Poetic way to end a relationship, right?

Sometimes this kind of duration performance activity is called “time based art” or “endurance art” but whatever you call it, I’m in love with it. Lately I’ve been trying to figure out WHY. I swim laps daily, do some open-water, charity, distance swims, and have always been interested in discipline, stoicism and the like, but I think it’s more than that. What I really love about this kind of work is the impulse to do art that is not about making money, artwork that comes from some instinct that is the opposite of the intent to make art for the market. So much of the art world these days (art fairs, auctions, galleries, etc.) has become the playground of status seeking new millionaires and billionaires. So when I encounter artists who define art as experience, something by which one might be transformed, opened up, changed … well, I get excited. I remember why I wanted to be an artist in the first place. Now that I’m old (I’ll be 71 in four days) and retired from teaching, I do a lot of wandering and drifting around galleries, art fairs and biennales. I notice what most attracts me is work that raises questions about time, life, being … work that has conceptual purity and maybe even physical extremity.

For me, no other artist, not Abramović or Burden or even Emma Sulkowicz, the controversial student-artist who dragged a fifty pound mattress all over Columbia’s campus to make a point about rape, has made work with anything like the power, poetic reach or disturbing resonance of Tehching Hsieh’s high-stakes performances.

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In the second one-year performance (“Outdoor Piece”) featured at the Taiwanese pavilion, work made in 1981/82, Hsieh took deprivation and resourcefulness to a whole new level.  In that project he remained outside for a year without taking shelter of any kind (no cars, no trains, no tents). He did this in the streets of NYC in a year that was one of the coldest winters in history. The documents of his performance, photos of him crouching against a wall or sleeping near a fire in a trashcan, just show him surviving. You get to see only what he wore, what he carried, his sleeping bag, his backpack, how dirty and ‘unkempt’ he became. All the ingenuity, stoicism, and empty time on his hands is just implied, and there are only traces, haunting indexes, to answer the questions that arise in the viewer’s mind when contemplating the work. How did he feed himself? What did he think about? What did he DO all day? See? Was he afraid? In pain? How did he manage not to freeze to death? Did cops harass him? Was this event a Zen Buddhist influenced meditation? A metaphor?  For what? Was he happy? Radically forlorn? Was the work about homelessness in a political sense? About fear of being incarcerated?  Since Hsieh was an illegal immigrant at the time he did the project, and was not granted amnesty until 1988, his act of living by his wits in a big city, with only what he could carry on his back, resonates even more strongly in these heartless post-Brexit/Trump times, given the crisis faced by an estimated 65 million refugees in the world at this moment.

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Hsieh did three other yearlong performances, five in all.  His first, in 1978, consisted of him locking himself in a cage and not speaking, reading, watching TV or writing for a year. Later he and Linda Montano performed a collaboration whereby an eight-foot length of rope bound the two artists to each other 24 hours a day for another whole year (from July 4, 1983 to July 3, 1984). One of the rules was that they could not touch each other.

Lastly, in 1985-86, Hsieh did a yearlong performance with the single rule that he would stop making, seeing, reading about, talking about, or listening to anything about art. Now on the surface of it, a gesture like this might seem anticlimactic, but if you think about how intense had been his other four “one year performances”, doesn’t this art-free year just amplify the questions raised by all his prior practices and experiments? How is ‘art’ like -  and unlike -  ‘life’? What should one do with one’s time on earth?  What IS time? How is freedom related to entrapment? What IS freedom?

Additionally, since Hsieh, by the time he did this art-free year performance, had become “a well-known name” (read famous!) in the New York art scene, his fifth yearlong performance seems to be about becoming invisible again. I can’t think of a more radical way to challenge the commodification of art then to stop not only buying it, but to stop seeing it, talking about it, reading about it and making it. Keep in mind that the definition of commodification is the transformation of goods, services, ideas (and not least people) into objects of trade. Are artists - are people - turned into objects by selling their labor to the marketplace? For me Hsieh’s last one-year performance “No Art Piece” is about these root questions.

(Barbara Jo Revelle is an artist and educator living in Gainesville Florida. She is Professor Emeritus and former Director of the School of Art and Art History at the University of Florida.)

[EDITOR’S NOTE – She is also just the coolest, smartest, most  insanely fun and talented individual imaginable, and we are so damned lucky that she’s willing to run with us.]

 

barbarajorevelle.com

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What We Saw, What We Liked–Part One

by the-biennial-project 12. June 2017 16:19

The gang of Exceptionally Cool Biennial Project Artists that have just returned from our exhilarating trip to Venice for the press preview week of the Venice Biennale have each agreed to write for you about one exhibit that they really liked - proving that we artists can use our words too (sometimes anyway!). Here's What We Saw, What We Liked - Part One.

RUSSIAN PAVILION, by Charlene Liska

"No two people see the same Biennale, given the several thousand exhibits. Venice is momentary, fragmentary, a hope of chance sights that will hold fast in memory," says Laura Cumming of The Observer. So, stuck in my memory along with a handful of other exhibits (notably several wonderful uses of water and sound) is the Russian pavilion's ‘Theatrum Orbis,’ which references the first modern atlas. With the ambitious aim of spanning the world, the show features three separate pieces on 3 levels, by Grisha Bruskin, Recycle Group, and Sasha Pirogova. Of the three, I was particularly blown away by 'Scene Change' by Grisha Bruskin. It's a marvel of what you can do with black and white, what worlds it can span, how much more expressive and emotionally challenging it can be than ordinary color. In a darkened, domed space, white statues, some archaic, some surreal and futuristic, ring the walls, alternately harshly illuminated in raking light and plunged into darkness. Projected over and above the statues is a richly black and white animation of marching automatons, beginning with one individual, increasing to a horde, ultimately swarmed by fanciful airborne devices.  Sound builds from a low murmur  to shouts, roars, engine noises, finally to an hypnotic din. Are these multitudes contemporary freedom-fighters? Fascist brigades? Futuristic automatons? It is a deafening, mysterious, and sinister tour de force. In 'Scene Change', per Bruskin, "there is no movement whatsoever, be it from old to new, from primitive to complex, or from worse to better". What I love about this piece, with its great beauty and visceral allure that simultaneously attract and repel, is that it is also a sly reminder that such aesthetic thrills can cut both ways between sublime swoon, innocent enthusiasm ("Go team!"), and Riefenstahl-like enchantment. It's very old, but it's all still in there.

FINNISH PAVILION by Wayne Chisnall

photo by Paul Weiner

Re-imagining Finish society, and its stereotypes, through the eyes of two terraforming higher beings (Gen and Atum), Nathaniel Mellors and Erkka Nissinen provide the comedic highlight of this year's Venice Biennale. Unlike many a video installation, where three minutes can feel like three hours, their almost an hour-long piece, The Aalto Natives, leaves you wanting more. Much of this is down to the fact that the video element of the installation (there's also a delightful animatronics element) follows a traditional, if somewhat odd ball, narrative. Occupying a space somewhere between The Mighty Boosh, The Hitch Hikers Guide to The Galaxy, and a demented version of The Muppet Show, Mellors' and Nissinen's satirical sci-fi fairy tale will leave you smiling long after you've forgotten the majority of what's on offer at Venice Biennale 2017.

waynechisnall.com flickr.com/photos/waynechisnall instagram.com/WayneChisnall twitter.com/WayneChisnall

CZECH AND SLOVAC PAVILION by Rob Mackenzie

Rebounding from the political tone of recent Biennals, curator Christine Macel titled the 57th iteration "Viva Arte Viva," remarking, "It’s about art by artists for artists." But the show has always been about what artists want to say to each other and to the world. Jana Želibská’s installation at the Czech/Slovak Pavilion in Giardini speaks plainly about reflection and hope in the face of imminent political and ecological cataclysm.

Entering her pavilion one detours around a container jammed with flotsam. Inside, an array of luminous swans rests placidly on neat islets of coiled rope, backed by a projection of restless waves.

Like so many other voices here celebrating the art that makes us human, Želibská defines apocalypse as "a revealing of mysteries that brings a radical change in the ordering of the world," as she puts it. But her title, Swan Song Now, amid the continuing exodus of Venetian locals from their sinking ship, speaks more loudly, less hopefully.   

rmackenzieart.com

GREEK PAVILION by Nick DI Stefano

photo by Paul Weiner

Can the old and the new live together? Should tradition or the familiar have to make way for progress and the uncertainty that comes with it? Addressing current global sociopolitical issues (with a backdrop of ongoing refugee crises, rising nationalistic and partisan politics, and the economic issues of Greece and the EU at large) the work deals with the anguish and confusion of individuals and social groups when called upon to address similar dilemmas. Presenting viewers with the arguments, the onus is on action. With a classic yet efficient plan, artist George Rivas turns the Greek pavilion into an allegory of today’s scientific, geopolitic and demographic issues with a clear allusion to migratory flows.

Part of a collection of interactive pieces presented at the Biennale, George Drivas’ Laboratory of Dilemmas draws on the structure of ancient Greek drama and is presented on screens and as audio through an installation divided into three parts: the Upper Level, the Lower Level/Labyrinth and the Screening Room. The narrative and installation are based on Aeschylus’ theatre play Iketides (Suppliant Women), written between 463 and 464 BC and the first known literary text to reflect on the issues of a persecuted group of people seeking asylum.

The Suppliants, having left Egypt to avoid marrying their first cousins, arrive in city of Argos and seek asylum from its King. The King’s dilemma is central to the play: CONTINUE READING HERE

GEORGIAN PAVILION by Anna Salmeron

photo by Paul Weiner

photo by Paul Weiner

Living Dog Among Dead Lions "While someone is among the living, hope remains, such it is better to be a living dog than to be a dead lion." Ecclesiastes 9:4.

I have one rule about looking at art, and that is to always look at it first. Only if I like something about it I will then proceed to the artist's statement. Of course I know that art can be deepened by words of explanation, but call me old-fashioned in insisting that no amount of grad-school parlance can conjure something into being from work that is not compelling on it's own.

This rule has served me especially well at the fire hose of art that is the Venice Biennale, where one must have some kind of system to have any hope of progressing through such a bewildering amount of work.  Artistic projects large and small  (mostly large) come flying by so furiously that one can be forgiven for wondering if the resurrection itself might pass by unnoticed in such an environment. But then again, any kind of resurrection worth seeing would be able to get your attention anywhere, wouldn't it?

Of course it would. Faith, ye pilgrim.

And so it was that while winding my way through the seemingly unending procession of art installations that is exhibited in the Venice Arsenale during the Biennale, I suddenly came upon this house. This sad old rundown broken-hearted hill house, someplace where all your sad old rundown brokenhearted ancestors toiled and dreamed and then, well, died.  A house that is is pitch perfect in it's melancholy evocation of life and loss. And in a masterful inversion of all the adolescent let's-play-with-water-because-it's Venice-after-all-and we-are-so-you-know-site-specific (here's looking at you Canadian Pavilion), it is raining inside the house. Nice and sunny and prosecco-laden outside, but raining forever inside the little house. Forever, or for at least for the six months that the Venice Biennale runs. You can smell the rich earthy decay already, and this was just the first week. What's more, whoever brought us this delightfully doleful house of perpetual rain clearly welcomes us here, because they have provided wonderful little step ladders around the house so that we can climb up and peep in the windows, and look and smell and hear in the rain that sacred elegiac music that is always playing just outside the reach of our conscious minds. l love this doomed and sweetly mournful little house, which speaks such volumes on the wounds we live with deep inside. I will gladly read whatever words this artist has for us.

More sweet surprises! The words are wonderful. Almost as lovely as the house itself, which is the work of Georgian artist Vajiko Chachkhiani, and is Georgia's official contribution to this Venice Biennale. The brochure which accompanies the installation is dedicated to an interview with the artist, and in it one learns that he had the idea for such a house and went searching in the Georgian countryside until he found the perfect abandoned property up in the mountains. He brought the entire house to Venice where he re-assembled it along with all it's original furnishings. The interview is as direct and wise and unpretentious as the work - extraordinary for an artist who is only 32 years old. He must be an old soul. I am happy he is young in this life though, because that means that with luck we can follow his work for years to come. In the meantime, I'm out to walk my beloved live dogs in a nourishing spring-time rain.

AUSTRIAN PAVILION by Holly Howe (OK, we're cheating a little here - she's an actual journalist - but a really arty one.)

While you may not initially "see" the link between Erwin Wurm and Brigtite Kowanz, the two artists that curator Christa Steinle paired for this year's Austrian Pavilion, upon visiting the pavilion you literally see it.

While Wurm’s contribution to the pavilion is predominantly in the form of his “One Minute Sculptures” (which are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year), Kowanz’s “Infinity and Beyond” series comes in the form of neon writing placed on infinity mirrors. The link between the two? Temporality and viewer interaction.

Kowanz has said before in interviews that she’s happy for people to take selfies in her work (the bane of all art with a reflective surface), but even if they don’t, the act of looking at the work places the viewer within it while they look at it.

Wurm is more prescriptive with his sculptures, and the viewer is given instructions on how to pose with each piece, and which posture to adopt. The results are often amusing – on the opening morning, some visitors thought the models were wax dummies as opposed to living people – but in an interview with The Collectors Chronicle, Wurm stated “the assumption that my work is predominantly humorous is wrong.” Instead, he is more interested in the relationships between the objects in the gallery and how the viewers interact with them to create new objects.

Personally, I din't find Kowanz's work particularly new or engaging. Whereas Wurn's I loved, despite it being the continuation of an existing series. And what capped it off was the opportunity to climb to the top of an inverted truck outside the pavilion, and gaze at Venice. Even though Wurm's cheeky guidance was to "stand quiet and look out over the Mediterranean Sea". Which obviously isn't on view...

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LUXEMBOURG PAVILION by Markus Blaus

The Luxembourg Pavilion is famous with The Biennial Project and the rest of the throngs of hungry art-lovers that mob Venice during the opening week of the Biennale as being absolutely the most generous with their receptions – predictably providing an opulent opening night spread for a huge crowd that includes with not only the de rigueur endless supply of procecco, but full dinner and desserts as well.

This Biennale I was fortunate enough not only to eat and drink on their dime but to also speak at some length with the artist and with the curator of the exhibit.

The curator explained that the artists under consideration were first pruned down to a list of twenty five, then three, and that then the top three were invited to give an hour and a half presentation of their ideas to the judges. They wanted not only innovative ideas that represented Luxembourg but also a new youthful vision with a global perspective. The artist they chose, Mike Bourscheid, is 35 years old and currently lives in Vancouver Canada.

His installation consists of 5 rooms. Each room displays costumes the that artist wears during his performance pieces. One room feels much like a mash up of a sport teams locker room and a ballet studio. In it you will find many outfits consisting of heavy-looking leather aprons and large metal cage-like shoes.

Each of these “uniforms” has a number on it. These costumes represent personal connections for the artist. One had the number of his old soccer uniform as a kid. One was that of a former roommate. One was that of Wayne Gretzky the famous hockey player (99). Mike explained that this uniform also represented another hockey legend (whose name, symbolically enough, I can’t remember) who wore the number 9 and who spent his live accumulating enough goals to finally break the goal for the most goals in a career, only to have Sir Gretzky beat his record in only a few years.  During his performance piece for this uniform the artist uses a pony tail to cover one of the 9’s to transform from one of the hockey players to the other.

In another room viewers are required to put protective covers on their feet before walking on the carpet although the carpet is not in any way special. The act of putting covers on one's feet involves the viewer in the experience of putting on a costume and contributes to an overall vibe of viewer-friendly and playful performance that makes the Luxenbourg Pavilion a Biennial Project favorite (and not only for the quality of the vittles!).

OK, that should do it for What We Saw, What We Liked - Part One. Part Two up next!  Check out our blog, website and facebook page for more on Venice!

Some of the Biennial Project Gang in Venice photo by Paul Weiner

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