Living and working in Venice for five weeks this summer was an incredible experience. Meeting so many interesting and creative people, living in a dreamy floating city and going to endless exhibitions day in day out has been amazing, a time that I will never forget. Being lucky enough to have worked at the Biennale this year, I will be writing up on a few of the exhibitions which really stood out to me during my time in Venice.
This year the Scottish Pavilion has gone all out on location, location, location. Set within the majestic ancient walls of Palazzo Fontana, Graham Fagen brings the building to life with his diverse range of sculpture, painting and video installation. Themes ring between each work; gold, clay and metal materialise on each surface, poetic orchestral music haunts the space, while trees and masks stretch out toward the high ceilings where Morano glass chandeliers hang in fairytale setting.
Another overwhelmingly aesthetic exhibition is the Dutch Pavilion with it’s excellently curated display to be all ways to be by Herman de Vries. In this display all our senses are confronted: rosa damascene see’s a floor laid installation of pink roses omitting a poetic, sensory smell, form earth: everywhere gives the display a spectrum of earth rubbings on paper, each sourced from all over the world, and burned III offers a series of charred tree trunks triggering our sense of destruction and transience in nature. Other visual charms include the Cyprus Pavilion with Christodoulus Panayiotou’s Two Days After Forever, curated by Whitechapel Gallery’s Omar Kholeif. This varied textural installation display is structured through considerations of archeology and history, and similarly to Herman de Vries work in the Dutch Pavilion, studies ideas of memory and its fragmentation in times past.
Camille Norment’s hypnotic Rapture exhibition for the Nordic Pavilon is another example of visually fervent work in this year’s Biennale. The jagged shattered panes of glass strewn along the what-would-be walls of the gallery reflects well with the hanging speakers voicing ethereal music, creating an immersive yet disjointed visitor experience. Joan Jonas boasts a multilayered environment within the American Pavilion this summer, presenting They Come To Us Without A Word using film, drawing, objects and sound. Her focus on children and nature in the arts is a refreshingly naïve and innocent experience not to be missed in the Giardini.
Finally the winner of the Golden Lion cannot go unmentioned. The Armenian Pavilion introduces an exhibition which contemplates the Armenian Genocide of 1915 one hundred years following its happening. Armenity looks at Armenia’s culture and identity, societal memories and the country’s own historical connection with Venice. The display is presented in the Mekhitarist Monastry on the Island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni that became known as Little Armenia due to the Armenian monk Mekhitar who founded the monastery in 1717 after escaping persecution from the Ottoman Empire. This Biennale exhibition presents a diverse range of artists and artworks, some so subtle they could go amiss in the deeply historical display of the monastery.
If you haven’t been to the Biennale this year (or ever) then you should definitely put aside time to see it before it closes in November. There’s a huge range of exciting and fresh exhibition displays to be seen this year; the ones mentioned in this post are just a handful of what is on offer. Book your tickets for October or November and you’ll be bound to find a cheap deal! It’s worth the trip!