Sunday 5 June 2011


in the Padiglione Centrale:

Josh Smith's 'IllumiNations' painting on the facade of La Biennale building, sadly he didn't sign his name on the facade instead.

Philip Parreno's light marquee welcoming the visitors to La Biennale

Mauricio Cattelan's pigeons on the Biennale ceiling

Nicolas Paris' pedagogical drawing exercises

Gianni Colombo's 'Spazio Elastico', 1967-6, first prize of La Biennale in 1968

Bruno Jakob's invisible paintings done with water and steam

Tintoreto's 'Removal of the body of St. Mark', 1562-1566a

Azier Mendizabal's hard edged logs waiting for someone to sit on them...

my dear Gwendolin Christie (to the right) appearing in Nathaniel Mellor's 'Our House'

Nathaniel Mellor's prehistoric photograms

Gintaras Didžiapetris' 'Optical Event' film

Seth Price's vacuum forms

Ivo and Catherine in the Seth Price room

Monica Sosnowska's star shaped parapavilion with works by David Goldblatt and Haroon Mirza

David Goldblatt's South African photographs

Haroon Mirza's sound sculpture

Cyprien Gaillard's Tropical beer label on tourist postcards

Gabriel Kuri's found-objects/neo-povera sculptures in tension and equilibrium

the fantastic 1970s photographs by Luigi Ghirri

Amalia Pica's Venn Diagram, prohibited in primary schools during the Argentinian Dictatorship (in which she grew up) for the fear it might provide models for subversive thought

Amalia Pica, XL drawings of school sheets

Amalia Pica, bunting for performance in which two actors who have never met hold the bunting for hours at a time

Karl Holmqvist's poetry writing on wall

Karl Holmqvist's model of the fascist square coliseum in EUR, Rome. The transcription of the original text on it says: "A nation of poets, of artists, of heroes, of saints, of thinkers, of scientists, of sailors, of transmigrants"

Guy de Conet's very fine drawings coexisting with Kalr Holmqvist's work and Jeanne Natalie Wintsch "outsider art" embroideries

Peter Fishcli and David Weiss 'Space Number 13', exhibited in space number 13 of the biennale building

and Das Institute's paintings and plexiglass screens

Oscar Tuazon's concrete parapavilion with a mural by Ida Ekblad

in the Arsenale:

Song Dong's chineese human house/bird cage parapavilion

Ryan Gandler's miniature model of himself inside Song Dong's parapavilion

Yto Barrada's family tree sun printed on a wall

Roman Ondak's 'Stampede' film, where three hundred people were invited to fill the space of Modern Art Oxford in almost total darkness

Roman Ondak's "Time Capsule", an exact replica of the capsule used to rescue the 33 Chilean miners

Mai Thu Perret's invetigation into an imagined female commune

Rashid Johnson's bookshelves and carpet

Anette Kelm's photographs

Luca Francesconi's installation

Franz West's parapavilion

Mariana Castillo Deball's history of the Borgia Codex

Rebecca Warren's sculptures

Fabian Marti's plinth pavilion with ceramics and iphone palm tree video inside

Haroom Mirza's pavilion

Azier Mendizabal sculpture based on Jorge de Oteiza's sculpture (photographed) in Benta-Haundi in the Basque Country, where 23 year old ETA activist Txabi Etxebarrieta was killed in 1968

Shahryar Nashat's film and gallery seats/pedestals/sculptures about the activation of the museological/exhbition space by the artist, the work and the spectator

Gerard Byrne's investigation into the Loch Ness monster

Anya Titova's YHBHS (You Have Been Here Sometime) fake Liam Gillick

more Josh Smiths

Klara Liden's street trash bins hung on walls like paintings, placed on the floor like sculptures - the new urinals

Frances Stark's video confessionale about her internet relationship with an Italian man, converted into a film using an internet programme

Trisha Donnelly's marble sculpture

Gelitin's campground and blown glass factory

Loris Greaud's Geppetto Pavilion in which visitor after signing contract stays 24 hours inside belly of the whale

Adrian Villar Rojas at the Argentinian Pavilion

Argentinian Pavilion, Adrian Villar Rojas concrete and clay structures, which seem like a worthy descendant of Edward James' 1950s  Xilitla concrete garden in Mexico

The Latin Americanist Pavilion

At the Latin American Pavilion, the miseries and cliches of the continent were presented, in an exhibition curated by Goethe Institute German curator Alfons Hug (the polemical curator of the Sao Paulo Bienales of 2002 and 2004). The exhibition is a redux and expanded version of his bicentenary exhibition which has been touring Latin America (which paid by the Goethe, sadly was the only continental exhibition which was organized to "celebrate" the bicentenary) and includes simplistic reductions of reality like Bjorn Melhus patronising video. While the Latin American pavilion has most of the times been shameful, for the first time it was curated. Still, how the curator is selected, how the budget is raised and allocated, etc needs to be clear and needs to be questioned. If this pavilion is to continue to exist, a much more transparent and democratic curator selection needs to exist. Sadly, for many Central American and Caribean artists, as well as for artists from Bolivia, Paraguay, Ecuador (who are normally excluded from mainstream representations of Latin America) this is their only opportunity for exposure within the international mainstream...

Juliteta Aranda's yesterday/tomorrow installation, which is based on the International Date Line (IDL),  an imaginary line on the globe that separates two consecutive calendar days and indicates the boundary between today and tomorrow. The IDL used to divide the archipelago of Kiribati, but in 1995 the archipelago decided to move the dateline so that its territory would no longer be split between ‘today’ and ‘tomorrow’, therefore half of the arhcipelago did not have a 9th of May. Her installation, although great, didn't have much to do with the rest of the works presented in the pavilion.

David Karma Perez David Perez, performance/video, where a blind Dominican person carries a handicapped Haitian

Alexander Aposotl's reading of Bolivar's Jamaika Letter by revolutionary leaders who can't speak english in Caracas

Martin Sastre dancing with Obama

Regina Galindo's copy of the Golden Lion she was awarded in 2005 for best young artist, which she had to sell to Santiago Sierra (of all artists!) because she needed money

Alejandro Cesarco at the Uruguayan Pavilion

Alejandro Cesarco's film on the relationship between two lovers, that which can't be spoken or recriminated is spoken through quotes from poetry books

Artur Barrios at the Brasilian Pavilion

Artur Barrios at the Brasilian Pavilion

Allora and Calzadilla at the  USA pavilion

Allora and Calzadilla's spectacular installation/performance of the USA Olympic athlete running on a treadmill which moves the wheels of an upside down tank.

the one-liner sculpture of a scaled version of the statue of freedom found in the US Capitol, lying on a suntan bed, if at least the sunbed was powered by Puerto Rican light! (Allora and Calzadilla's great 1998/2003 work 'Puerto Rican Light' consisted of capturing and storing solar energy in a battery bank designed to light Dan Flavin's 1965 light sculpture 'Puerto Rican Light (to Jeanie Blake)', the battery bank was connected to solar panels and was charged by solar energy in  San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was then connected to Dan Flavin’s fluorescent light sculpture and supplied enough energy to light Flavin’s sculpture when exhibited outside of Puerto Rico.)

gymnasts performing on wooden copies of business class seats of USA airlines

and Allora Calzadillas's organ-cash machine...

While Allora and Calzadilla's USA pavilion on steroids was very critical of USA's internal and external policies, it also had a cost of US 2 million, which could have been a two to four year budget for a still non-existing contemporary art center in Calzadilla's adoptive homeland of Puerto Rico. And although their proposal presented an acute vision of the USA's image of itself, its spectacular military deployments as well as their confident (yet collapsing) self image, it lacked a critical perspective on the condition of Puerto Rico's status as a 'colony' of the USA and the exclusion of Puertorican population within the USA, Puerto Rico being the poorest USA "state". Then maybe only them in their condition of 'insiders/outsiders' could turn their discerning gaze into what the USA represents...

Thomas Hirschhorn at the Swiss Pavilion

Thomas Hirschhorn's 'Crystal of Resistance' grotto where you can download the exhibition pamphlet, the website will only be online for months

Maria Ines Rodriguez at Thomas Hirschhorn's crystals, aluminum and tape grotto

Darius Mikšys at The Lithuanian Pavilion

Darius Mikšys' conceptually elegant 'Behind the White Curtain', was simultaneously a meeting salon, a storage room and an exhibition, consisted of 173 artworks by artists who have received the State Grant from Lithuania's Ministry of Culture over the last two decades (1992–2010), and is an attempt to portray Lithuanian art as a phenomenon, process, and subsequent mirror of itself. 'Behind the White Curtain' depends on the visiting public to activate the exhibition, by choosing from the printed catalogue an art work they would like to see, depending of their specific interests and preferences, and with it contributing to a constantly evolving placement of works both behind and beyond the curtain. Storage and Display at the same time.

the exhibition I curated of Lithuanian painting of the 1990s and early 2000s (and one sculpture!) within the Lithuanian pavilion

Melanie Smith at the Mexican Pavilion

Melanie Smith's 'Estadio Azteca' film in which 3000 students compose different art images

Melanie Smith's 'Bulto' film, filmed in Lima about the transport of a giant pick package

Melanie Smith's painting

Melanie Smith's cabinet of curiosities

and Melanie Smith's Xilitla film

Other Parapavilions:

The San Marco Pavilione, I wish it was a hamman/sauna instead of a church/tourist attraccione

The Giardini Plants Pavilione by unknown local artists

my favourite Pavilion since 2003, the Pabellon Che Guevara, near the Arsenale

The Fishermen's Pavilion at Rialto Market during day and night

and the Scarpe night Pavilion with fantastic Dan Flavins...

Introduction text by Bice Curiger

La Biennale di Venezia is one of the world’s most important forums for the dissemination and illumination of current developments in international art. The title of the 54th International Art Exhibition, ILLUMInations, literally draws attention to the importance of such endeavours in a globalized world. As the biggest and oldest Biennale, la Biennale di Venezia has always been buoyed by an international spirit, and even more so now in an age in which artists themselves have become multifaceted, discerning migrants and cultural tourists.

Questions of identity and heritage have long been crucial to contemporary art and the intensity of artistic inquiry into these issues is unlikely to diminish in the near future. Art is a seedbed for experimentation with new forms of “community” and for studies in differences and affinities that will serve as models for the future. The title also suggests a wide range of associations, from Arthur Rimbaud’s wildly poetic “Illuminations” and Walter Benjamin’s “Profane Illuminations” on the surrealist experience to the venerable art of mediaeval illuminated manuscripts and the philosophy of illumination in 12th century Persia.

ILLUMInations emphasizes the intuitive insight and the illumination of thought that is fostered by an encounter with art and its ability to sharpen the tools of perception. While the last Biennale “Making Worlds” highlighted constructive creativity, ILLUMInations will focus on the “light” of the illuminating experience, on the epiphanies that come with intercommunicative, intellectual comprehension. The Age of Enlightenment also resonates in ILLUMInations, testifying to the enduring vibrancy of its legacy. Despite the fact that, in recent years, the idealization of enlightened reason and a specific brand of European western scholarly practice have come under fire, we cannot help respecting and even defending their value particularly in regard to the debate on human rights.

In organizing a Biennale today, it is vital to bear in mind that contemporary art is characterised by collective tendencies and fragmented identities, by temporary alliances and objects in which the transitory is inscribed – even if they are cast in bronze. The expansive drive that has propelled art since the 1960s has turned inwards. Art no longer cultivates the pathos of anti-art. Perception is now focused on the foundations of culture and art in order to illuminate semantic conventions from within. On one hand, the artefact has given way to an emphasis on process, while, on the other, the revival of “classical” genres like sculpture, painting, photography and film is motivated by an interest in dissecting their codes and activating their dormant potential. These concerns go hand-in-hand with another aspect that is of great relevance today: art strongly engages and commits its viewers.

Many of the works presented at the 54th International Art Exhibition have been created especially for the occasion by such artists as Monica Bonvicini, James Turrell, Nicholas Hlobo, Norma Jean, R.H. Quaytman, Haroon Mirza, Loris Gréaud, Carol Bove, Gelitin, Dayanita Singh, and Christopher Wool, often referring directly to the theme of ILLUMInations. In it works by the Venetian painter Jacopo Tintoretto (1518-1594) will play a prominent role in establishing an artistic, historical and emotional relationship to the local context. These paintings exert a special appeal today with their almost febrile, ecstatic lighting and a near reckless approach to composition that overturns the well-defined, classical order of the Renaissance. Although self-reflection is a defining factor of contemporary art, it rarely moves beyond the territory covered by the history of Modernism. The incorporation of Tintoretto’s work from the 16th century into la Biennale di Venezia transmits unexpected, stimulating signals and casts light on the conventions of the art trade regarding both old and contemporary art. The analogies of interest in this juxtaposition are not formal in nature but rather reinforce the significance of works of art as visual vehicles of energy.

The 54th International Art Exhibition should emerge and develop in a process of inspired exchange and mutual stimulation with the artists. We asked four artists (Monika Sosnowska, Franz West, Song Dong and Oscar Tuazon) to create so called “parapavilions” to host other artists’ works. Although ILLUMInations is primarily focused on the presentation of younger artists, an older generation will also be represented, whose vibrant, highly contemporary work deserves to be showcased, for instance Llyn Foulkes (*1934), Luigi Ghirri (*1943-1992), Jack Goldstein (*1945-2003), Gedewon (*1939-1995) and Jeanne Natalie Wintsch (*1871-1944).

Art is a highly self-reflexive terrain that cultivates a lucid take on the outside world. The communicative aspect is crucial to the ideas underlying ILLUMInazioni, as demonstrated in art that often declares and seeks closeness to the vibrancy of life. This is more important now than ever before, in an age when our sense of reality is profoundly challenged by virtual and simulated worlds.

Bice Curiger, March 2011


  1. How strange to see a Dan Flavin work outside the gallery. Thank you for posting all these photographs!

  2. Agustin Solorzano7 June 2011 at 09:05

    Muy buen reporte como siempre, un abrazo!

  3. wau, all the sudden this overview

  4. great treasure for the memory, thanks for all these wonderful fotos! Like our point of view!