Tuesday, 18 April 2017

All The World's Females

With the 2017 Venice Biennale soon to kick off, Garageland's Kirsty Buchanan looks back on what we learned from the last one.

Martial Raysse, Makeup, 1962 at Palazzo Grassi

The theme of The 56th International Venice Art Exhibition, situated at the Giardini and Arsenale, curated by Okwui Enwezor was All the World’s Futures. In the expansive labyrinth of the Arsenale, one couldn’t help having an immense sense of misery. Heightened by the contrast between the high bright sun outside it felt prison-like almost apocalyptic. 

I came away feeling that 'All the World's Future' was a bleak place. I understand how important it is for art like this to exist, a visual platform that forces you into a painful reminder that there is necessary misery that exists in the world today. So, with guilt, anxiety and a mood overset with doom, I was seeking out hope.

Luckily I stumbled upon the Martial Raysse exhibition at Palazzo Grassi which was a delightful paradise Island, a reminder of the timelessness of humour and the simple joy of bright colours and neon lights. The expansive palazzo felt like an oversized dolls house decorated by a teenage girl in the 60s, all executed with such sophisticated kitsch. 

Pegeen Vail Guggenheim, The Sunshade, 1960s

I also visited the Peggy Guggenheim gallery for the first time which is now maybe one of my favourite places in Venice, as with everything in Venice, the context of the water, glass, crumbling extravagance is delightful.

My glimmers of hope, were found not only in satellite exhibitions around the city, but in some of the national pavilions of the Giardini. In my quest I discovered that most of the beacons of hope were female artists, natural champions of life and creativity. The opening party for Sarah Lucas’ exhibition at the Great Britain Pavilion, included a gig performed by an all-female, punk band. A reminder that political distress can be acknowledged in ways that involve flesh and bright colours.

Fiona Hall, Australian Pavilion

The acrid yellow rooms of the pavilion contained massive, solid versions of the sculptures she made using stuffed tights in the 90s. I felt a bit disenchanted with them as I often do with big metal sculptures that exist as expensive versions of their previous selves. But as a whole they have a fluidity and life of their own, like giant maternal insects living in a yellow house. The glowing yellow of the walls not only recreated the warmth of sunshine but also putrid puss. Screaming to be heard and seen, without apology.

Fiona Hall’s sensitive and subtle exhibition Wrong Way Time at the Australian Pavilion touched on a pretty worn out collectors theme, but was also fascinating and satisfyingly intelligent. Hall took on the role of a curious creator, using everyday domestic objects to create biocultures that referenced various cultures. I liked it because it took a distanced view of our world. It was like reading about past civilisations in a history book that’s been graffitied by a bored teenager, staring out the window in a sunny history class. 

Joan Jonas, American Pavilion

My ultimate favourite was Joan Jonas. Representing the United States of America, her exhibition They Come to Us without a Word demonstrates that there are no boundaries to what medium you can use to create a world worth existing in. The whole exhibition had the fluidity of a gentle water ride; taking you from one room to the next in a dream-like state encountering vague narratives on multiple screens of merino glass, mirrors and layered projections of narrative performances.

My concluding sense of the 56th Venice Biennale seems just as pertinent today. Yes, we are moving into difficult times but as ever, life does go on; it is short and sweet, that we still eat, we still sleep and drink and dance and kiss. But it is through a feminine sense of care, wit and creativity that we will be saved. Ultimately the future is female.

Kirsty Buchanan

Sarah Lucas, British Pavilion opening party

The 57th Venice Biennale runs 13th May - 26th November 2017
The 56th Venice Biennale was 9th May - 22nd November 2015

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