La Biennale di Venezia

Gil and I made a special trip to the 55th Venice Biennale contemporary art exhibition. The exhibition is held once every two years and is the leader of international art exhibitions. Over 30 permanent national pavilions in La Giardini host each nation’s chosen artists and works to display at this “world fair” type art show. See the complete list of countries represented as well as the selected artwork here. Two central exhibitions also displayed international works – The Encyclopedic Palace: Arsenale and Giardini.

We arrived, in typical Gil fashion, right as the doors opened for the exhibit. I’ve already explored the Louvre with him and I was fully aware that la Biennale meant a few things:

1. I would have a private tour guide for free. He has an incredibly extensive knowledge about art and shares his knowledge, interpretations and thoughts on each piece. I’m good at listening and contributing non-scholarly things. We viewed so much art together that my knowledge of art transformed from a blank canvas to the beginings of an understanding, all under his direction and patience answering my questions.

2. Our tickets came with a map, with which Gil would strategically mark out our route.

3. He would feign fatigue when he could tell I was tiring, though he never needs a break when it comes to art. And this break would most likely include ice cream.

4. We would, within minutes of closing, RUN to see more art to ensure that we squeezed in as much as possible into our day. We were actually kicked out of the Louvre at closing, and we were of the last to drag out feet out of la Giardini at the close of the day.

Gil wasn’t even supposed to be with me during the summer. We said our goodbyes in Maastricht before I headed off to Spain, then when I was ill in Spain I called him and he bought his plane ticket to meet me in Italy. I had planned to trek around this summer alone, but he ended up joining me for a week and I could not have been happier that he did because exploring la Biennale with the art nerd I care about was one of my favorite days of the summer.

Some of our favorite exhibits included, of course, our own nation’s pavilions:

Screen shot 2013-08-15 at 10.40.08 AM

At the United States of America Pavilion artist Sarah Sze created a chaotic series of rooms with what appeared to be rubbish, childhood toys, everyday household items and even what appeared to be the remnants of her airplane food dinner all connected by a series of thin strings, perfectly balanced yet on the verge of collapse. We concluded that the artistic intentions behind this exhibit was to display the fragile balance and how easily one out of aspect item has the ability to topple everything.

Screen shot 2013-08-15 at 10.44.14 AM

The Workshop (2013) created by artist Gilad Ratman, documents the journey of a community of people from Israel to Venice, through a non-linear presentation of video, installation, sound and a physical intervention in the fabric of the Pavilion itself. – Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design Jerusalem.

Other honorable mentions include the Russian, Great Britain, Korean and Polish exhibits. Many of these pavilions were a mixture of experience and art, where us patrons had a big role in creating the art. In the Russian exhibit, we were expected to collect gold coins then put them in a bucket that then showered the coins onto the floor below where only women were allowed to walk around with umbrellas. When you first walked into the exhibit, peanuts fell on your head from a man sitting upstairs eating peanuts.


The Korea exhibition took you from an overwhelming display of colors as you walked through rooms of prisms and mirrors to a chamber of total darkness entirely devoid of noise. It was an experience for the senses as well as a slightly psychologically thrilling experience transitioning between sensory overload to nothingness.

Screen shot 2013-08-15 at 11.23.45 AM

Another sensory experience was the Polish exhibit. Great bells were set to high powered microphones, thus amplifying the ring and reverberations – we heard discreet sounds of the bell that the human ear otherwise would’ve never heard in an overpowering, rumbling magnitude.

Screen shot 2013-08-15 at 11.22.56 AM

Ai Wei Wei featured in the German Pavilion because of his dissonance with the Chinese government, his art was not allowed in the Chinese exhibition. Watch this great documentary on Ai Wei Wei to learn more about the artist and his political activism.

Screen shot 2013-08-15 at 11.24.49 AM

The art collective, Falling Frees, combined Finnish artist Terike Haapoja and Antti Laitinen works into a complementary two part exhibition respembling a garden-esque whole. Terike Haapoja work, displayed in the Nordic Pavilion, was fueled by patrons exhaling and lighting up the exhibit full of fauna composing an eerie forest feel. Antii Laitinen went through turmoil to create his exhibit. He traveled deep into a forest, manually chopped down trees, hand-carried the parts back to and reassembled the pieces.

Screen shot 2013-08-15 at 11.35.30 AM

Venice is expensive, and we lived off bread and cheese for our meals, but we had an incredible time at La Biennale and I sincerely plan to try and attend as many Biennale’s that I can manage. As if we didn’t have enough culture in our day, we managed to catch a free choir concert as a cherry on top of our day of art, music, beauty and good company.

Screen shot 2013-08-15 at 11.39.33 AM

Posted on by Reagan J Payne in Part II, Uncategorized

Add a Comment